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Science and Decisions Center

River Ecosystem

A healthy river is the lifeblood of a verdant terrestrial ecosystem.      Credit: Steve Hillebrand, USFWS.

Today's natural resource managers must make effective decisions with broad–scale societal impacts.  In many cases, the decisions affect natural processes occurring across the landscape, have complex interactions, numerous competing stakeholder demands, and highly uncertain outcomes. The USGS is uniquely positioned to address complex issues with expertise in science areas that span energy, minerals, environmental health, ecosystem change, land use, climate change, hydrology, and natural hazards. The Center provides a cross–cutting framework to link the USGS mission areas to natural resource decision making. It also works with partner agencies to incorporate USGS science into their management of natural resources, and to prioritize USGS science on the basis of their resource management needs.

The USGS Science and Decisions Center (SDC) is an interdisciplinary organization advancing the use of science in natural resource decision making. The Center focuses on research and applications in five science areas: (1) ecosystem services; (2) decision science (adaptive management and structured decision making); (3) resilience; (4) participatory science and innovation; and (5) natural resource economics. The Center works with partners in DOI and other government agencies, universities, and nongovernmental organizations to develop methods, capacity, and institutional structures to integrate science more effectively with resource management. SDC and its partners examine resource management issues in a context that links physical, biological, and socioeconomic systems, and accounts for uncertainty in system behaviors and the effects of management.

The Science and Decisions Center includes capacity, infrastructure, and mechanisms to integrate science and decision making for the DOI agencies and other partners. It functions as a central node for networking and collaborating with existing expertise within the USGS as well as the broader conservation community, including other federal agencies, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and the international community. Center staff — leaders in its five focus areas — build operational linkages among the elements of the Center's science portfolio.


Science and Decisions Center Themes 


SDC Highlights & Activities


SDC Decision Scientist Karen Jenni and Pierre Glynn are co–authors on a paper just published in Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, "Try, try again: Lessons learned from success and failure in participatory modeling." This paper is one of several to come out of a working group supported by the National Socio–Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), and summarizes the experiences of our working group members over many years of aiming to increase the involvement the lay public in environmental modeling and decision making.


SDC colleagues Mustapha Alhassan, Collin Lawrence, Steven Richardson, and Emily Pindilli published a fact sheet on the economic activity associated with groundwater in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain (MAP) on February 5, 2019. The fact sheet presents the state–level and regional economic impacts of major agricultural commodities produced in the MAP region. There is a data release associated with the fact sheet. The data show annual economic impacts in the region for a 5–year period. To access the fact sheet and the data click here


SDC Hydrologist Collin Lawrence published a paper presenting a new method of valuing the flood attenuation ecosystem service that used a combination of high resolution lidar data, a variety of GIS tools, and primary economic data. The article was published in the Journal of Environmental Management and can be foundhere


SDC Hydrologist Collin Lawrence presented a poster titled "Examining Agricultural Cost Components in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain for Integration into a Decision Support System" at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting in Washington, DC.


SDC Ecologist Scott Chiavacci presented a talk titled "Database of Biodiversity and Habitat Quantification Tools" to participants in the Conservation Banking Training Course held at the National Conservation Training Center on September 17th. The course brings together regulators, mitigation sponsors, and bank users from across the country to train participants in the review, establishment, and operation of conservation banks and in–lieu fee programs.

SDC natural resource economist Emily Pindilli will serve on a panel "Applied Economics for Practical Policymaking" at the Annual Agricultural and Applied Economics Association Conference on Monday, August 6th. SDC natural resource economist Mustapha Alhassan will also present research on "Carbon Markets and Experimental Evidence of Forestland owners' Risk Preferences" on Tuesday, August 7th.

biodiversity fact sheet
SDC colleagues Scott Chiavacci and Emily Pindilli, in partnership with the USDA Office of Environmental Markets, have developed a database of quantification tools used to assess habitat quality and functionality in U.S. biodiversity and habitat markets. The database is designed to help market participants find and explore the features of quantification tools developed for conservation mechanisms like payments for ecosystem services and eco–label programs, conservation banks, and habitat exchanges.

To access the database and its associated files click here.

To learn why the database was developed, what's in it, and how it benefits markets click here.

rff cover
The USGS released Circular 1439, Integrating adaptive management and ecosystem services concepts to improve natural resource management. The circular describes research conducted by the Science and Decisions Center in cooperation with Resources for the Future. The circular describes how integrating an ecosystem services approach with adaptive decision making can improve natural resource management results. For details of the press release disseminated on May 24, 2018 click here.

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Page Last Modified: Tuesday, 26-Feb-2019 15:09:23 EST