Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lectures

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The Geological Society of America, Hydrogeology Division selects nominated lecturers based on outstanding contributions to hydrogeology or a closely related field through original research and public communication, and the potential for continued contributions to the profession. In partnership with the CSU Department of Geosciences, we have co-hosted Birdsall-Dreiss Lecturers since 2017.

The Birdsall Lectureship began in 1978, as part of a bequest left to the Geological Society of America – Hydrogeology Division in memory of John Manning Birdsall. Mr. Birdsall was a prominent geologist, retired from the Water Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey. He was a scientist, a dedicated public servant and a gentleman. The bequest was used to provide travel funds for outstanding scientists working in the field of hydrogeology to visit other institutions and give talks on their research.

One of the most popular Birdsall Lecturers was Dr. Shirley Dreiss from the University of California – Santa Cruz. Shortly after her very successful 1992 lecture tour, Shirley was killed in an auto accident. Her many friends and admirers honored her by contributing to the GSA Birdsall Lectureship, which was renamed the Birdsall-Dreiss Lectureship.

The Geological Society of America Hydrogeology Division
2019 Birdsall Dreiss Crossey

2019 Distinguished Lecturer

Dr. Laura Crossey, Professor of Earth & Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico

Hydrochemistry and Geoscience Education at Grand Canyon and Beyond: Who Knew Groundwater Hydrology Could Be So Complicated?

Springs and associated riparian environments provide critical habitats for both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife in the Grand Canyon region. Springs also provide drinking water for Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP). Grand Canyon springs are fed by world-class karst aquifer systems (both shallow and deep) on the Colorado Plateau, but increasing pressure on groundwater resources from climate change, mining and other development activities pose major challenges to resource managers. The shallow and deep karst systems of the region interact in ways that are revealed by recent studies.

General hydrologic models for the Colorado Plateau aquifers highlight the importance of recharge areas (‘springsheds’) for water supply. A robust monitoring and geochemical sampling program can provide data for understanding the sustainability of spring-fed water supplies for anthropogenic use. Our ongoing geochemical studies of spring waters (including dissolved gases) have identified the importance of mantle-derived volatiles and CO2 that contribute dissolved salts and other products of water-rock interactions at depth to the regional aquifer systems. Faults are important conduits for fluid transport and mixing and hence impart a tectonic influence on water quality. The result is a multiporosity system resulting from variable ages and mixing of meteoric recharge, karst system transport, matrix sandstone transport, fault connectivity, and endogenic inputs.

Professor Crossey’s research group explores applications of low-temperature geochemistry to problems in hydrochemistry, diagenesis, geomicrobiology, and geothermal processes. Her research approach combines field examination of modern environments (water, gas, geomicrobial materials and sediments) with laboratory analysis as well as core and outcrop study to evaluate paleohydrology, spring sustainability and reservoir/aquifer characteristics. Related activities include geoscience outreach, K- 12 outreach, and science education research as well as programs to increase the participation of under-represented groups in science. Her research on carbonic springs has taken her to the Great Artesian basin of Australia, the Western Desert of Egypt, and the Tibetan Plateau.

2018 Birdsall-Dreiss Lecture Boutt

2018 Distinguished Lecturer

Dr. David Boutt, Associate Professor of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Groundwater as a Buffer to Climatic Change: Dynamic Subsurface Storage of Glaciated Landscapes

The northeastern United States is experiencing rapid changes in its hydrology due to intense land-use change, urbanization, and climate change. It also possesses some of the highest density, longest term observations of hydrologic variables (streamflow, groundwater levels) in the US and the world. David will address how small unconfined aquifer systems, and the streams to which they are connected, respond to hydroclimatic and land-use changes. Using physical and geochemical information, he has built an understanding of how different subsurface environments and surface-water groundwater interactions impact the sensitivity of groundwater storage to climate variability.

David will also explore the role of subsurface hydrologeologic heterogeneity to aquifer response and the long-term rise in water levels—and, in turn, flooding—associated with an increase in precipitation and land-use. His work highlights the importance of understanding groundwater processes in generating streamflow, with implications for water supply, baseflow generation, climate refugia, and assessing flood risk in a changing world.

David’s current research focuses on understanding the role of groundwater in catchment-scale hydrologic processes. He maintains an active and dynamic research laboratory with dedicated students ranging from undergraduates to PhD students. His research interests have taken him on board the Japanese Drilling Vessel Chikyu during IODP Expedition 319—the first riser drilling operation in IODP history—to wilds of the Atacama desert in Chile.

2017 Birdsall-Dreiss Lecture Harvey

2017 Distinguished Lecturer

Dr. Ed Harvey, Chief of the U.S. National Park Service Water Resources Division

Water Resource Stewardship in the U.S. National Park Service

On August 25, 1916, President Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, a new bureau in the Department of the Interior. This “Organic Act” directed the NPS “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” This conservation, enjoyment and protection mandate also applies to water resources within parks.

Park water resource issues and management often involve great challenges. These challenges arise because surface water and aquifer boundaries often extend beyond park boundaries and because the legal authority to allocate and manage water resources typically resides with the states. Thus, parks often consider resource issues at a larger landscape, or seascape scale, and manage collaboratively with neighbors and partners to protect, manage and restore water resources. In addition, many park water resource issues have broader legal, political, socioeconomic, and cultural implications requiring consideration of more than just science alone when making management decisions.

This lecture will explore the process of how parks identify water resource needs, issues and concerns, and how they develop and apply scientific information needed to make management decisions. Specific challenges such as trans-boundary issues, partnership building, scientific uncertainty, funding and personnel/expertise, and making science-based decisions that consider legal, political, socioeconomic, and cultural impacts will be discussed.