MD-DE-DC WSC Seminar Series

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Welcome to the MD-DE-DC Water Science Center Seminar Series

Here, you will find a list of upcoming public seminars taking place** at the USGS Maryland, Delaware-District of Columbia Water Science Center.

If you are new to our site, then welcome! Please take a few minutes to look around once you've taken care of business on this page. If you want to be included in our mailing list so you're notified when new seminars are taking place, please contact Chris Nealen at or click here to have an automated message sent.

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** SPECIAL STATEMENT: Due to the recent Coronavirus Pandemic, all seminars taking place in the immediate future will occur virtually. 

* * * * Coming Seminars * * * *

Unless otherwise stated, all seminars normally originate from the USGS MD-DE-DC Water Science Center, Research Park at the University of Maryland's Baltimore County campus (UMBC). However, Due to gathering restrictions caused by the recent Coronavirus Pandemic, all seminars taking place will occur virtually until further notice.


* * * * Past Seminars * * * *

The MD-DC-DE WSC has hosted many publically-accessible seminars with wide variety of subject matter. Feel free to explore our past seminars below.


USGS Seminar: Urban stream restoration effectiveness and ecologically realistic expectations by Robert Hilderbrand, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 11:00 a.m.

Urban stream restoration is an important method to mitigate stream degradation in Maryland. Physical attributes such as channel and bank stability can be greatly improved. However, there is little evidence of ecological improvements despite substantial efforts and construction costs. Fewer than 25% of restored streams scored better than their unrestored reaches upstream. The amount of impervious surface cover (ISC) in a watershed may be one of the main factors limiting ecological recovery; as ISC increases, stream health decreases. I used ISC to predict stream ecological condition and compared predictions to existing monitoring data for stream reaches in Montgomery County. Predictions matched closely with monitoring data from reference sites representing the most ecologically intact reaches and lend support to the utility of the method. In contrast, most restored reaches achieved 50% or less of what was predicted given their ISC, and many achieved only 20% of their potential. Restored reaches also achieved less than non-restored, non-reference reaches in the monitoring data. My results suggest that we substantially limit our expectations for ecological improvements arising from urban stream restorations. To aid in planning, I have created prediction maps for all stream reaches in Montgomery County in order to more easily visualize likely ecological outcomes should a stream be restored.

Bob Hilderbrand is an associate professor at the Appalachian Laboratory. While he has very broad interests in both basic and applied science, most of his research comes back to actionable science involving the conservation, management, or restoration of wadeable streams and their biota. His work has substantively contributed to recovery and management plan actions for protecting rare, threatened, and endangered species; the delisting of an endangered species; and additional legal protections to Maryland's coldwater streams. Much of his current research involves the responses of fish, aquatic invertebrates, and overall stream ecological condition to land use and landscape change, including stream restorations. He is also very involved in developing and testing applications from high throughput, next generation DNA sequencing data for stream monitoring and assessment.


Link to this presentation from Robert Hildebrand


Non-Tidal Potomac River Topo/Bathymetric Lidar Coordinated With Other Sensor Platforms & Data Calibration by Roger Barlow and Matthew Cashman, USGS MD-DE-DC Water Science Center 

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020 11:00 a.m.

The collection of topo/bathymetric data for a 75 mile segment of the non-tidal Potomac River formed a partnership of interdisciplinary and inter-agency use cases to support USGS science applications, water supply safety, and flood prediction and modeling. The centerpiece of the project was the collection of airborne topo/bathymetric lidar, with significant support from Water, Biology, and Geology Mission Areas for collecting other sensor data using GPS, lidar ground scanning, UAV borne sensors, and boat-based sonar from selected field sites during the airborne lidar collection period. River flow volume, water clarity, and the weather were ideal. Matt and Roger will provide detailed information linking this project to science support, National Geospatial Program lidar capability development, and interagency interest in topo/bathymetric data. 

Roger Barlow, National Map Liaison DC, DE, MD, NJ -- Roger has been the Liaison in 14 different states since 1990. He has lived and worked at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica and co-authored the first ever image-based geologic map. Roger currently is working with partners on projects using lidar as the primary source of local scale hydrography and chairs the NJ Geospatial Forum Elevation Task Force and the similar Maryland MSGIC. Roger specializes in partnership formation, program coordination, and application of geospatial data to science application. 

Matthew Cashman, PhD, Hydrologist/Geomorphologist -- Matthew's interests are in the interdisciplinary interactions between hydrology, geomorphology, and ecology. His current research focuses on modeling hierarchical ecological responses, erosion and habitat mapping using Unmanned Aerial Systems, and developing tools to identify the sources of sediment degrading river habitat, including sediment fingerprinting. 



Latest Updates of RSPARROW by Lillian Gorman-Sanisaca, USGS MD-DE-DC Water Science Center 

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020 11:00 a.m.

