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Annual Cooperators Meeting – Hold the Date!!  Highlights of this newsletter include: EarthMAP, New SuperGage Partnership for the Wabash River in Indiana, USGS Flood Response, and a new collaboration with the Indiana Finance Authority.

The full Winter 2020 Newsletter is available for download (click the text link).


A message about COVID-19:

The USGS Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center is dedicated to producing quality science while also considering the health and safety of our employees. For more information about how OKI WSC is conducting business during this challenging time, please contact OKI Director, Mike Griffin at

Happy Birthday, U.S. Geological Survey!!

Earthmap graphic

The USGS was created by Congress on March 3, 1879. Our small agency is still around after 141 year and has grown to serve a broader set of needs and a wider range of stakeholders with objective science for sound decision making. The USGS survived and thrived because we are continually evolving to stay relevant. We expanded the scope of our responsibilities with the addition of water and ecosystem discipline expertise while developing and applying new methods and incorporated cutting-edge technologies into our research. We have restructured our organization and budgets many times and changed how we talk about our science to our loyal stakeholders and the public. It’s a tribute to our employees, past and present, that our science is valued and relied upon to help address complex land and resource challenges. So, what’s next? It comes from our Director, Dr. Jim Reilly. “USGS science will go in the next decade to ensure that we respond to 21st century challenges” by defining a 21st Century USGS Science Vision and building upon the Council of Senior Science Advisors’ (COSSA) “comprehensive science challenge” that highlights the development of integrative science, data, models, and tools—all interacting in a modular framework that COSSA called EarthMAP (figure to the right).

So, what is EarthMAP? EarthMAP (“the comprehensive science challenge”) is both a framework for how we will integrate science, data, 21st century technologies, and the delivery of products as well as a capability that, when fully implemented, will link USGS’s rich data sets and diverse earth-science expertise with integrated predictive models that are enhanced through the use of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and high-performance computing. EarthMAP will allow the USGS to deliver actionable information in the form of integrated observations and predictions of the current and future state of Earth systems at the scales and timeframes needed to inform decisions.



What's New at OKI

New SuperGage Partnership for the Wabash River in Indiana

A new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Private Partnership came together to install a new "SuperGage" at the Wabash River in New Harmony (03378500) in hopes of better understanding what goes into the river and how that impacts the environment. The SuperGage is doing something past streamgages didn't — continuous, almost real-time monitoring of the Wabash's physical and chemical characteristics as the river nears the end of its journey through Indiana to merge with the Ohio River and then the Mississippi River. Because the new equipment is costly, the Indiana Nature Conservancy is partnering with USGS, Nestle Purina, as well as other private foundations, to help fund it, said Michael Dunn, director of freshwater conservation for The Nature Conservancy.

Paul Bruenderman taking a sample at New Harmony Indiana site
Paul Bruenderman removes a newly acquired water sample from the US D-96 sampler on the Wabash River in New Harmony, IN.

As part of the USGS Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center’s (OKI WSC) "SuperGage network," it measures water quality every 15 minutes, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. Eventually, surrogates will be developed for real-time loads of suspended sediment and Total Nitrogen. The SuperGage and its instruments are housed on one of the pylons of the currently closed New Harmony Way bridge that connects Indiana 66 with Illinois Route 14 across the Wabash. What makes it a "SuperGage," said Molly Lott, an OKI WSC hydrologic technician, is not just the continuous monitoring, but the ability to monitor for temperature, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity (particles in the water) as well as phosphates and nitrates (nutrient runoff).

Those nutrient loads, carried down river by the Mississippi River, contribute to the hypoxic, or dead zone of low oxygen that forms annually in the Gulf of Mexico and can kill fish and marine life, Lott said. In addition, according to Dunn, the Wabash River is a leading contributor to the “dead zone” where the Mississippi spills into the Gulf of Mexico. Data from the Wabash SuperGage might help work to solve that problem. The Nature Conservancy of Indiana, the USGS OKI WSC, and Indiana State Department of Agriculture are hoping the SuperGage will yield data to help better understand whether farm conservation practices meant to curb nitrogen and phosphorus runoff and sediment from field erosion are working.

