Science and Technology USGS Seminar Summary

By Damien Knight

Pete Cinotto came to campus November second to talk about science and technology from the USGS Water Science Center’s perspective. He talked about his early career and study first and how he joined the USGS. Pete then focused on how USGS operates. He says that everything is changing rapidly and starts his talk with the slide “Science for a Changing World.” We live and work in a rapid changing world. Science must change with it.

The talk then goes into the background of the USGS, the first river gauges came to Kentucky in 1905 in the Chicago district. The Ohio district Kentucky office opened in 1908 in New Port, Kentucky. They moved to Louisville in 1938. The core of engineers was doing navigation missions and they did not want USGS doing the same. This was why they were in Louisville. Then he discussed further history of USGS Water Science.

Pete talked about Rudabaugh model and how they used it to understand ground water. Then he went into what was next for the Water Science Center. He mentions “mores law” that the number of transistors on a dense integrated circuit doubles every two years while the costs are halved. The modern USGS is driven by such technological advances. It is key new hires demonstrate the ability to learn. It has become their policy to “train to retrain.”

Diversity in the workforce is important. Problems are solved more efficiently by having different viewpoints in the work place. The example used at the seminar is hack-a-hons. A hack-a-thon is when a company with a complex problem offers a prize and throws it to the public. The stats show experts with the company solved problems 60 % of the time and 40% were by someone out of industry.

Rapid technological advances have driven USGS more omnidiciplinary and partner driven. Everything is specialized now, Pete said it is hard to be a generalist. It is more specialized and connected. You must seek multiple disciplines and pull it all together. Challenges must be met to accomplish the mission and partnerships are how science gets done.

The partnerships the USGS Water Science has are, KASMC, Silver Jackets, Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Authority, Ky Farm Bureau and several others. Pete then talks of the staff. They currently have 170 employees in 6 offices. All the staff is relatively new with most having less than ten years at the job. They invest a lot in training.

USGS merged centers due to ACES Study. They went from a high mix low volume to a high-volume low mix. KYWSC merge to OKIWSC and the work load remained constant with reduced support staff.

Pete then discussed what USGS Water does and showed the Eco Mapper under water vehicle. It computes water quality and maps in a fraction of the time of manual crews which reduces labour costs. Operators must be highly trained. They also have drones which are cheaper. The regulations via FAA are getting more stringent but USGS has its own regulations and training for it. It can be used to collect data.

Super-gauges do everything the USGS Water needs. They have 33 of them. They are working on mobile super-gauges to run down rivers. They have agreements with Delta Queen for this. Pete says this is about being innovative.

USGS also does flood response doing support and mitigation for USPCE and FEMA. They also measure discharge during these incidents. USGS has specialized equipment and modeling. Pete Cinatto’s Seminar in all was about the importance of technology and science in its use of water monitoring and the USGS Water Center’s history and practices today.


November 2 – Peter J. Cinotto, Deputy Director of the Kentucky USGS Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center presents: Science and technology direction from the perspective of a USGS water science center. EST 260 @ 3pm – all invited.

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