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U.S. Geological Survey

United States Geological Survey (USGS)
US-GeologicalSurvey-Seal.svg
Seal of the United States Geological Survey
USGS logo green.svg
Official identifier of the U.S. Geological Survey
Flag of the United States Geological Survey.png
Flag of the United States Geological Survey
Agency overview
Formed March 3, 1879; 137 years ago (1879-03-03)
Jurisdiction United States
Headquarters Reston, Virginia
United States
38°56′51″N 77°22′06″W / 38.9475194°N 77.3683075°W / 38.9475194; -77.3683075Coordinates: 38°56′51″N 77°22′06″W / 38.9475194°N 77.3683075°W / 38.9475194; -77.3683075
Employees 8,670 (2009)
Annual budget $1.1 billion (FY2010)
Agency executive
Parent agency United States Department of the Interior
Website USGS.gov

The United States Geological Survey (USGS, formerly simply Geological Survey) is a scientific agency of the United States government. The scientists of the USGS study the landscape of the United States, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it. The organization has four major science disciplines, concerning biology, geography, geology, and hydrology. The USGS is a fact-finding research organization with no regulatory responsibility.

The USGS is a bureau of the United States Department of the Interior; it is that department's sole scientific agency. The USGS employs approximately 8,670 people and is headquartered in Reston, Virginia. The USGS also has major offices near Lakewood, Colorado, at the Denver Federal Center, and Menlo Park, California.

The current motto of the USGS, in use since August 1997, is "Science for a changing World." The agency's previous slogan, adopted on the occasion of its hundredth anniversary, was "Earth Science in the Public Service."

Prompted by a report from the National Academy of Sciences, the USGS was created, by a last-minute amendment, to an act of Congress on March 3, 1879. It was charged with the "classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain". This task was driven by the need to inventory the vast lands added to the United States by the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the Mexican–American War in 1848.