Molly Lott and Nathan Truax at New Harmony Indiana gage
Molly Lott pours a water sample into a collection bucket as Nathan Truax keeps their boat on course while on the Wabash River in New Harmony, IN.

Lott and a team of technicians visit the SuperGage every few weeks to check the equipment and collect water samples. Those samples are then processed in the USGS mobile lab. "Indiana has done a tremendous job in the last decade in encouraging farm conservation practices," Dunn said. "What we will look for are trends in water quality. What is the scale of conservation we need?" But the problem is not just in the Gulf of Mexico. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer in water can create harmful algal blooms anywhere and deprive fish and marine life of oxygen, said Jeff Frey, Deputy Director of the USGS OKI WSC, Indianapolis office. That's money wasted for both farmers whose fertilizer is washed away by rains into nearby water bodies and for taxpayers who pay for treating the water, Frey said. Conservation agencies have been successful in encouraging farmers to plant cover crops and take other measures designed to keep soil in place and nutrients out of the waterways

Molly Lott processing water quality samples
Molly Lott passes a freshly collected water sample from the Wabash River in New Harmony, IN., to Nathan Truax, hydrologic technician, in their mobile field lab for testing.

One of the things scientists have already discovered is that 90 percent of the movement of sediment and nutrients tends to occur during 10 percent of rainstorms, Frey said. Through continuous water monitoring, agencies can see when this occurs and encourage farmers to act accordingly. It can also help scientists understand the impacts of climate change, which has been linked to an increase in precipitation for states such as Indiana. "The increased intensity of storms could have the ability to overrun best management practices," Frey said.

For more information about USGS OKI WSC SuperGages and how they can help you better understand your water quality issues, contact Jeff Frey at or Molly Lott at






USGS Flood Response to Major Category Flooding in February

Williamsburg Kentucky Staff Taking High Water Marks

Over 6 inches of rain fell across southeastern Kentucky within a 48-hour time period in early February. As a result, moderate to major flood conditions occurred for portions of the Upper Cumberland River Basin. During that period, the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center, Williamsburg office, made approximately 20 discharge measurements throughout the southeast portion of the state. Discharge measurements taken by field technicians at several sites were the highest made in decades. The peak stage on February 8, 2020 at the Cumberland River streamgage at Williamsburg, KY (03404000) came within 0.01 ft of the peak of record.

Thanks to a flood wall that had been built after the 1977 flood, much of the town center was spared from damage this time despite near identical gage heights. During the event, Field Office Lead Steve Pickard was interviewed by Lexington TV channel 18. His interview provided the public with information on how to find USGS data and how those data support flood forecasting to protect life and property.






New collaboration to understand the water resources of Indiana for the OKI WSC

USGS Staff on Boat

A new collaboration called the Central Indiana Water Study, led by the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) along with several partners has the goal of providing the State of Indiana a better understanding of the supply and demand of water resources in the Central Indiana region. IFA’s partners include the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), INTERA: Geoscience and Engineering Solutions, LLC, Empower Results, the Indiana Geological and Water Survey (IGWS), and the USGS OKI WSC. Each of the partners is tasked with specific phases of the overall study.

In general, the USGS is responsible for establishing new, long-term groundwater and surface-water monitoring stations; IGWS is providing potential evapotranspiration data from the Indiana Water Balance Network; INTERA will be completing a fifty-year water demand forecast and will be using data from the forecast with data from the regional networks to simulate water availability within central Indiana. Empower Results is developing a regional public education message regarding water supply and demand issues based on the results of the study. More information on the Central Indiana Water Study is available at

Goals of Central Indiana graphic
The primary goal of the Central Indiana Water Study is to provide a better understanding of the supply and demand of water resources in the Central Indiana region.

