February 2012


Mr. D. Phil Turnipseed, P.E., D.WRE, M.ASCE is the Center Director of the USGS National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. Phil's duties include the management and research direction of the NWRC. As a leader of the Executive Management Team (EMT), he is responsible for managing over $15M in annual data collection, research, modeling, and outreach activities that include global expertise in Forest and Wetlands Ecosystems and Geospatial Analysis.

Mr. Turnipseed previously served as the principal USGS liaison to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the International Joint Commission, and the Environment Canada Ministry. He began his USGS career in 1987 as a civil engineer working in hydraulic bridge design in cooperation with the Mississippi Department of Transportation. In his 25 years of federal service, Turnipseed has worked at USGS science centers in Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, and Louisiana conducting a wide array of hydrologic and hydraulic research, hydrologic monitoring design and construction, ecosystem research and geospatial analysis. He has authored or co-authored over 70 peer-reviewed reports, posters and scientific papers.

In 2008 Phil participated in an interagency effort with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In December 2008, this effort published an interagency climate circular that explores strategies to improve water management by tracking, anticipating, and responding to climate change. This report, entitled Climate change and water resources management: A federal perspective, describes the existing and still needed underpinning science crucial to addressing the many impacts of climate change on water resources management and represents the first major documentation by 4 of the Nation's leading water agencies to address climate change science with respect to water resources management.

In 2010, Phil and Vernon B. Sauer published revisions (available for download free of charge through the hyperlinks below) to two important USGS standards used by the water resources monitoring community throughout the world.  The two standards Techniques and Methods Book 3, Chapters A7 and A8 entitled “Stage measurement at gaging statons” and “Discharge measurements at gaging stations,” respectively, are revisions to the Techniques for Water Resources Investigations Book 3, Chapters A7 and A8 published in the 1960s and bring much these two techniques and methods of USGS standards for measuring river stage and discharge into the 21st Century.

Phil was born in Greenwood, Mississippi in the heart of the Mississippi River alluvial floodplain (known as the Mississippi Delta). He served the Smithsonian Institution/Peace Corps in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador (1977-79). He has lived and/or worked on 5 continents in the past 30 years and speaks and writes fluent Spanish and limited French. He is a registered professional engineer in Mississippi and has been a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers since 1984.

Phil is a founding Diplomate of AAWRE since 2006 and in this interview, he shares his thoughts with AAWRE on his life and career path, service in Peace Corps, his love of water resources engineering, and his advice for engineers and leaders of tomorrow. Phil and his wife, Cindy, have one daughter, four sons, and one grandson. Phil and Cindy reside in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Most fun class to teach: Hydrographer hydraulics, a class I co-developed with K. Michael Nolan for the U.S. Geological Survey to address the audience of hydrographers who measure streamflow in rivers and streams, but lack the background in math and physics.  Conveying our science in engineering in a manner easy to understand is a huge challenge, but one we are obligated to improve in the future.

Most fun subjects while in school: Statics and fluid mechanics.