  • Biological Science Report (BSR): Record significant scientific interpretations and findings, usually of lasting scientific interest, addressing a wide variety of topics relevant to Biological Resources Discipline (BRD) investigations and research. May include extensive data or theoretical analyses. Reports published by the U.S. Biological Survey and later by the U.S. Geological Survey. The report series began in 1995 and continued through 2003.
  • Bulletin (B): Significant data and interpretations of lasting scientific interest but generally narrower in scope than professional papers. Results of resource studies, geologic or topographic studies, and collections of short papers on related topics.
  • Circular (CIR/C): A wide variety of topics covered concisely and clearly to provide a synthesis of understanding about processes, geographic areas, issues, or USGS programs. The Circular should be aimed at enhancing knowledge and understanding among general audiences, decision makers, university students, and scientists in related fields.
  • Circum-Pacific Map (CP): Multicolor equal-area maps at scales of 1:10,000,000 for the Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast quadrants of the Pacific and the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and of 1:17,000,000 for the whole Pacific Basin. The series consists of base, geographic, geodynamic, plate-tectonic, geologic, tectonic, mineral-resources, and energy-resources maps, as well as other miscellaneous maps.
  • Coal Investigations (COAL/C-) Map: Origin, character, and resource potential of coal deposits shown by geologic maps, structure contours, cross sections, columnar sections, and measured coal sections, where appropriate. Text on same sheet or in an accompanying pamphlet.
  • Data Series (DS): The Data Series is intended for release of basic data sets, databases, and multimedia or motion graphics. This series can be used for videos, computer programs, and collections of digital photographs.
  • General Interest Publication (GIP): A wide variety of topics covered concisely and clearly in a variety of formats. Focus is on USGS programs, projects, and services and general scientific information of public interest. The series covers a broad range of topics in a variety of media, including pamphlets, postcards, posters, videos, teacher kits, CD/DVDs, bookmarks, and interactive and motion graphics. Previously called "General Interest Publications".
  • Geologic Quadrangle (GQ) Map: Detailed geologic maps depicting areas of special importance to the solution of geologic problems. May portray bedrock or surficial units, or both. May include brief texts, structure sections, and columnar sections. 71/2- or 15-minute quadrangles printed in multicolor on topographic bases that meet National Map Accuracy standards.
  • Geophysical Investigations (GP) Map: Chiefly the results of aeromagnetic and (or) gravity surveys shown by contours. Area depicted may range in size from a few square miles to an entire country. Single or multiple sheets.
  • Land Use and Land Cover (L) Map: Various categories of land use and cover, both artificial and natural, for use by geographers, land-use planners, and others. Planimetric maps at scales of 1:250,000 or 1:100,000 on a single sheet.
  • Mineral Investigations Resource (MR) Map: Information on mineral occurrences, mineral resources, mines and prospects, commodities, and target areas of possible resources other than coal, petroleum, or natural gas. Small scale (1:250,000 or smaller).
  • Miscellaneous Field Studies (MF) Map: Rapidly prepared, low-budget maps in a broad range of presentations in terms of portrayal, completeness, interpretations, draftsmanship, scale, and area coverage. Single or multiple sheets.
  • Miscellaneous Investigations/ Geologic Investigations (I) Series: High-quality maps and charts of varied subject matter such as bathymetry, geology, hydrogeology, landforms, land-use classification, vegetation, and others including maps of planets, the Moon, and other satellites. Various scales. Topographic or planimetric bases; regular or irregular areas. May include a text printed as an accompanying pamphlet.
  • Oil and Gas Investigations (OC) Chart: Information about known or possible petroleum resources, presented as logs, correlation diagrams, graphs, and tables, but ordinarily not as maps. Single or multiple sheets. Text printed on same sheet or in an accompanying pamphlet.
  • Oil and Gas Investigations (OM) Map: Apply particularly to areas of known or possible petroleum resources. Typically include cross sections, columnar sections, structure contours, correlation diagrams, and information on wells drilled for oil and gas. Single or multiple sheets. Text usually on map sheet but sometimes printed as an accompanying pamphlet.
  • Open-File Report (OFR/OF): Interpretive information that needs to be released immediately; maps and reports (and their supporting data) that need to be released as supporting documentation because they are referenced, discussed, or interpreted in another information product; preliminary findings (pending a final map or report); interim computer programs and user guides; bibliographies.
  • Professional Paper (PP): Premier series of the USGS. Comprehensive reports of wide and lasting interest and scientific importance, characterized by thoroughness of study and breadth of scientific or geographic coverage. The series may include collections of related papers addressing different aspects of a single scientific topic, either issued together under one cover or separately as chapters.
  • Water-Resources Investigations Report (WRIR/WRI): Hydrologic information, mainly of local interest, intended for quick release. Book or map format. Varied scales.
  • Water-Supply Paper (WSP): Reports on all aspects of hydrology, including quality, recoverability, and use of water resources; statistical reports on streamflow, floods, groundwater levels, and water quality; and collections of short papers on related topics.
  • Earthquake Hazards Program monitors earthquake activity worldwide. The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) in Golden, Colorado on the campus of the Colorado School of Mines detects the location and magnitude of global earthquakes. The USGS also runs or supports several regional monitoring networks in the United States under the umbrella of the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS). The USGS informs authorities, emergency responders, the media, and the public, both domestic and worldwide, about significant earthquakes. It also maintains long-term archives of earthquake data for scientific and engineering research. It also conducts and supports research on long-term seismic hazards. USGS has released the UCERF California earthquake forecast.
  • As of 2005, the agency is working to create a National Volcano Early Warning System by improving the instrumentation monitoring the 169 volcanoes in U.S. territory and by establishing methods for measuring the relative threats posed at each site.
  • The USGS National Geomagnetism Program monitors the magnetic field at magnetic observatories and distributes magnetometer data in real time.
  • The USGS collaborates with Canadian and Mexican government scientists, along with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, to produce the North American Environmental Atlas, which is used to depict and track environmental issues for a continental perspective.
  • The USGS operates the streamgaging network for the United States, with over 7400 streamgages. Real-time streamflow data are available online.