When complete, the project will provide a data-driven foundation for collaborative decision making on shared water needs, challenges, and opportunities. The plan is to have several other pilot projects around Indiana and all the studies would eventually be used for the Statewide program. Specific strategies used in this study are shown below. The USGS focus will be to improve the streamflow and groundwater level data within the 9-county study area surrounding Indianapolis by leveraging the existing USGS streamgages and groundwater wells. There will be up to 10 new streamgages added to fill gaps as well as 10 newly transmitting groundwater wells added to the USGS real-time groundwater network.

Additional streamflow measurements were completed in November 2019 by the USGS to assess gain/loss areas on the White River and several tributaries critical for accurate modeling of the surface and groundwater systems. The sites were selected in conjunction with INTERA staff who will be completing simulations of the water availability throughout the White River corridor in Central Indiana.

For any additional information on the IFA collaboration, contact Jeff Frey at or David Lampe at

Illustration of pre-existing groundwater & surface water conditions
Pre-existing USGS groundwater wells (left) and streamgages (right) in the 9- county study area.

 Did You Know.......What is a rating curve and how it is developed?

Stage-discharge rating curve

A rating curve, also called a stage-discharge curve is simply a relationship between river stage, or the height of water related to a datum and the discharge (volume per time) or flow of the river. Each river has its own distinct characteristics that affect the shape of the rating curve. The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana (OKI) Water Science Center collects many flow measurements on streams across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana and these measurements are used to establish a connection to river stage. The rating curve is developed by making a series of discharge measurements over many ranges of river stage, then these measurements are plotted to create this unique stage-discharge relationship.

The rating curve to the right is from the Scioto River at Columbus, Ohio. The dots on the rating curve represent the individual measurements that the U.S. Geological Survey makes, while the line is the rating curve. As you can see from the diagram, as river stage rises (plotted on the vertical axis), the discharge or flow (plotted on the horizontal axis) also increases. It is important that the U.S. Geological Survey makes measurements at all river stages to properly define the entire rating curve, but it is particularly important to make measurements at high stages or during floods.

Rating Curve
Road Closed - High Water

Rating curves are subject to change if the conditions in the stream are altered by construction, riffles changing, banks eroding into the stream or scour of the channel caused by increasing flow. Measurements are made throughout the year by OKI WSC personnel to confirm if the current rating is still in effect or if a rating adjustment is needed. By maintaining rating curves, the U.S. Geological Survey can display the discharge every hour on our website.

A quick snapshot of water conditions across the Nation can be determined by maintaining a rating curve at river sites. This allows Federal, State and local agencies to make critical decisions on the Nation’s water resources saving lives and property damage.


Employee Spotlights

Thomas Geary - OKI WSC  Program Analyst

Thomas Geary is currently serving as the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center (OKI WSC) Acting Administrative Officer for the center. Normally, Thomas serves as our Program Analyst and leads up our internal operations for the day-to-day business of the center. Thomas began his career with USGS as a student at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Indiana back in 2009. He has served in administration for the past decade and growing in his skills and abilities within the Survey. As Acting Administrative Officer, Thomas works not only with our operations team, but also with our Budget Analysts who are responsible for the agreements between USGS and our partners. The admin team sits in three offices across the three states and is comprised of 10 members (the best admin team that USGS has to offer!). While at USGS, Thomas has had opportunities to support other offices in Michigan and South Carolina; as well as serve a detail with the USGS Congressional Relations team at USGS Headquarters. He has served  on numerous internal committees with the Center, Region, and national level. When not at work, Thomas enjoys volunteering in the community, being outdoors, and taking road trips.

Thomas Geary and Friends



For fun Thomas advises college students and served as Camp Director for a local summer camp.


