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Richard L. Smith, Ph.D.

Dr. Richard L. Smith is an Emeritus Microbial Ecologist with expertise in biogeochemistry with the USGS Water Resources Mission Area.

Dr. Richard L. Smith is a microbial ecologist with expertise in biogeochemistry. His research interests have focused upon quantifying in situ rates of microbial processes within aquatic environments and the factors controlling these processes, particularly within the context of the ecosystem. One major study topic has been carbon and nitrogen cycling in groundwater and at the groundwater-surface water interface. These studies have also included characterizing the physiological state of groundwater bacteria, the effect bacteria have upon aquifer geochemistry, developing techniques to assess microbial processes in situ, nitrogen cycling, and bioremediation. Other research areas include biogeochemical processes in freshwater lakes and rivers, agricultural drainages, and in an amictic Antarctic lake. 


  • BS (Biology) Western Michigan University, 1974
  • MS (Biology) Western Michigan University, 1976
  • PhD (Microbial Ecology) Michigan State University, 1981 

Work Experience

  • Postdoc. NRC Postdoctoral Fellow, US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA 1981-1983
  • Research Hydrologist. USGS, Arvada, CO, 1983-1988
  • Research Hydrologist. USGS, Boulder, CO, 1988-2016
  • Research Hydrologist. Earth System Processes Division, USGS, Boulder, CO, 2016-2019
  • Emeritus Scientist. Earth System Processes Division, USGS, Boulder, CO, 2019-present

Professional affiliations or activities

  • American Society for Microbiology
  • American Society of Limnology and Oceanography
  • American Geophysical Union
  • International Society for Microbial Ecology
  • Geological Society of America
  • International Committee of the Symposium for Subsurface Microbiology, 1999-present
  • Executive Committee AGU Biogeosciences Section, 1999-2004
  • AGU Award Committee for Excellence in Science Journalism Features, 2000-2004
  • AGU Award Committee for Excellence in Science Journalism News, 2000-2004
  • USGS Water Resour. Div. Ecology Research Advisor, 1998-2000; Assistant Ecology Research Advisor, 1994-1997
  • Co-chair, 1999 International Symposium on Subsurface Microbiology

Honors, awards

  • 2020: Geologic Society of America Fellowship
  • 2011-2018: USGS, Performance Awards
  • 2005: USGS, Superior Service Award
  • 2002: USGS, Meritorious Service Award
  • 1999 & 2001: USGS, STAR Award
  • 1998: AGU Editor’s Citation for Excellence in Refereering
  • 1981: National Acad. Sci. Postdoctoral Fellowship


  • U.S. Patent, Small-Scale Hydrogen Oxidizing Denitrifying Bioreactor for Treatment of Nitrate-Contaminated Drinking Water