  • National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) implements partner-driven science to improve understanding of past and present land use change, develops relevant climate and land use forecasts, and identifies lands, resources, and communities that are most vulnerable to adverse impacts of change from the local to global scale.
  • Since 1962, the Astrogeology Research Program has been involved in global, lunar, and planetary exploration and mapping.
  • In collaboration with Stanford University, the USGS also operates the USGS-Stanford Ion Microprobe Laboratory, a world-class analytical facility for U-(Th)-Pb geochronology and trace element analyses of minerals and other earth materials.
  • USGS operates a number of water related programs, notably the National Streamflow Information Program and National Water-Quality Assessment Program. USGS Water data is publicly available from their National Water Information System database.
  • The USGS also operates the National Wildlife Health Center, whose mission is "to serve the nation and its natural resources by providing sound science and technical support, and to disseminate information to promote science-based decisions affecting wildlife and ecosystem health. The NWHC provides information, technical assistance, research, education, and leadership on national and international wildlife health issues." It is the agency primarily responsible for surveillance of H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks in the United States. The USGS also runs 17 biological research centers in the United States, including the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
  • The USGS is investigating collaboration with the social networking site Twitter to allow for more rapid construction of ShakeMaps.
  • Biological Science Report (BSR): Record significant scientific interpretations and findings, usually of lasting scientific interest, addressing a wide variety of topics relevant to Biological Resources Discipline (BRD) investigations and research. May include extensive data or theoretical analyses. Reports published by the U.S. Biological Survey and later by the U.S. Geological Survey. The report series began in 1995 and continued through 2003.
  • Bulletin (B): Significant data and interpretations of lasting scientific interest but generally narrower in scope than professional papers. Results of resource studies, geologic or topographic studies, and collections of short papers on related topics.
  • Circular (CIR/C): A wide variety of topics covered concisely and clearly to provide a synthesis of understanding about processes, geographic areas, issues, or USGS programs. The Circular should be aimed at enhancing knowledge and understanding among general audiences, decision makers, university students, and scientists in related fields.
  • Circum-Pacific Map (CP): Multicolor equal-area maps at scales of 1:10,000,000 for the Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast quadrants of the Pacific and the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and of 1:17,000,000 for the whole Pacific Basin. The series consists of base, geographic, geodynamic, plate-tectonic, geologic, tectonic, mineral-resources, and energy-resources maps, as well as other miscellaneous maps.
  • Coal Investigations (COAL/C-) Map: Origin, character, and resource potential of coal deposits shown by geologic maps, structure contours, cross sections, columnar sections, and measured coal sections, where appropriate. Text on same sheet or in an accompanying pamphlet.
  • Data Series (DS): The Data Series is intended for release of basic data sets, databases, and multimedia or motion graphics. This series can be used for videos, computer programs, and collections of digital photographs.
  • General Interest Publication (GIP): A wide variety of topics covered concisely and clearly in a variety of formats. Focus is on USGS programs, projects, and services and general scientific information of public interest. The series covers a broad range of topics in a variety of media, including pamphlets, postcards, posters, videos, teacher kits, CD/DVDs, bookmarks, and interactive and motion graphics. Previously called "General Interest Publications".
  • Geologic Quadrangle (GQ) Map: Detailed geologic maps depicting areas of special importance to the solution of geologic problems. May portray bedrock or surficial units, or both. May include brief texts, structure sections, and columnar sections. 71/2- or 15-minute quadrangles printed in multicolor on topographic bases that meet National Map Accuracy standards.
  • Geophysical Investigations (GP) Map: Chiefly the results of aeromagnetic and (or) gravity surveys shown by contours. Area depicted may range in size from a few square miles to an entire country. Single or multiple sheets.
  • Land Use and Land Cover (L) Map: Various categories of land use and cover, both artificial and natural, for use by geographers, land-use planners, and others. Planimetric maps at scales of 1:250,000 or 1:100,000 on a single sheet.
  • Mineral Investigations Resource (MR) Map: Information on mineral occurrences, mineral resources, mines and prospects, commodities, and target areas of possible resources other than coal, petroleum, or natural gas. Small scale (1:250,000 or smaller).
  • Miscellaneous Field Studies (MF) Map: Rapidly prepared, low-budget maps in a broad range of presentations in terms of portrayal, completeness, interpretations, draftsmanship, scale, and area coverage. Single or multiple sheets.
  • Miscellaneous Investigations/ Geologic Investigations (I) Series: High-quality maps and charts of varied subject matter such as bathymetry, geology, hydrogeology, landforms, land-use classification, vegetation, and others including maps of planets, the Moon, and other satellites. Various scales. Topographic or planimetric bases; regular or irregular areas. May include a text printed as an accompanying pamphlet.
  • Oil and Gas Investigations (OC) Chart: Information about known or possible petroleum resources, presented as logs, correlation diagrams, graphs, and tables, but ordinarily not as maps. Single or multiple sheets. Text printed on same sheet or in an accompanying pamphlet.
  • Oil and Gas Investigations (OM) Map: Apply particularly to areas of known or possible petroleum resources. Typically include cross sections, columnar sections, structure contours, correlation diagrams, and information on wells drilled for oil and gas. Single or multiple sheets. Text usually on map sheet but sometimes printed as an accompanying pamphlet.
  • Open-File Report (OFR/OF): Interpretive information that needs to be released immediately; maps and reports (and their supporting data) that need to be released as supporting documentation because they are referenced, discussed, or interpreted in another information product; preliminary findings (pending a final map or report); interim computer programs and user guides; bibliographies.
  • Professional Paper (PP): Premier series of the USGS. Comprehensive reports of wide and lasting interest and scientific importance, characterized by thoroughness of study and breadth of scientific or geographic coverage. The series may include collections of related papers addressing different aspects of a single scientific topic, either issued together under one cover or separately as chapters.
  • Water-Resources Investigations Report (WRIR/WRI): Hydrologic information, mainly of local interest, intended for quick release. Book or map format. Varied scales.
  • Water-Supply Paper (WSP): Reports on all aspects of hydrology, including quality, recoverability, and use of water resources; statistical reports on streamflow, floods, groundwater levels, and water quality; and collections of short papers on related topics.
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