Kayla Christian is a Hydrologist with the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center (OKI WSC), Indianapolis office. Kayla’s introduction to the U.S. Geological Survey began in 2012 as part of a summer internship in partnership with the Research Experiences in the Solid Earth Sciences for Students (RESESS) undergraduate internship program. During that time, she worked on developing a method for measuring iron redox species in collaboration with Dr. Kirk Nordstrom, Kate Campbell, and Blaine McCleskey at the Water Mission Area Laboratories in Boulder, CO. After earning degrees at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Syracuse University, Kayla worked briefly for an engineering firm in Albany, New York as an environmental permitting and regulatory compliance consultant for mining and petroleum bulk storage facilities.

Kayla Christian Making a Measurement

In 2017, Kayla transitioned from the private sector to an employee at the Indianapolis office of the OKI Water Science Center where she began her career as team member for the East Chicago Air Monitoring Project at the Indiana Harbor Canal Confined Disposal Facility. In 2018 she led the Indiana sampling effort to collect pharmaceuticals, metabolomics, transcriptomics, and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) as part of the Great Lakes Research Initiative (GLRI) Contaminants of Environmental Concern (CEC) program. Samples were collected at four tributaries, Burns Ditch, Salt Creek, Portage-Burns Waterway, and Indiana Harbor Canal. Kayla serves as the current project lead for Indiana’s (portion) of GLRI Nutrient Loading/Tributary monitoring project for the Indiana Harbor Canal. This project is part of a multi-state effort to collect discrete  measurements of nutrients and suspended sediment, and continuous measurements of flow and water-quality to document the water quality characteristics of tributaries to the Great Lakes. Kayla’s past research has included using WinSLAMM to develop an urban stormwater runoff model to quantify stormwater reduction resulting from the redevelopment of a parking lot to incorporate a rain garden at Gary, City Hall. In 2019, Kayla became project lead of the methane monitoring project at the Indiana Harbor Canal Confined Disposal Facility. This project aims to monitor how methane and related gas concentrations and properties vary in soil gas at the site with time and differing seasonal, weather and site conditions.

When not at the office, Kayla enjoys hiking, dancing, volunteering at the humane society, and visiting her hometown of Chicago.


Kimberly Shaffer is a hydrologist with the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center (OKI WSC), Columbus office and has always had a love for water, science, and math. Kim began her career with the USGS in 1997 as a student “streamgager” while attending The Ohio State University majoring in Civil Engineering.

Kim Shaffer

Before working with the U.S. Geological Survey, Kim grew up in Greenville Ohio in Darke County, that is famous for The Great Darke County Fair, the swinging bridge, Annie Oakley, and Maid-Rites. Her prior jobs included lifeguarding, construction, working in a factory, being a resident advisor and being a waitress. She has been married for over 20 years to Patrick Shaffer, a Columbus Police Officer and they have 3 children ranging from 10 to 19 years old.

Kim enjoys biking, tennis, reading, traveling, and playing games in her free time and was a Girl Scout Leader for 13 years. Kim is active with the Water Management Association of Ohio assisting with their annual conference.

Over the course of her career, Kim has had multiple publications ranging from informative fact sheets to large reports on water use. Many people find the U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Internet Tools fact sheet helpful:

Listing of Kim Shaffer publications



Kim spends most of her time on 3 main projects for the USGS:

U.S. Geological Survey Water-Use Data and Research (WUDR) Program, Coordinator

Kim is the coordinator for the USGS WUDR Program that is an appropriated program that began in Federal fiscal year 2015 and is authorized under the SECURE Water Act (Sec. 9508 (c)). WUDR provides financial assistance through cooperative agreements to State water resource agencies.

The WUDR Program has two main goals: To improve the availability, quality, compatibility, and delivery of water-use data that are collected and/or estimated by States to support National water-use assessments; and to integrate the water-use data into USGS databases in electronic or machine-readable formats.

The WUDR program is a great opportunity for the States and USGS to make water-use data more consistent across State lines and improve our water-use data across the Nation.

Excessive nutrient runoff (nitrogen and phosphorus) from agricultural and urban land- use practices are of great concern in the Western Lake Erie Basin watersheds in northwestern Ohio, northeastern Indiana, and southeastern Michigan. The USGS collects samples and computes daily mean loads and concentrations at 16 sites. Kim works on computing and reviewing daily mean loads and concentrations using the Graphical Constituent Loading Analysis System (GCLAS) for this project.

