Could You Be a Mendenhall Research Fellow?

November 10, 2021 5:00 pm


About twenty years ago, the USGS started a new postdoctoral research program in honor of Walter C. Mendenhall (1871-1957), the fifth Director of the USGS. The Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program (now the Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program) provides postdoctoral Fellows, in a variety of fields, the opportunity to conduct research that enhances their experiences, scientific stature and credentials. 

This year is the second year in the history of the program that all five of the USGS Mission Areas are participating. We have 43 new research opportunities in various locations throughout the U.S., and across several disciplines.  

Meet Some Current Mendenhall Fellows 

Dr. Brett Carr, USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral Scientist, records measurements from a laser rangefinder of the surface of the lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu crater at Kīlauea Volcano.

(Credit: Matthew Patrick, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Public domain.)

Brett B. Carr, PhD 

Brett is a volcanologist within the National Hazards Mission Area studying the physical processes driving volcanic eruptions. The primary goal of his research is to combine observational and numerical modeling techniques to develop a more complete understanding of active volcanism. As a Mendenhall postdoc at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Brett is investigating lava flow emplacement processes during the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano. 

“As a Mendenhall postdoc I am treated as a full staff member at HVO, and a part of that is helping to fulfil HVO’s mission of monitoring activity at Hawaii’s volcanoes, 
 commented Brett. “My Mendenhall project was intended to focus on investigating lava flow emplacement processes related to the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea, but when Kīlauea began erupting in December of 2020, the focus of my work changed.”  

“Utilizing my experience, I led the creation of maps and other data products using images from helicopter overflights of the Halema’uma’u lava lake and structure-from-motion photogrammetry,” Brett continued. “I used the data I generated to track the eruption rate and erupted volume of lava in near-real-time. I am now preparing for publication a paper discussing the results of this novel dataset of 3D models from 18 separate overflights and how it improves understanding of lava lake growth and how eruptions progress and end. A highlight of this experience is participating in frequent field monitoring shifts to observe the eruption and being a crew member on the helicopter flights to collect the images myself (see photos).” 

Several of his map products and eruption photographs have also been shared by HVO to help inform the public of the current state of activity at the volcano.

Bonnie McDevitt, Research Engineer, Geology, Energy, and Minerals Science Center (Public domain.)

Bonnie McDevitt, PhD 

Bonnie is a research engineer with the Geology, Energy, and Minerals Science Center in Reston, Virginia. Bonnie is an environmental engineer with research expertise in the treatment and beneficial reuse of oil and gas produced waters. Much of her Ph.D research focused on assessing the effectiveness of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations for industrial wastewater disposal to surface water. Her current USGS work focuses on produced water radium treatment via co-precipitation and sorption as well as environmental fate and transport. Additionally, Bonnie has conducted research on produced water contaminant bioaccumulation in vegetation and freshwater mussels, conducted isotopic tracer studies to fingerprint produced water contamination, and recently assessed radium associations in acid mine drainage treatment solids related to critical minerals extraction.  

Mendenhall Fellows Have Received Prestigious Awards 

Current and past Fellows of the Mendenhall Program have also won the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). This award recognizes outstanding scientists and engineers who show, early in their careers, exceptional potential for leadership in their scientific field. 

Some of our most recent 2019 PECASE award winners are: 

Dr. Brian A. Ebel (Public domain.)

Dr. Brian Ebel, a research hydrologist with the Water Mission Area in Lakewood, CO. He was a Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellow from 2010 through 2012 and is now a permanent USGS employee. Brian uses field measurements combined with numerical modeling to advance prediction and hydrologic process representation with applications to water resources and water-related hazards. His work focuses primarily on post-wildfire hydrologic impacts, disturbance hydrology, hydrologically driven slope failure, and fully coupled surface water and groundwater modeling. 



Dr. Aaron Wech (Public domain.)

Dr. Aaron Wech, a research geophysicist with the Volcano Science Center in Anchorage, AK. Aaron was hired in a permanent research position in 2015 in Anchorage, splitting his research between the Volcano and Earthquake Science Centers. He is an observational seismologist focusing on understanding tectonic and volcanic process, and through this work has developed and implemented automated tools for monitoring slow earthquake behavior in subduction zones and alarming on volcanic activity. 

Application Information 

Prospective Mendenhall Research Fellowship applicants are encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) for the Research Opportunity of interest to coordinate the development of a research proposal. More information on Research Opportunities and specific application requirements can be found here

The postdoctoral fellows are appointed to the USGS for two years and receive full salary and benefits at the GS-12 level, step 1. Mendenhall Fellow appointments are full-time and time limited, not to exceed two years. Under certain circumstances, the appointment may be extended up to an additional two years.  

For more information, contact Cara Campbell, manager of the Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program, at or email the general Mendenhall Research Fellowship Mailbox at

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