Ronald B Zelt, P.HWQ.

Specialties: Fluvial sediment, stream hydrology, channel forms and processes, submerged oil, technical reviews, GIS, cartography, water quality, statistical analysis, geospatial analysis, stream habitat characterization, riparian habitat, fire effects on hydrology.

Advanced degrees in watershed science (fluvial geomorphology) and geography (digital cartography). AIH-certified Prof. Hydrologist-W.Q.



2002      M.S. Watershed Science (Fluvial Geomorphology), Colorado State University, Fort Collins

1988      M.A. Geography (Cartography), University of Nebraska-Lincoln

1981      B.S. Education, Concordia College, Seward, Nebr.

Recent Professional Experience:

  • 2016-present — Hydrologist, USGS California Water Science Center, Sacramento
    • Reports Specialist
      • Center approving official for all information products except data releases
      • Review all USGS reports and abstracts produced in CAWSC
      • Consult with authors and editors to finalize content and format
      • Manage CAWSC records in the USGS Information Products Data System
  • 2012-16 — Assoc. Director, USGS Nebraska Water Science Center, Lincoln, Nebr.
    • Section chief responsible for supervision of staff, typically of 3 to 4 hydrologists and trainees.
      • Watersheds and Rivers Integrated Science Team (WRIST Section)
      • Manage NAWQA investigations of Nebraska streams and aquifers.
    • Project chief: develop, design, execute, and reporting of scientific studies and technical support projects.  
      • Reimburseable projects: ensure section’s projects are within budget, meet deadlines consistently, address science objectives, and produce high-quality scientific information products.
    • Additional duty: WSC Reports Specialist—review all information products for technical, policy, and editorial quality. 
      • Nebraska WSC was ranked highly among water science centers in USGS for information products per FTE.  
  • 2011-14     Assistant Leader of Science Support to U.S. EPA On-Scene Coordinator, Enbridge Line 6B Incident, Marshall, Mich.    
    • Provided on-site science support for Containment Branch, Submerged Oil Branch, and Hydrodynamic Modeling Group pertaining to emergency responses to oil spill into Kalamazoo River.
    • Member of EPA On-Scene Coordinator’s Science Support Coordination Group (SSCG)
      • Chaired the SSCG subgroup on Chemical Fingerprinting and Biodegradation (Jan-June 2012)
      • Data analysis tool development and application for submerged oil volume quantification.
    • Reviewed numerous technical reports and work plans produced during oil spill response.
    • Provided data analysis applying statistical, spatial analysis, and SW hydrologic analysis skills.
  • 2005-12   Assoc. Director (NAWQA), USGS Nebraska Water Science Center, Lincoln, Nebr.
    • Section Chief for NAWQA investigation of Central Nebraska Basins study unit.
      • Project management to ensure that section’s projects are within budget, meet deadlines consistently, address objectives, and produce high-quality information products.
      • Project produced multiple reports and journal papers. (
    • Continued to serve as Topical Team member for NAWQA study of nutrient enrichment effects; served as science advisor and GIS technical specialty advisor.
    • Additional duty: Served as WSC Reports Specialist.
  • 2002-05   Supervisory Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Lincoln, Nebr.
    • Study Unit Chief for NAWQA investigation of Central Nebraska Basins study unit.
    • Topical Team member for NAWQA study of nutrient enrichment effects; served as science advisor, GIS technical specialty consultant.  

Scholarships, Awards, and Honors:

  • 2006      U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Superior Service Honor Award
  • 1997      Geological Society of America, R.K. Fahnestock Award for student research in fluvial geomorphology.
  • 1996      U.S. Geological Survey, Graduate School Training Program scholarship.
  • 1987      Summer Fellowship, Central Intelligence Agency, Washington, DC.
  • 1985      Graduate Assistantship, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln.
  • 1981      Graduation with honors from Concordia College, Nebraska.

Other Professional Experience:

  • 1996-2002 Hydrologist GS-12.  U.S. Geological Survey, Cheyenne, Wyo.
  • 1990-1996 Hydrologist GS-11/12.  U.S. Geological Survey, Lawrence, Kans.
  • 1988-1990 Cartographer GS-9.  U.S. Geological Survey, Lawrence, Kans.
  • 1987-1988 Cartographic Aid GS-4.  U.S. Geological Survey, Lincoln, Nebr.
  • 1987      Cartographic Tech GS-8.  Central Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C.

Other Duties and Accomplishments:  

  • Program development, including proposals for Niobrara River geomorphology component of instream-flow needs assessment; Lower Platte River Monitoring Network; Bacteriological Water Quality of Plum Creek, NE; EMAP-GRE Ecological Assessment of Middle Missouri River; Lower Platte River cumulative impact study-Hydrology component; Niobrara River/Cornell Dam pre-NEPA study of sediment geochemistry; and Missouri/Niobrara Rivers sediment transport study.  
  • Served as USGS representative on interagency councils, advisory groups, and work groups:
    • Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln, Water Center advisory board
    • Lower Platte River Cumulative Impact Study work group.
    • Missouri River/Lewis and Clark Lake Sedimentation work group.
    • Nebraska Surface Water Monitoring Council.
    • Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance (ex-officio).

Professional Society Service:

  • Peer reviewer:
    • Environmental Science & Technology
    • Water Resources Bulletin
    • Geomorphology