USGS WLEB Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan Sites

Samples are analyzed and daily mean loads, and concentrations are computed for the following six water-quality parameters.

Daily concentrations and loads are calculated for each of these parameters: Orthophosphate, also known as dissolved reactive phosphate (DRP), Total phosphorus (TP), Nitrate plus nitrite, Ammonia, Ammonia plus organic nitrogen, also known as total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN), Suspended sediment concentration.

All USGS streamflow and water-quality data for the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) projects are available on NWIS-Web, The following quick map link was established to help access all WLEB data, including nutrient and sediment daily concentrations and loads,

The Ohio offices maintain a network of water-quality monitors that collect real-time data for many parameters. Kim reviews the data for many of these sites in Ohio. USGS water-quality monitor data is available at


Water Watch Map of the United States






Brian Mailot family and pet

Brian Mailot is a Hydrologic Technician with the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana WSC in Columbus, OH. He graduated from Ohio University in 1992 with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and began his career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as a Fisheries Intern at Saratoga National Fish Hatchery in Saratoga, WY. He moved to Ludington, MI in 1993 as a Biological Science Technician with the USFWS Sea Lamprey Program where they monitored populations of sea lampreys by electrofishing in tributaries of the Great Lakes and treated streams to control the populations.


Brian started with the USGS in 1998 as a Hydrologic Technician and has worked on a wide variety of projects. His early projects were primarily groundwater-level monitoring. Since then, he has continued groundwater-level monitoring and worked in many other areas including groundwater, surface water and wastewater sampling, continuous water-quality monitoring, electrofishing, ecology, stream discharge, geophysical logging, well drilling, computing loads using GCLAS. Brian received a Technician of the Year award from the Water Management Association of Ohio in 2004.


Brian Mailot making a measurement

He traveled to New Orleans, LA after hurricane Katrina to help with sampling efforts where they collected and analyzed water samples for fecal indicator bacteria. He has also traveled to other WSC offices to assist with technical reviews as a groundwater data reviewer and recently helped teach a groundwater data processing class in Nebraska. He is currently lead technician for NAWQA groundwater sampling in the MIAM network in Ohio and Indiana. He also led sampling efforts for the STRVPAS groundwater network in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Brian is project chief for the City of Columbus Wellfield project where they

monitor groundwater levels and water quality in the area surrounding the wellfield. He has recently started working on another project with the City of Columbus where he will be project chief. It involves collecting stream discharge data, sediment and nutrient samples and computing loads using GCLAS.







His interests outside work are mostly activities in the outdoors. Most of his time is spent fishing but he also tries to make a little time for hunting, archery, golf, bowling and snowboarding. Brian and his wife Angela reside in Columbus, Ohio with their dog, Stetson.

Brian Mailot and Family - Snow


Recent Publications

(since Summer 2019 Newsletter - OKI Staff names are in bold)

Allred, B., Martinez, L., Fessehazion, M.K., Rouse, G., Williamson, T.N., Wishart, D., Koganti, T., Freeland, R., Eash, N., Batschelet, A., Featheringill, R., 2020, Overall results and key findings on the use of UAV visible-color, multispectral, and thermal infrared imagery to map agricultural drainage pipes: Agricultural Water Management, v. 232, 1 April 2020, 106036,

Arihood, L.D., Lampe, D.C., Bayless, E.R., and Brown, S.E., 2019, Comparison of groundwater-model construction methods, representations of glacial geology, model designs, and groundwater-model flow simulations within Elkhart County, Indiana: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019–5088, 44 p.,

Bradley, P.M., Journey, C.A., Button, D.T., Carlisle, D.M., Huffman, B.J., Qi, S.L., Romanok, K.M., Van Metre, P.C., 2020, Multi-region assessment of pharmaceutical exposures and predicted effects in USA wadeable urban-gradient streams: PLoS ONE, v. 15, no. 1, e0228214,

