Awards Recognize Spirit of Innovation at USGS

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USGS scientists and staff were honored for their innovations during awards ceremonies held at the USGS National Center on May 5 and the Department of the Interior on May 7.  A complete list of honorees is available online.

USGS scientists and staff were honored for their innovations during awards ceremonies held at the USGS National Center on May 5 and the Department of the Interior on May 7.  A complete list of honorees is available online.

The following employees received the Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor the Department of the Interior can bestow on an employee:

Mark L. DeMulder helped transform manual topographic mapping to a modern digital process that produces electronic maps and geospatial products at six times the rate and half the cost of manual production.

Alfred L. Gardner is the foremost authority on New World mammals. He has led many landmark studies on mammal behavior and classification. His work to classify mammals using morphology and chromosomes was foundational for science.  His treatise on South American mammals, guides to mammal nomenclature, and contributions to “Mammal Species of the World” are seminal and widely recognized for their scholarship.

James R. Hein, known as the world-wide expert on deep-ocean mineral deposits, his research has had scientific and societal impacts that extend into many other arenas of marine science.  He first recognized and implemented the seismic bottom-simulating reflector to identify oil and gas deposits.

James E. Hines is a computer scientist whose software transformed how scientists worldwide draw inferences about animal populations.  Among the first to serve data and analytic results online, he has made substantive contributions to waterfowl management and conservation of threatened and endangered species by writing dozens of programs and maintaining a website to make complex statistical methods available to scientists.

James D. Jacobi is an expert on the ecology of Hawaiian forests.  His work has focused on invasive species’ role in degrading ecosystems, led the state to include new land into its natural area reserve system, inspired partnerships to manage watersheds and protect biodiversity, and provided the foundation to document Hawaii’s unique and impaired forest birds.

Rama K. Kotra, well known researcher on trace organics, organic-metal interactions, and mercury in the Everglades, he is a leader in advancing USGS science of the highest quality and integrity.  He co-founded and built the USGS Mendenhall Research Fellowship program into a widely recognized, highly competitive program that has enriched USGS science.  He initiated USGS participation in the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, garnering national recognition of USGS science and young scientists.

David A. Lockner has produced studies of fault friction that have resolved key questions on why earthquakes propagate and grow into bigger events or stop and remain small.  Highly sought as a mentor, he has been recognized by notable awards including one from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Peter T. Lyttle, widely respected for his expertise on New England’s geology and in interpreting complex geologic terrains, he has worked to better inform decision-makers about the value of geologic maps for resource assessments, geologic hazards and land-use decisions.  He led a  team of scientists to develop a new debris flow early warning system that has saved many lives and demonstrated the high value of scientific monitoring for emergency response.

James D. Nichols developed techniques to estimate population density and vital rates for the Bengal tiger in India that have benefitted the world’s most endangered carnivores.  His work  with colleagues on species occurrence, occupancy dynamics, and detectability in 2002 revolutionized how biologists sample animal populations.  His achievements include research on northern spotted owls and gray wolves.  The occupancy models have been used in botany, paleontology, disease pathology, human medicine, and even political science.  He has been a driving force behind adaptive harvest management for waterfowl.

David H. Oppenheimer, world renowned for his innovation in earthquake monitoring, he transformed the Northern California Seismic Network into a reliable provider of situational awareness to emergency managers and responders.  He designed NetQuakes to record strong ground motions closer to earthquake epicenters than previously possible, providing forensic evidence to improve future building designs.

James E. Putnam, hydrologist whose contributions expanded the scientific knowledge of trends in streamflow and sediment transport.  He led the development of continuous records processing, which changed the way streamflow data is processed and evaluated nationally and resulted in rapid quality assurance of data served to the public during floods and droughts.

Kenneth L. Tanaka is an international leader in planetary science whose expertise is sought by both NASA’s and the European Union’s space programs.  He brought NASA’s Planetary Geologic Mapping Program into the digital era.  His global geologic maps of Mars provided the first global perspective of Mars’ geology and drastically refined our understanding of Mars’ geologic evolution.  The maps are the most complete compilations of humankind’s understanding of the Red Planet at two different points in history.  He has provided outstanding mentorship to many planetary scientists and students.

Michael McDermott received the USGS Excellence in Leadership Award for effective management of the USGS Libraries Program through a period of significant change. He cultivated an environment of innovation, teamwork and accountability; challenged his team to rise to new levels in their daily work; and gave them opportunities to succeed in their careers.

Amanda Demopoulos received the Early Career Excellence in Leadership Award.  As project chief for the Outer Continental Shelf, Exploration and Research of Mid-Atlantic Deepwater Hard Bottom Habitats, she developed and strengthened relationships with other federal agencies.  As a result of her leadership, the study of deepwater canyons entitled “Atlantic Canyons-Pathways to the Abyss” received the Department of the Interior Partners in Conservation Award.

Brian Atwater received the 2014 Eugene M. Shoemaker Lifetime Achievement Award, for contributing to science through effective communication.  A geologist in the Earthquake Science Center in Seattle, Washington, his excellence in conveying important scientific findings to the public for more than 20 years has prompted decision-makers to enact many earthquake mitigation actions.  Residents of subduction zone areas around the world are safer due to his outreach efforts and collaboration with scientists from other countries to characterize earthquake hazards and to reach out to those likely to be affected by subduction earthquakes and tsunamis.

The following Shoemaker Awards for Communications Excellence recognize information products that effectively convey complex scientific concepts to non-technical audiences. 

The Quality of Our Nation’s Waters-Ecological Health in the Nation’s Streams, 1993-2005 (USGS Circular 1391.)”  This beautifully illustrated 120-page book summarizes, with clear explanations and visually stunning and informative illustrations, a national assessment of the ecological health of streams.  Response to this product from other federal agencies, policymakers, educators and the public has been extremely positive.

Connecting People with Nature to Benefit Our Changing Planet: The Nature’s Notebook website” is a national-scale science and monitoring initiative focused on phenology - the study of seasonal life-cycle events to understand how plants, animals, and landscapes respond to environmental change.  The website has led to many new partnerships and researchers from other countries have been so impressed that they have developed similar programs.

Lake Mead:  Clear and Vital”  This video shows how science is used to improve water quality in Lake Mead, a water source for Las Vegas and southern California.  More than 232,000 people have viewed this video on YouTube, and it is highlighted to the college/university science audience through regular broadcast on the National Science Foundations “Knowledge Network.”  The video received a 2014 Telly Award in the education category.