and database development is important and could be augmented by providing added assistance to developing nations in obtaining robust geological databases; these databases, as mentioned above, will underpin resource exploration and wealth creation in these countries.
Congress has empowered the USGS to maintain an aggregate technical breadth and depth that qualifies the Survey to assume a principal role in the identification, study, and mitigation of the effects of natural and human-induced changes to the Earth. Ongoing basic and applied domestic and international research projects by the USGS, conducted closely with similarly empowered Earth science agency partners, are now beginning to approach interactive Earth systems as an integrated atmospheric-oceanic-biospheric-solid Earth continuum. Mapping and monitoring at all scales, employing a large array of observational platforms—from Earth-orbiting satellites to high-energy transmission electron microscopes—are providing a new appreciation for the complex interrelationships and feedback loops that are responsible for the local, regional, and global environmental changes now being defined. The USGS can embrace the challenge of addressing problems associated with global change, in the framework of interactive Earth systems, as a principal scientific thrust.
Science at the USGS is intrinsically global, and each of the seven mission areas is already involved in significant international activities that serve the USGS and U.S. government interests. As global population grows and anthropogenic impacts on the environment increase, the many consequences of global change are likely to shape USGS strategic science and give rise to new opportunities for Survey international activities.
The committee sees benefits to the USGS in developing and executing self-generated international projects as well as those performed in response to external requests. Maintaining a balance between these kinds of projects requires foresight and planning so that the priorities of USGS, DOI, and the nation are met. Allocation of resources, particularly of personnel, will remain a constant but manageable challenge as the USGS also responds to requests from external partners to undertake international studies. The committee considers that a more uniformly proactive approach toward international projects within and among the mission areas could enhance flexibility and preparation for evaluating and acting upon requests from external partners.
Although not exhaustive, the strategic scientific opportunities identified in this chapter target problems or questions that can be addressed with various types of data collection and analysis. These project ideas can be initiated in specific countries or geographic regions (with potential to translate to other countries or regions). All such efforts have strong potential to benefit U.S. government priorities and USGS mission areas.