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Project Information

Project Information

Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Laboratories: Processes, Procedures, and Best Practices to Meet National Needs

Project Scope:

An ad hoc committee will review a representative sample of USGS laboratory facilities, covering energy and minerals, natural hazards, surface and groundwater, ecosystems, and environmental health. The review will focus primarily on production laboratories that serve both USGS users and external customers, and secondarily on laboratories that support research and method development. The review will be carried out in two phases from 2017 to 2020, and will produce an informal working paper and a consensus report. Specific tasks for these two phases are given below.

Phase 1
(1) Provide an overview of USGS laboratory facilities across the nation, including their science and applications objectives, budget, staff and user profiles, and history of sample throughput for the last 5 to 10 years.
(2) Describe the laboratory protocols, analytical procedures and standards, and data management processes for USGS laboratories, relevant laboratories hosted by other federal agencies (e.g., National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. army laboratories, National Institutes of Health), and geological surveys in other countries (e.g., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Norway). 

This phase of work will be based on USGS-provided profiles of its laboratory facilities and protocols, preliminary results from the USGS assessment of quality management procedures at its laboratories, and other information gathered by the committee at site visits, teleconference meetings, and elsewhere. The product will be an informal working paper that summarizes factual information about the scope of USGS analytical services, and some of the protocols and procedures used at USGS laboratories and other U.S. and foreign laboratories. The informal working paper, which will not contain conclusions or recommendations, will be shared with USGS managers in spring/summer 2018.

Phase 2

(3) Assess the extent to which resources (operational and personnel) are sufficient to meet the scientific and applications objectives of USGS laboratories (production, research, method development).

(4) Develop criteria for assessing protocols and procedures used by the organizations in Task 2 of Phase 1, and use them to identify relevant best practices and procedures for USGS production laboratories.

(5) Provide recommendations on best practices and procedures for achieving scientific and applications objectives and ensuring the integrity and reliability of results from USGS production laboratories.

(6) Comment on best practices and procedures for USGS research and method development laboratories.

This phase of work will be based on analysis of the information collected in Phase 1 and additional information gathered by the committee at site visits, committee meetings, and discussions with laboratory managers and users. The product will be a consensus report with conclusions and recommendations, to be issued in late 2019.

Status: Current


Project Duration (months): 30 month(s)

RSO: Linn, Anne


Board on Earth Sciences & Resources


Biology and Life Sciences
Earth Sciences
Energy and Energy Conservation
Environment and Environmental Studies
Policy for Science and Technology

Committee Membership

Committee Post Date: 05/23/2018

Dr. Susan L. Brantley
SUSAN L. BRANTLEY (NAS) is Distinguished Professor of Geosciences and director of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Pennsylvania State University. Her research interests are in aqueous geochemistry, geochemical kinetics, and microbial biogeochemistry, with a focus on chemical, biological, and physical processes associated with the circulation of aqueous fluids in shallow hydrogeologic settings. Dr. Brantley has received numerous awards for her research, including the Arthur L. Day Medal from the Geological Society of America and the Wollaston Medal from The Geological Society of London. She is also a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, European Association of Geochemistry, Geochemical Society, Geological Society of America, and the International Association of GeoChemistry. Dr. Brantley has participated in a variety of advisory committee activities, and is a current member of the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, a past chair of DOE’s Earth Science Council, and a past member of National Academies committees on unconventional hydrocarbons, nuclear waste, and Earth surface processes. She received a B.A. in chemistry and an M.A. and Ph.D. in geological and geophysical sciences, all from Princeton University. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Rebecca Davies
REBECCA DAVIES is the director of Quality Central and an associate professor in the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) and the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. Her interests include the establishment and adoption of a research quality assurance standard for non-regulated research, the development of sustainable models for incorporating quality assurance monitoring programs into academic research programs, research on research, and the use of laboratory error data and quality assessment metrics to drive improvements in laboratory and research settings. Since 2009, Dr. Davies has led the VDL effort to meet the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnostician’s laboratory accreditation requirements. Dr. Davies serves on that association’s laboratory accreditation committee and is an active member of the Society for Quality Assurance and the Research Quality Association. She is also a member of the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities’ Committee for Core Rigor and Reproducibility and of the Asian and Pacific Rim Research Integrity Network’s Education and Training Working Group. Dr. Davies received her Ph.D. in comparative animal physiology from the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Donald J. DePaolo
DON DePAOLO (NAS) is Chancellors Professor, Emeritus, in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and Senior Advisor at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). Previously, he held several management positions at LBNL, including director of the Earth Sciences Division and associate laboratory director of Energy Sciences. He currently directs two research centers: the Center for Isotope Geochemistry and the Center for Nanoscale Control of Geologic CO2. Dr. DePaolo’s research focuses on the use of naturally occurring isotopes to explore a variety of Earth science questions related to mantle dynamics and magma chamber processes as well as tracking fluids moving through groundwater systems to trace contaminates. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the J.B. MacElwane Award and H.H. Hess Medal from the American Geophysical Union, the Arthur L. Day Medal from the Geological Society of America, and the Harold Urey Medal from the European Association of Geochemistry. He is a fellow of these societies as well as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the California Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. DePaolo has served on National Academies committees on strengthening the EPA laboratory enterprise, grand research questions in the solid-earth sciences, and future roles, challenges and opportunities for the USGS. He received a B.S. with Honors in geology from the State University of New York, Binghamton, and a Ph.D. in geology (minor in chemistry) from the California Institute of Technology. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Andy Eaton
ANDY EATON has spent 38 years at Eurofins Eaton Analytical LLC (formerly MWH Labs) a multi-state certified water testing laboratory, serving at various times as technical director, marketing director, and laboratory director. He is a Board-Certified Environmental Scientist (BCES) with more than 40 years of experience in water-quality-related environmental problems such as those associated with contaminants such as pharmaceuticals, arsenic, perchlorate, chromium, PFAS, dioxane, and bromate. His work has focused on the development of analytical methods, data quality assurance, and detection, quantitation, and monitoring. He also carries out studies supporting EPA rules for unregulated contaminant monitoring. Dr. Eaton serves on the Joint Editorial Board for “Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater,” a comprehensive reference with best practices for water analysts. He is a recipient of the George W. Fuller Award and the Charlie Carter Award, which recognize distinguished service and leadership in water supply or environmental measurement and monitoring. He received a B.A. in earth sciences from Antioch College and a Ph.D. from Harvard University, in geology, with a focus on marine geochemistry.

