The Flagstaff Science Campus (FSC) of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has played an integral part in scientific research as a training hub for moon-bound astronauts since its beginnings in the early 1960s.
While the FSC has moved into more diversified fields of study, it remains a vital part of Flagstaff’s economy and of advanced natural science research on a local, regional and national level.
“The FSC is comprised of five separate centers,” said Bob Hart, scientist in charge at the USGS Flagstaff Campus. “These centers include: the Astrology Science Center (ASC), Arizona Water Science Center, Geology and Geophysics Science Center, Southwest Biological Science Center, Southwest Geographical Center.” The centers strive to address the USGS mission areas in natural hazards, ecosystems, water, climate and land-use change and core science.
According to Hart, current research projects the FSC is conducting include:
– Assisting Coconino County hydrology issues related to the Schultz Fire
– Colorado Plateau groundwater studies related to Uranium issues
– Studying the Colorado River relating to the impact of dam operations on downstream resources such as endemic fish, riparian habitats and cultural features
– Monitoring sand dune movement on the Navajo Indian Reservation and effects of climate change
– Space missions to the Moon, Mars, Saturn and Titan
While each of the projects is important in their own right, the project addressing hydrology issues relating to the Schultz Fire is particularly timely, considering fire season is upon us. Hart says that FSC and the county are using geophysical methods along with exploratory drilling to determine the characteristics and depth of volcanic cinders at the Cinder Lake area east of highway 89, near the Schultz Fire burn area.
“The hope is that the cinders are deep enough and have good infiltration characteristics to store runoff waters that could occur from the burn area during the monsoon period this summer,” said Hart.
If the Cinder Lake area is in fact capable of storing runoff water from the storms, this means good news for residents in Doney Park, since this development may protect them from potential flooding.
In addition to the invaluable research the FSC provides, it is also a key player in Flagstaff’s economy, with its programs totaling approximately $30 million for science investigations and research, according to Mark Sogge, the chief of staff at USGS, Flagstaff area. The USGS FSC employs roughly 200 staff plus contractors.
“The FSC is one of the major employers in Flagstaff and provides good paying and quality jobs which in turn benefits the economy,” said Hart. “Because of our interaction and collaboration with multiple cooperators such as the City of Flagstaff, counties, state agencies, universities and other federal agencies, our science programs contribute to growth in the city and region.”
Because of this growth, the FSC is currently in negotiations with the General Services Administration (GSA), the City of Flagstaff and outside consultants about major renovation plans to the Campus, according to John Stigmon, Flagstaff’s economic development manager. If renovation plans are finalized, it could mean a great deal of additional space and provide the FSC with an area to expand its research and manufacturing capabilities. FBN