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 Birdsall-Dreiss Lectures

2015 Lecturer

Clifford I. VossClifford I. Voss is a senior scientist with the National Research Program of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), currently working in Menlo Park, California. Cliff, an internationally recognized expert in groundwater modeling, has over 35 years of project management, implementation, field work and research experience in groundwater systems, including: computer model development and effective model use for scientific evaluation of hydrogeologic systems; groundwater resources development, management and protection; coastal and island groundwater resources subject to seawater intrusion; and use of the subsurface for energy production/storage and toxic waste isolation. Cliff advises extensively on groundwater system evaluation and management and he lectures worldwide on these and related subjects. His scientific interests in hydrogeology include addressing hydrogeologic heterogeneity, physics of solute and energy transport, behavior of fluids with varying density, phase change in geothermal and frozen systems, inverse modeling and network design, and evaluating extensive aquifer systems in light of sparse data.

The practical methodology and models that Cliff and his colleagues developed are now widely used for managing both the quantity and quality of water supply. In particular, the SUTRA computer code, developed and maintained by Cliff and USGS colleagues, has been a standard tool for groundwater resource assessment ever since USGS made it publicly available in 1984. SUTRA has made possible hundreds of practical and research investigations globally since its release.

Examples of Cliff's work include: nuclear waste repository safety (Germany, Japan, Sweden), transboundary water resource management (Nubian Aquifer of Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Chad), sustainability of water supply (arsenic-free groundwater supply from the Bengal Aquifer of India, Bangladesh), groundwater management in coastal areas subject to saltwater intrusion (USA), evaluation of water resources emergency (2004 tsunami in Thailand), and assessment of climate-change impacts on permafrost-mediated hydrology in cold regions (Alaska, USA), in part using simulation methodology for groundwater flow with freeze/thaw developed by Cliff and colleagues.

Cliff is the Executive Editor of Hydrogeology Journal, the official journal of the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH), which has become a premier venue for worldwide progress in theoretical and practical hydrogeology and groundwater-resource management under his twenty years of leadership. Hydrogeology Journal is co-sponsored by GSA's Hydrogeology Division.

For more information on Cliff's work and a list of his publications, please visit

The Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer tour is sponsored by the GSA Hydrogeology Division. GSA will pay travel expenses, and the host institution will provide local accommodation and meals and, if needed, some local travel expenses. Cliff needs to organize several lectures in each region to make effective use of the travel funds, so lecture requests received by 15 December 2014 will be given priority when Cliff organizes his tour schedule.

He is offering three talks:

  1. Informing Management of the World's Largest Groundwater Systems with Simply-Structured Model Analysis Click for Details
  2. Density-Driven Groundwater Flow: Seawater Intrusion, Natural Convection, and Other Phenomena Click for Details
  3. Ground Ice and Permafrost - 'Foundations' of the Hydrology of Cold Regions Click for Details

Upon request, Cliff will present one of the three lectures listed above. All three lectures are appropriate for a general audience with some science background or interest. To request a visit to your institution please use our lecture request form. You can also contact Cliff by e-mail at with any questions.

You can also visit Cliff's USGS Birdsall-Dreiss page.

Background of the Birdsall-Dreiss Lectureship

Birdsall-Dreiss Lectures
The Birdsall Lectureship began in 1978, as part of a bequest left to the Geological Society of America – Hydrogeology Division in memory of John Manning Birdsall. Mr. Birdsall was a prominent geologist, retired from the Water Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey. He was a scientist, a dedicated public servant and a gentleman. The bequest was used to provide travel funds for outstanding scientists working in the field of hydrogeology to visit other institutions and give talks on their research. The first lecturer, Dr. Jacob Bear from the Israeli Institute of Technology, visited only the University of Wisconsin – Madison, which hosted one of the premier hydrogeology programs of that era. The subsequent list of Birdsall-Dreiss lecturers includes many outstanding scientists from academia and government. The number of institutions visited by each lecturer grew rapidly, with recent lecturers typically giving 40 to 50 talks, mainly in the U.S. and Canada, but also in Europe, Asia and Australia.

One of the most popular Birdsall Lecturers was Dr. Shirley Dreiss from the University of California – Santa Cruz. Shortly after her very successful 1992 lecture tour, Shirley was killed in an auto accident. Her many friends and admirers honored her by contributing to the GSA Birdsall Lectureship, which was renamed the Birdsall-Dreiss Lectureship. The Birdsall-Dreiss Lecturer is chosen each year by a panel of former B-D lecturers. There are no applications for this position and they make their choice solely on the reputation of perspective candidates for their research excellence and ability to communicate.

The Birdsall-Dreiss endowment pays for part of their travel and candidates typically obtain additional travel funds from their home institution. Universities or other institutions wishing to host a Birdsall-Dreiss lecture send in their application in the fall, with the tour officially starting each January and ending at the fall meeting of the Geological Society of America.

Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer Description: The lecturer shall be selected based on outstanding contributions to hydrogeology or a closely related field through original research and public communication, and the potential for continued contributions to the profession.

How to nominate: Include at least one letter of nomination, a copy of the nominee’s curriculum vitae, and at least two supporting letters describing the significant contributions or accomplishments constituting the basis for the nomination.

Submit nominations to:

Deadline: February 1, every year

If you have questions, please contact: Dani Or, Committee Chair, at

Previous Lectures

Click here to query the Birdsall-Dreiss Lectures Database. The database includes year, lecturer, employer, and lecture title(s).

Mug Series
Mug Series
Mugs are available at the GSA national meeting, and through the Division Secretary-Treasurer. A limited number of earlier mugs in the series are also available (more).
The photographs in the Images from Division Meetings are from 2003-2006. A new image appears on each web page refresh. Click here to see all the images with captions.
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