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Posted 3/18/2016

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By Sean McBride

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center, located in Vicksburg, Miss., helps solve our nation’s most challenging problems in civil and military engineering, geospatial sciences, water resources, and environmental sciences. ERDC employees work on specialized projects and look at how they affect the entire nation. Many of ERDC’s employees are doctors, scientists and researchers, but they have been looking to bring in more people with experience in Corps districts be-cause they know how to apply the research to those settings.

The Charleston District has recently “lost” two employees to this initiative, with Brandan Scully, research civil engineer, taking a job with ERDC eight months ago, and Steven Currie, soil scientist, beginning this month.

Scully supports the national dredging program by helping to improve efficiency in how it’s managed. Scully was drawn to the position at ERDC after working with Automatic Identification System data while finishing his master’s degree at NC State University. AIS tracks vessel movements on waterways and oceans and can tell you where any ship is and what it’s doing at any time. The Corps has nationwide access to most vessels sending out this data, so part of Scully’s work at ERDC is tracking vessel interaction in the navigation system of the United States.

“The Corps has access to more information than it’s ever been able to collect,” said Scully. “We’re working to figure out how to use this information to better understand Corps navigation projects and pick the slate of projects across the nation that results in the greatest benefits, helping decision makers apply funding to those projects.”

Many of the projects he works on come through the Dredging Operations and Technical Support pro-gram. DOTS supports districts that have a short-term problem and lack the immediate ability to handle it in-house by using ERDC staff to solve it.

“I enjoy diversity and get to collaborate with a wide range of Corps staff across the country,” said Scully. “On an individual district project, you might be able to save tens of thousands or maybe up to a million dollars. At the national level, the opportunity for savings is much more than that, and the savings get used to fund overlooked or underfunded projects. The variety of challenges beyond the Lowcountry keeps the work exciting.”

Currie will begin his official ERDC duties in March as a research soil scientist, but it won’t be his first stint in the labs. Before coming to Charleston four years ago, he spent 90 days on a detail assignment at ERDC. His short time there left a big impression on both sides.

“I’ve always been a researcher at heart,” said Currie. “I knew it would be a really good fit with my specialized skill set, which is important at the district level, but also beneficial to the regulatory program at the national level.”

Currie’s skill set is in soil science where he will be working to update technical manuals that will affect the whole Corps.

Those manuals provide wetland delineation guidance, which is a large part of a regulator’s job. He’ll also be part of ERDC’s Wetland Regulatory Assistance Program where he will fly to different districts to conduct field visits, training, research, and produce reports when they need outside help.

“Businesses are now wanting to develop on more complicated wetland sites because a lot of the easily delineated areas have already been developed,” said Currie. “I’ll be supporting districts with technical expertise when they need it.”

Currie has to relocate to Vicksburg, but says it was the easiest, most-difficult decision he’s ever had to make.
“I knew I had to do it,” said Currie. “They are beefing up their branch so it’s the right time. But I’m much more prepared now because my experience in Charleston has helped me tremendously. Charleston has the best people and leadership really supports us, so it’s tough to leave.”

While Currie is moving to Vicksburg, Scully was able to continue to live in Charleston and work for ERDC remotely. A lot of the national dredging program projects that he works on are located in the South Atlantic Division region, so his experience here established a broader working relationship for ERDC.

ERDC is internationally recognized for their expertise in public engineering and environmental sciences research, and now two of their up-and-coming employees were cultivated at the Charleston District, putting us on the pulse of what is happening at a national level and showcasing that the skills learned in Charleston will benefit the entire nation.

With these employees being a part of ERDC, the District’s relationship with this Corps’ research and development center will continue to strengthen.

civil works ERDC navigation regulatory