Branch Chief
Dr. Tony Olsen

FEB Staff

Renee  Brooks
Robbins Church
Steve Cline
Randy  Comeleo
Jana Compton
Joe Ebersole
Phil Kaufmann
Mary Kentula
Tom Kincaid
Dixon Landers
Scott Leibowitz
Amanda Nahlik
Tony Olsen
Steve Paulsen
Spencer Peterson
Dave Peck
Gretchen Oelsner
Paul Ringold
Safa Shirazi
John Stoddard
Rich Sumner
John Van Sickle
Jim Wigington
Marc Weber
(staff bios)

All WED Projects
listed by Principal
click here
                                 EPA / Office of Research & Development / NHEERL
                                 Western Ecology Division

                                 Freshwater Ecology  Branch

                                 200 SW 35th Street Corvallis, Oregon 97333
                                 (Click here for map and driving directions)
The mission of the Freshwater Ecology Branch is to conduct scientific
research at regional and national scales with a focus on assessing con-
dition and ecosystem services associated with freshwater ecosystems
(streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and riparian areas) and their re-
sponse to stresses. Important aspects of this research include methods
for identifying navigable waters of the United States, development of
biological indicators and indicators of stresses to aquatic resource, de-
velopment of aquatic ecosystem service indicators, environmental sta-
tistics, probability  spatial survey design of monitoring networks at dif-
ferent scales, development of biocriteria and determining reference
conditions for freshwater aquatic resources.

                    Current Research at FEB

Non-Navigable Streams and Wetlands
The Non-navigable streams and
wetlands (NSW) project is devel-
oping a scientifically valid ap-
proach for evaluating  the func-
tional connectivity between NSW
and navigable waters. The re-
search arises from the US Su-
preme Court's Rapanoscase.
which stated that jurisdictional
determinations under Section
404 of the Clean Water Act must
consider whether non-navigable
streams and wetlands (NSWs)
have a significant nexus with
navigable waters.
Although the question of signifi-
cance is a policy issue, significant
nexus is dependent on functional
connectivity between NSWs and
navigable waters.   Establishing
NSW connectivity can aid EPA in
accomplishing its regulatory re-
sponsibilities. Further, by incorpo-
rating factors that may be vulner-
able to human impacts, such an
approach would aid sustainable
management of aquatic resources
that depend on these functional
Contact: Jim Wigington
Impact of Climate Change on Stream Flow
A critical need for managing and
understanding the effects of cli-
mate change on stream flow is the
development of tools for assessing
and prioritizing vulnerabilities over
large-scale geographic areas. Un-
derstanding how climate change
will alter regional hydrology is a
useful basis for such a vulnerabil-
ity assessment, since hydrology
plays a critical role in shaping
natural ecosystems, crop produc-
 tion, drinking water, water quality and
 water supply.  Our research is conducting
 such an assessment for the Pacific North-
 west by building on a  prototype hydro-
 logic landscape region (HLR) map devel-
 oped by FEB researchers for the state of
 Oregon and national Climate Scenarios.
 The research extends HLRs to Idaho and
 Washington. The research includes a
 stream  flow vulnerability analysis based
 on down-scaling of climate change sce-
 narios.  Contact: Jim Wigington

National Aquatic Resource Survey (NARS) Monitoring Research
The National Aquatic Resource Sur-
veys conducted by EPA's Office of
Water, in collaboration with states,
assess the condition of the nation's
waters (streams, rivers, lakes,
coastal waters, wetlands). To im-
prove their scientific basis and cost-
effectiveness, FEB staff conducts
research in three main areas:
1) indicator development for
streams, lakes, and wetlands with
an objective to recommend new
indicators or improve existing indi-
cators, 2) survey design with an
objective to increase cost-
effectiveness of NARS and integra-
tion with state monitoring, and 3)
assessment methods with an objec-
tive to improve methods on how to
summarize the state of the aquatic
Contact:  Steve Paulsen
Aquatic Research based on NARS

The National Aquatic Resource Sur-
veys provide a rich source of data
that when combined with other in-
formation can be used to address
regional and national aquatic eco-
system questions that could not
previously completed.
Contact: Steve Paulsen
Spatial Prediction of Stream Stressors and Condition
Spatial prediction uses data from
sampled locations to predict, i.e.
spatially interpolate, stream and
river condition at locations that
have not been sampled. Since it is
not possible to monitor condition
everywhere, states and EPA require
spatial prediction methodology to
better manage aquatic resources.
Spatial prediction models require
information from monitoring pro-
grams, such as NARS, as well as
information on watershed charac-
teristics and other factors that in-
fluence presence of stressors and
impact condition of streams.  FEB
staff is developing methods for
spatial prediction that can be ap-
plied at state, regional and na-
tional scales. A primary focus in
prediction of biological condition
based on benthic macro inverte-
brate assemblages.
Contact: John Van Sickle
Monitoring Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services are the many
life-sustaining benefits we receive
from nature-clean air and water,
fertile soil for crop production, polli-
nation, and flood control. These
ecosystem services are important to
our health and wellbeing, yet they
are limited and often taken for
granted as being free. There is a
need to identify, understand and
quantify these services  so that envi-
ronmental decision makers can
evaluate the trade-offs  to sustain-
ability and human health when eco-
system services are changed by hu-
man activities.
One research focus is on identifying
the subset of ecosystem services
that are directly experienced by
people and which serve as the foun-
dation for social and benefits analy-
sis, consistent accounting and
meaningful communication. Another
research focus is on developing a
framework and methods that can be
used to monitor indicators of these
ecosystem services at national, re-
gional, state or other scales. Devel-
oping indicators of ecosystem ser-
vices associated with wetlands is a
specific focus.
Contact: Dixon Landers

Ecosystem Services and Reactive Nitrogen
Reactive nitrogen is a pollutant of na-
tional and global significance because
its use is widespread and has dramati-
cally increased in the past century. Ni-
trogen is a particularly complex pollut-
ant. While it is one of life's essential
nutrient elements, supporting the pro-
duction of food and fiber for human
use, it also can degrade air, land and
water, and ecosystem services pro-
vided for human benefit. Current re-
search at WED focuses on the sources,
removal and impacts of reactive N. We
are assembling existing  N source infor-
mation into a nutrient inventory that
encompasses national data on nitrogen
sources from industry, agricultural, hu-
man waste and natural background.
We are comparing different sources
based on quality, utility and complete-
ness. This work will also includes test-
ing of these national data layers at
more local scales including the Wil-
lamette River basin in Oregon and
the Yakima River basin in Washing-
ton to determine their usefulness for
management and decision-making.
A modeling research  effort will de-
velop seasonal versions of existing
annual models in order to better ad-
dress regulatory needs and  better
connect to work on ecosystem ser-
vices. The research will improve
understanding of how nitrogen, a
regulated pollutant, impacts ecosys-
tem services in both positive and
negative ways in order to better in-
form decision-making.

guick-finder/n itroaen-research.htm:


Contact: Jana Compton