RSPARROW is a system of R scripts and functions for executing and evaluating SPARROW models that generates graphical, map, and tabular output. Users operate the system within RStudio from a single control script that accesses the supporting input files and functions. Only minimal knowledge of R is required to use the system.

SPARROW (SPAtially Referenced Regressions on Watershed attributes) is a spatially explicit, hybrid (statistical and mechanistic) water-quality model developed by the USGS. The model has been used to quantify the sources and transport of contaminants in watersheds of widely varying sizes, from catchment to continental scales. SPARROW includes three major process components that explain spatial variability in stream water quality:  (1) contaminant source generation, (2) land-to-water delivery, and (3) stream and reservoir transport and decay. The non-linear and mechanistic structure of the model includes mass balance constraints and non-conservative transport components. This includes factors that control the attenuation and delivery of contaminants to streams via surficial and subsurface pathways and the removal of contaminants in streams and reservoirs, according to first-order decay kinetics. SPARROW is structured as a network of one-dimensional stream segments and their contributing drainage areas.

RSPARROW is designed for novice and experienced modelers, water-quality managers, and R developers. Its features include comprehensive documentation, tutorial models, error checks, interactive maps and diagnostic plots as HTML output files, as well as a built in Rshiny Decision Support System to allow on-the-fly execution of Source Change Management Scenarios.  Developer’s tools and an auto-generating workflow execution tree are included to make the code transparent and promote collaboration in the open source environment.

The code and documentation can be found here.

Lillian (Lily) is a Physical Scientist with the USGS.  She works on a variety of projects as an expert in the R programming language, Rshiny, and in translation of proprietary programming languages (SAS, Python, etc.) to R.  Current research projects include development of RSPARROW and RSPARROW_Bayesian with Richard Alexander and of the Sediment Source Assessment Tool (Sed_SAT) with Allen Gellis.


Link to this presentation from Lillian Gormann-Sanisaka


Base-flow estimation using optimal hydrograph separation with applications to Chesapeake Bay watershed and the continental U.S. by Jeff Raffensperger, USGS MD-DE-DC Water Science Center 

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020 11:00 a.m.

Quantitative estimates of base flow are necessary to address questions of the vulnerability and response of aquatic ecosystems to natural and human-induced change in environmental conditions as well as sustainability of water resources. Base flow is often defined as the portion of streamflow that is maintained between precipitation events, fed to stream channels by delayed (usually subsurface) pathways. Base flow is generally not measured directly, but is estimated from observations of streamflow and/or stream-water chemistry...

see the brochure for the seminar here

Link to this presentation from Jeff Raffensperger


Artificial Intelligence Applications at the USGS by Hong Jiang, Ph.D.

Thursday, September 5, 2019 10:00 a.m.

The presentation will begin with a brief overview of AI history, current AI research areas, enterprise AI application categories, the benefits of AI and a framework of building up AI capabilities for organizations. Then it will dive into a more detailed discussion of potential AI applications, particularly around process automation, prediction and insight discovery, in the context of the Water Science Center’s mission, current tasks and vision statements. The presentation concludes with a strategy recommendation of choosing AI projects within an organization. 

see the brochure for the seminar here

Link to this presentation from Hong Jiang


A Flexible Framework for Process-Based Hydraulic and Water Quality Modeling of Best Management Practices by

Arash Massoudieh, Ph.D.

Thursday, May 14, 2019 11:00 a.m.

Models that allow for evaluation of the effects of design considerations on the performance of bestmanagement practices (BMPs) and green infrastructure (GI) to control urban and agricultural runoff and associatedcontaminants have received considerable attention in recent years. While popular, the GI models are relativelysimplistic. However, GI model predictions are being relied upon by many municipalities and State/Local agencies tomake decisions about gray vs. green infrastructure improvement planning. Adding complexity to GI modelingframeworks may preclude their use in simpler urban planning situations. Therefore, the goal here was to develop asophisticated, yet flexible tool that could be used by design engineers and researchers to capture and explore theeffect of design factors and properties of the media employed in the performance of GI systems at a relatively smallscale.

see the brochure for the seminar here

Link to this presentation from Arash Massoudieh


U.S. Drought Monitor: A Look Behind the Scenes by Eric Luebehusen, USDA Office of Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board 

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018 11:00 a.m.

This presentation will give a glimpse into several aspects of the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM). The talk will begin with a history of the USDM, detailing how it went from an experimental to operation product in the span of a couple months in 1999, and how it continues to evolve to meet user needs. He will also discuss the process which culminates with the release of the USDM every Thursday morning, highlighting the role of regional and local expert guidance as well as revealing who works on the map and what the deadlines are. The nuts and bolts of the presentation will involve a brief look at the data used by USDM authors to help guide that week’s drought depiction. Eric will also highlight some of the pitfalls of being an USDM author, which have resulted from the USDM tie ins with USDA Farm Bill as well as some local state drought action plans.