Dr. Robert Fleischer
ROBERT FLEISCHER is senior scientist and head of the Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics at Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute. His primary fields of interest are evolutionary and conservation biology with a focus on population and evolutionary genetics, systematics, and molecular and behavioral ecology, mostly on free-ranging bird and mammal species and their pathogens. Most of his recent projects use genomic, transcriptomic, and microbiome methods. Dr. Fleischer has served on a number of advisory committees on systematics and threatened birds. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Ornithologists’ Union and received that society’s Brewster Medal for exceptional work on western hemisphere birds. Dr. Fleischer received a B.A. in biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Kansas.
Dr. Madeline Gotkowitz
MADELINE GOTKOWITZ is a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Extension and the Wisconsin Geological Survey. Her research interests include physical hydrogeology (e.g., surface water-groundwater interactions and flow across aquitards), geologic sources of naturally occurring contaminants (e.g., arsenic, chromium, and radium) in Wisconsin’s aquifers, and the spatial and temporal distribution of wastewater constituents in groundwater (e.g., enteric viruses, artificial sweeteners, and personal care products). The groundwater contaminant work relies heavily on analytical data collected by USGS and other laboratories. Dr. Gotkowitz is a former president and current member of the City of Madison, Wisconsin’s Water Utility Board. She received a B.A. in environmental science from Smith College, an M.S. in hydrology from New Mexico Tech, and a Ph.D. in environmental science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Dr. William A. Hopkins - (Chair)
WILLIAM A. HOPKINS, Chair, is a professor in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation and director of the Global Change Center at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. His research focuses on physiological ecology and wildlife ecotoxicology with the goal of understanding how wildlife responds physiologically and behaviorally to anthropogenic disturbances. He is particularly intrigued by tradeoffs among physiological processes such as reproduction, thermoregulation, and immune function and how global changes may force animals to reprioritize their investments of time and energy. Dr. Hopkins has participated in a diverse range of advisory activities including National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study committees on ecological and human health effects of coal mining and the ecological effects of endocrine disruptors and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-sponsored assessment of whether the hellbender salamander should be labeled an Endangered Species. He received a B.S. in biology from Mercer University, an M.S. in zoology from Auburn University, and a Ph.D. in ecology, evolution, and organismal biology from the University of South Carolina.
Dr. Dennis (. Jiang
DENNIS (CHUNQING) JIANG is a senior research scientist and section head of the Organic Geochemistry and Petrology Laboratories at the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), Calgary. Having worked in both industry and academia, he has over 25 years of experience with both analytical and interpretive petroleum geochemistry. Prior to re-joining the GSC-Calgary in 2012, he worked in the positions of laboratory geochemist and lab manager at the organic geochemical laboratories of Humble Geochemical Services (now a Weatherford lab), University of Calgary Petroleum Reservoir Group, and GUSHOR Inc. (now a Schlumberger lab). Among his responsibilities at GUSHOR and other private companies was quality assessment and quality control of laboratory data. Dr. Jiang’s current research interests focus on both conventional and unconventional petroleum systems in Canadian sedimentary basins, including geochemical analyses to characterize crude oils and determine their source rocks, and methodology development to assess shale and tight petroleum resources and to characterize reservoirs. Dr. Jiang holds patents on a method for determining a value of a property of oil extracted from a sample, a method and apparatus for obtaining heavy oil samples from a reservoir sample, and preconditioning an oilfield reservoir. He received a B.Sc. in chemistry from Shandong University in China, an M.Sc. in petroleum geology from the Research Institute of Petroleum Exploration & Development in China, and a Ph.D. in organic geochemistry from the Curtin University in Australia.

