The fourth annual SER Science Workshop, held virtually July 13-16, 2021, addressed four administration priorities – underserved communities, tribal engagement, conserving 30% of our lands and waters by 2030, and tackling the climate crisis.
The workshop, attended by 150 USGS scientists and managers, utilized keynote presentations, roundtable discussions, lightning talks, poster sessions, and moderated break-out groups to promote scientific networking and facilitate discussions on how SER science addresses administration priorities today and in the future.
The SER strives to continually improve its science program by fostering increased communication and collaboration across its centers and associated USGS mission areas. This enhanced networking has become particularly important as the region has grown to cover 14 states and Puerto Rico, with approximately 1,500 employees. Over the past four years, annual in-person or virtual science workshops have spread awareness of SER research activities and fostered interdisciplinary collaboration among the SER science centers. Past workshop topics have included EarthMAP and special topics such as land-use change, harmful algal blooms, sea-level rise, and subsidence. Following each workshop, teams have worked to synthesize knowledge on these topics and identify ways to advance SER science on these issues.
Underserved Communities - presentations covered a range of topics such as virtual internships, strengthening partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), stakeholder engagement, user-centered design tools, and science communication using an environmental justice and equity dashboard.
Tribal Engagement - attendees described long-term engagements to provide Native Nations with environmental monitoring, environmental health assessments, flood inundation mapping, groundwater modeling, capacity- building for water quality and biological monitoring, and science communication on groundwater storage, streamflows, and uranium mine contamination.
30 x 30 Conservation – participants discussed monitoring, modeling, and research efforts conducted in large rivers, wetlands, coastal bays, shorelines, nearshore Gulf of Mexico, coral reefs, inland watersheds, and urban environments, addressing endangered and threatened species, ecological flows, water use and availability, water quality, invasive species, contaminants and food webs, sedimentation, conservation, and restoration. A notable USGS strength is identification of priority locations for research and conservation.
Climate - presentations illustrated modeling of future impacts to coastal plain rivers, wetlands, inland watersheds, karst environments, and associated biota, and addressed issues such as sea level rise and variability, altered carbon and nitrogen cycling, groundwater recharge, and effects of intense storms, flooding, rising temperatures, and drought on landscapes and biota.
Workshop Identified Needs and Next Steps:
- Increase the frequency of multimedia communications to the public about SER science, including products targeted toward underserved communities.
- Expand collaborations with Tribes on conservation, restoration, and human dimensions/adaptive actions.
- Implement goals, strategies, and recommendations provided by the SER Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.
- Work to ensure SER staff reflects the diversity of the community it serves, and for SER science to benefit all communities equitably.
- Prominently demonstrate the breadth of SER experience in climate science, especially observing change, modeling impacts, and mitigating impacts.
- Connect conservation to other national priorities – such as food security; climate solutions; and water access, and quality.
- Expand research and stakeholder engagement on habitat restoration and connectivity among the natural corridors of wetlands, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and oceans.
- Bolster mapping efforts that combine data from different disciplines: e.g., habitat and vegetation cover, water use and availability, water quality, animal health, species migrations, contaminants and nutrients, algal blooms, land use, urbanization, and socioeconomics.
- Provide funding in FY21 to recruit, hire, and mentor 2-3 students from an HBCU and purchase education/outreach resources for student engagement.
- Provide funding in FY22 to promote work on identified opportunities to advance Administrative Priorities and develop solutions for today and in the future.