Martin R Risch

Martin joined the USGS in 1990 and works as a research hydrologist and project chief of ecosystems studies. He leads research about atmospheric mercury deposition to forests, mercury monitoring in the Great Lakes Region, and stream water quality. His studies of mercury in precipitation, reservoirs, and watersheds of Indiana established the primary baseline of information for the state.


Martin has been active with the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) since 2000 and was chairman of the NADP international scientific symposium in 2014 and was executive chairman of the NADP in 2015.  An author of over 35 USGS publications and scientific papers, he presents regularly at national and international scientific meetings. He is an adjunct professor with the Earth Science Department of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, teaching senior and graduate level courses in stream and wetland ecosystems and hydrogeology. He received the Department of Interior Superior Service Award in 2009 for his interdisciplinary mercury research projects. Martin led numerous USGS environmental investigations at military bases and was Manager of the National USGS Department of Defense Earth Science Program from 2006-2014. 

Martin has been with the USGS since 1990 as a hydrologist, project chief, research hydrologist, and chief of ecosystems investigations at the Indiana-Kentucky Water Science Center. His undergraduate and graduate education in environmental science, natural resources, and environmental affairs prepared him for a career of public service in city, state, and federal environmental agencies. Before joining the USGS, he was chief of the first Groundwater Protection Program at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management where he worked for 7 years.

Martin’s career at USGS has included multiple areas of emphasis: ecosystem processing of mercury and methylmercury, emerging contaminants in the environment, trends in water quality, agricultural chemicals in groundwater, and investigations of groundwater quality.

  • Recently, Martin leads a long-term study of atmospheric mercury in forest ecosystems through a network of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program. He is completing a collaborative assessment of mercury deposition trends and patterns in the Midwest. He is involved with an investigation of emerging contaminants in Great Lakes tributaries.
  • From 2012-2015, he managed the program of ecosystems investigations for the Indiana-Kentucky Water Science Center. His projects included: the USGS National Water Quality Assessment program activities for surface water, groundwater, and ecosystem monitoring in Indiana; the Midwestern Stream Quality Assessment and National Rivers and Stream Assessment work in Indiana; and the Indiana continuous water-quality super gage network.
  • During his time as program manager, Martin and his colleagues published an analysis of trends in statewide water quality in Indiana for 2000-2010. He helped to develop the USGS partnership in the National Water Quality Inititative long-term project to investigate the effects of conservation farming in the School Branch watershed in central Indiana.
  • From 1999 to the present, Martin led investigations of mercury in the atmosphere, precipitation, streams, reservoirs, forests, and watersheds of Indiana through multiple networks and regional campaigns. His projects established the primary baseline of mercury information for the Indiana, where he served as USGS science advisor to the former Indiana Mercury Work Group. In the past decade, the geographic scope of his mercury research expanded to include the eastern USA, the Great Lakes Region, and the Ohio River Basin. His research about atmospheric deposition of mercury to forests in the eastern USA resulted in multiple scientific publications. Martin collaborated to evaluate and design an atmospheric mercury monitoring network for the Great Lakes Region that started in 2014. The practical results of his research serve the information needs of other federal agencies, national organizations, and regional planning groups.
  • During his early career at USGS, Martin led 11 environmental investigations at five military bases. He was active at national Department of Defense scientific meetings for many years and was the Manager of the National USGS Department of Defense Earth Science Program from 2006-2014. He is author of 15 USGS Administrative Reports for the Department of the Navy and Department of the Army that are distributed with the permission of these agencies.