Cisneros, J., Best, J., van Dijk, T., de Almeida, R.P., Amsler, M., Boldt, J., and others, 2020, Dunes in the world’s big rivers are characterized by low-angle lee- side slopes and a complex shape: Nature Geoscience, v. 13, Issue 2, p. 156–162,

Coles, J.F., Riva-Murray, K., Van Metre, P.C., Button, D.T., Bell, A.H., Qi, S.L., Journey, C.A., and Sheibley, R.W., 2019, Design and methods of the U.S. Geological Survey Northeast Stream Quality Assessment (NESQA), 2016: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018–1183, 46 p.,

Crain, A.S., Boldt, J.A., Bayless, E.R., Bunch, A.R., Young, J.L., Thomason, J.C., and Wolf, Z.L., 2019, Potential interaction of groundwater and surface water including autonomous underwater vehicle reconnaissance at Nolin River Lake, Kentucky, 2016: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019– 5075, 36 p.,

Francy, D.S., Brady, A.M., and Zimmerman, T.M., 2019, Real-time assessments of water quality—A nowcast for Escherichia coli and cyanobacterial toxins: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2019–3061, 4 p.,

Koltun, G.F., 2019, Flood-frequency estimates for Ohio streamgages based on data through water year 2015 and techniques for estimating flood-frequency characteristics of rural, unregulated Ohio streams: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019–5018, 25 p.,

Koltun, G.F., 2019, Trends in streamflow and concentrations and flux of nutrients and total suspended solids in the Upper White River at Muncie, near Nora, and near Centerton, Indiana: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019–5119, 34 p.,

Lathrop, T.R., Bunch, A.R., Downhour, M.S., and Perkins, D.M., 2019, Regression models for estimating sediment and nutrient concentrations and loads at the Iroquois River near Foresman, Indiana, March 2015 through July 2018: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigation Report 2019–5087, 14 p.,

Medalie, L., Baker, N.T., Shoda, M.E., Stone, W.W., Meyer, M.T., Stets, E.G., Wilson, M., 2020, Influence of land use and region on glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid in streams in the USA: Science of the Total Environment, v. 707, available 9 December 2019, Article 136008, 9 p.,

Ostheimer, C.J. and Whitehead, M.T., 2020, Hydrologic and hydraulic analyses of selected streams in Stark County, Ohio: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2020–5011, 15 p.,

Paretti, N.V., Kephart, C.M., Porter, T.J., Hermosillo, E., Cederberg, J.R., Mayo, J.P., Gungle, B., Coes, A.L., Tucci, R.S., and Norman, L.M., 2019, Spatial and temporal distribution of bacterial indicators and microbial-source tracking within Tumacácori National Historical Park and the upper Santa Cruz River, southern Arizona and northern Mexico, 2015–2016: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019–5108, 102 p.,

Piatak, N.M., Seal II, R.R., Hoppe, D.A., Green, C.J., Buszka, P.M., 2019, Geochemical Characterization of Iron and Steel Slag and Its Potential to Remove Phosphate and Neutralize Acid: Minerals, 9(8), 468,

Ryberg, K.R., Stone, W.W., and Baker, N.T., 2020, Causal factors for pesticide trends in streams of the United States: Atrazine and deethylatrazine: Journal of Environmental Quality, v. 49, Issue 1, p. 152–162,

Whitehead, M.T., 2019, Flood-inundation maps for Nimishillen Creek near North Industry, Ohio, 2019: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019–5083, 11 p.

Wood, M.S., Szupiany, R.N., Boldt, J.A., Straub, T., and Domanski, M.M., 2019, Measuring suspended sediment in sand-bedded rivers using down-looking acoustic doppler current profilers: Joint Federal Interagency Sedimentation and Hydrologic Modeling Conference, June 24-28, 2019, Reno, Nevada.

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