Dr. Damian Shea
DAMIAN SHEA is a professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology at North Carolina State University and president and founder of Statera Environmental, Inc., an environmental technology and consulting company. He has been studying the detection, sources, fate, and effects of chemicals in the environment for over 30 years. He combines knowledge and experience in chemistry, toxicology, risk assessment, and social sciences with the ultimate goal of improving our ability to assess, communicate, and mitigate the risks of chemicals to human and ecological health. In a previous position at Battelle, he was instrumental in developing the quality assurance and quality control program for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill that continues to serve as the basis for oil spill monitoring programs today. Dr. Shea has served on numerous expert panels including a U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management panel on offshore oil exploration in the Arctic and an EPA bioaccumulation subcommittee to review EPA’s revisions to national water quality criteria. He is a member of the American Chemical Society, Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Society of Toxicology, and International Society of Exposure Science. He received a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry from the University of Maryland.
Dr. Wen-lu Zhu
WEN-LU ZHU is a professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research focuses on the coupling between rock deformation and fluid flow in Earth’s crust and mantle. She measures mechanical and transport properties and characterizes rock structure at various scales in three- and four-dimensions. Her work on damage accumulation and fracture propagation in sedimentary rocks has application to fault slip and earthquake nucleation. Dr. Zhu received the 2007 Basic Research Award from the American Rock Mechanics Association and is currently the president-elect of the Mineral and Rock Physics Section in the American Geophysical Union. She received a B.S. and an M.S. in geophysics from Peking University in China and a Ph.D. in geophysics from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Committee Membership Roster Comments

Note: The committee composition has changed. Dr. Katharina Pfaff is no longer on the committee as of June 22, 2018



USGS National Training Center
53 6th Street - Hydro Room
Denver, CO, 80226

Event Type :  

Description :   

August 22, 2018

Closed Session | 8:00 am - 1:00pm

Open Session

1:00 pm Session 1: QMS at USGS, followed by panel discussion

2:30 pm Session 2: QMS at other federal agencies (EPA, Navy, and CDC), followed by panel discussion

5:00 pm Open session adjourns

August 23, 2018

Closed Session | 8:00 am - 4:00pm


Registration for Online Attendance :   

Registration for in Person Attendance :   

If you would like to attend the sessions of this event that are open to the public or need more information please contact

Contact Name:  Eric Edkin
Contact Email:
Contact Phone:  -

Is it a Closed Session Event?
Some sessions are open and some sessions are closed


Reston, VA

Hyatt Regency Reston
1800 Presidents S
Reston, VA, 20190

Event Type :  

Registration for Online Attendance :   

Registration for in Person Attendance :   

If you would like to attend the sessions of this event that are open to the public or need more information please contact

Contact Name:  Eric Edkin
Contact Email:
Contact Phone:  -

10:00 AM - 12:00 PM Context for the study and discussion of the statement of task William Werkheiser and Kenna Butler, USGS
Is it a Closed Session Event?
Some sessions are open and some sessions are closed

Closed Session Summary Posted After the Event

The following committee members were present at the closed sessions of the event:

Bill Hopkins
Susan Brantley
Rebecca Davies
Andy Eaton
Robert Fleischer
Madeline Gotkowitz
Dennis Jiang
Damian Shea
Wenlu Zhu

The following topics were discussed in the closed sessions:

Plans for lab visits (questions, format)
What was learned at the lab visits
Schedule of future meetings
Plans for meeting 2
Tips on talking with the media

The following materials (written documents) were made available to the committee in the closed sessions:

* DOI Inspector General Report (2016) Scientific integrity incident at USGS Energy Geochemistry Laboratory
* Statement of William Werkheiser before the House Natural Resources Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, 2016
* Status of quality practices in USGS laboratories, USGS
* 10 best practices of good laboratories, ASTM Standardization News (2010)
* Quality time, Nature (2016)

Date of posting of Closed Session Summary:
August 07, 2018


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