Link to this presentation from Eric Luebehusen


Feel the river rumble: An introduction to fluvial seismology and its application to the 2017 Oroville Dam spillway erosion crisis by Phillip Goodling, Pathways Hydrology Intern USGS MD‐DE‐DC Water Science Center

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018 11:00 a.m.

Flooding rivers create small ground vibrations as bedload is transported and water turbulence applies fluctuating forces to the channel bed. Passive seismic river monitoring has emerged as a new tool in the last decade to infer bedload transport and water turbulence mechanics during floods. In this technique, seismometers are placed safely outside the river banks. Seismic monitoring has the potential advantages of providing continuous reach‐scale information on difficult‐to‐observe processes, though it has the disadvantages of collecting non‐river generated signals. While theoretical and analytical advances have been made, passive seismic methods and their potential geomorphic applications are still being developed.

This presentation introduces the field of fluvial seismology and shows the results of seismic monitoring of the Oroville Dam Crisis. The spillway of the Oroville Dam in California suffered uncontrolled erosion damage in February and March 2017, transforming a simple concrete channel into a complex one. Using a single 3‐component seismometer located 2 km from the dam, we are able to seismically observe the increased turbulence and pinpoint the location of the damage. The new analytical techniques introduced in this study are being applied to ongoing fluvial seismic monitoring in Maryland streams. The presentation will conclude with preliminary results of this monitoring and future research directions

Link to this presentation from Phillip Goodling


Structure-from-Motion Surveying and Unmanned Aerial Systems: A new resolution of environmental data by Matthew Cashman, USGS MD‐DE‐DC Water Science Center

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 11:00 a.m.

Structure-from-Motion (SfM) photogrammetry is an emerging imaging technique that is revolutionizing geomorphology and changing the paradigm in restoration and environmental monitoring.

SfM derives three-dimensional structure from a sequence of two-dimensional images and is capable of producing high-resolution landscape models that rival those from light detection and ranging (lidar) at a fraction of the cost. This ability to rapidly capture and quantify spatially-continuous, high-resolution topographic data from both ground-based and Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) platforms makes it uniquely suited to meet a variety of USGS-cooperator needs.

This presentation covers how the Maryland-Delaware-DC Water Science Center has adapted the use of this new survey technique, identified relative strengths and weaknesses, conducted comparisons to traditional methods, and incorporated SfM into our targeting and monitoring workflows for recent cooperator projects.

State and local agencies can benefit from using repeated ground-based or UAS-based SfM surveys to monitor floodplains, identify erosional hotspots, and directly measure streambank erosion for stream restoration projects. The technique can utilize pre-existing lidar to look at historical changes and is also useful to establish a baseline to quantify future coastal change and event-driven beach loss. Additionally, the resolution of data provided by SfM surveying has numerous secondary “value-added” applications such as understanding underlying geomorphic processes, habitat assessment, flow and habitat modeling, and vegetation density and identification.

Link to this presentation from Matthew Cashman


Microbial Interaction with Carbonaceous Material and the Implications for Environmental Remediation by Trevor Needham, USGS MD‐DE‐DC Water Science Center

Wednesday, February 21th, 2018 11:00 a.m.

Activated carbon and biochar has grown in acceptance for in-situ treatment for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and other persistent organic pollutants (POP) contaminated in sediments by reducing the freely dissolved pore water concentrations that drive aquatic food chain uptake. While decreasing availability to macro-organisms, carbonaceous materials have been demonstrated to enhance microbial and redox availability to sorbed contaminates. In addition to reducing aqueous PCB concentrations, activated carbon has also been evaluated as a possible delivery mechanism for both aerobic and anaerobic PCB degrading bacteria. Recent laboratory and pilot scale studies have been successful in demonstrating bioaugmented activated carbon as a viable treatment option for sediments contaminated with PCBs. The physiochemical properties of different pyrogenic carbon materials (coal AC, coconut hull AC, pinewood BC and graphite powder) have been demonstrated to have different effects of the dechlorination rate of PCB 61 to PCB 23 by the halorespiring bacteria Dehalobium chlorocoercia (DF-1) for in-situ treatment of PCBs by bioamended carbon. These results along with other developments offer a new hybrid approach for in-situ treatment of contaminated sediments and groundwater in the future.​

Link to this presentation from Trevor Needham


Hurricane Impacts on Chesapeake Bay Over the past 3000 years by Michael Toomey, Research Geologist, US Geological Survey

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2018 11:00 a.m.

The risks posed by infrequent, but devastating, hurricane landfalls remains largely unconstrained due to the short length of robust historic records. This lecture will focus on how pre-historic hurricane events are preserved in coastal sedimentary deposits and what geologic records can tell us about storm activity along the U.S. East Coast, and near Chesapeake Bay, in particular, over the past several thousand years.

Link to this presentation from Michael Toomey