Worldwide Hydrobiogeochemistry Observation Network for Dynamic River Systems (WHONDRS)

WHONDRS on Nisqually River

Photo courtesy of WHONDRS team | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The Worldwide Hydrobiogeochemistry Observation Network for Dynamic River Systems (WHONDRS) is a research consortium that aims to understand coupled hydrologic, biogeochemical, and microbial function within river corridors, with an emphasis on increasing accessibility of resources and knowledge throughout the research life cycle. WHONDRS seeks to galvanize a global community around understanding these coupled systems from local to global scales and ultimately to provide the scientific basis for improved management of dynamic river corridors throughout the world.

Benefits of Joining WHONDRS

Illustration of researchers and watershed components (soil, rhizosphere, subsurface, etc) connected to a computer-generated image of a watershed

The success of WHONDRS hinges on broad involvement, and we encourage you to contact us to evaluate potential collaboration. WHONDRS partners have the opportunity to do the following:

  • Join a global effort to understand how major ecosystem drivers influence the holistic functioning of dynamic river corridor ecosystems.
  • Access WHONDRS-developed infrastructure and methods such as sample collection, sample analysis, and quality assurance protocols; modeling approaches; and data management and storage that can be applied to any field system that is part of the network.
  • Generate hydrobiogeochemical data in river corridor systems that are relevant to local science issues and the research programs of individual investigators, while also contributing to global understanding.
  • Share locally collected data and insights with the global community, whereby all data will be georeferenced, publicly available, consistently structured, and easily discoverable.

WHONDRS Motivation

WHONDRS is inspired by the recognition that events and processes occurring throughout watershed systems strongly influence human society and environmental health. As a collective system, watersheds provide numerous ecosystem services such as clean water, protection from floods, and essential habitat for animals and plants. Many of these watershed ecosystem services are provided by river corridors. They integrate processes, such as contaminant transformation and sediment entrainment, with upstream events like contaminant spills and fires.

WHONDRS is dedicated to accelerating the development of knowledge and models that are transferable across river corridor systems—and using that knowledge to enhance predictions of the hydrobiogeochemical function of watersheds, such as fluxes of water, contaminants, carbon, and nutrients.

Perturbations to watersheds and associated river corridors, like dam operations, floods, droughts, contaminant releases, and fire, are increasingly common and their effects often are compounded. There is a significant need to enhance our ability to predict the outcomes of these perturbations so we can better understand how they affect ecosystem services to society and maintain healthy environments.

Many existing investments and approaches to understanding river corridors (and watersheds) are founded on place-based science that emphasizes heavy investment in a relatively small number of constrained field systems. This approach is powerful and necessary. But, to effectively transfer knowledge and models across systems, place-based science must be complemented with knowledge from a much broader suite of river corridor systems. Cross-system knowledge is required for the identification of fundamental processes and rules that span systems, as well as having the data needed to evaluate and inform models used across systems.

WHONDRS was developed to meet the need for:

  1. Enhanced predictive capacity of dynamic and perturbed systems enabled by model-relevant knowledge, and
  2. Data generated from and transferable across a broad spectrum of river corridor systems.

To this end, WHONDRS pursues measurements that directly inform dynamic models that couple hydrology with biogeochemistry. In so doing, WHONDRS enables knowledge and models that link physical, chemical, and biological processes to provide integrated understanding of system function. WHONDRS takes an integrative approach because ecosystem services provided by river corridors are the result of interactions among multiple types of processes. WHONDRS data, and the models with which they integrate, focus on the entirety of the system as opposed to just hydrology or biogeochemistry. WHONDRS does so in a consistent manner across river corridors, with an emphasis on systems that experience significant externally forced dynamic perturbations. Data, knowledge, and models resulting from WHONDRS efforts fill key gaps that currently limit our ability to predict impacts of perturbations on the ecosystem services provided by river corridors and watersheds.


WHONDRS is expanding our field locations and encourages institutions or individual researchers interested in participating to contact us at You can also:

Collage of photos related to the WHONDRS project