areas has a strong basis in mapping. Other areas (e.g., ecosystems, environmental health, and climate science and land-use change) are comparatively younger in terms of concentrated scientific pursuit at the Survey and thus have shorter records of international engagement. These differences are reflected in the historical record of international projects provided to the committee by the USGS (see Appendix C).

The committee interpreted its assignment to include an overview of all USGS mission areas regardless of their historical precedents in international research, and did not consider its charge to include a detailed evaluation of current (or past) international activities. Rather, the committee considered possibilities for new international science opportunities across the entire Survey organization (see Chapter 4) based on a selection of ongoing activities that the committee found to represent the breadth and depth of USGS expertise and experience as outlined in this chapter.

The information in this chapter is based on (1) presentations made to the committee by USGS scientists in each of the mission areas; (2) a document about the Survey’s historical engagement in international activities, prepared by the USGS for the committee’s use (see Appendix C); (3) discussions with Survey scientists; (4) information provided by project sponsors and partners (see Chapter 2); and (5) information that the committee gathered from publications and online resources (e.g., Box 3.1 and elsewhere in the chapter). This chapter does not provide an exhaustive description of all current international projects at the USGS but provides context for the strategic international opportunities identified in Chapter 4. A selected bibliography of peer-reviewed scientific publications written by USGS scientists is compiled in Appendix E for the reader’s interest.


Climate system research examines the Earth’s surface, ecosystems, and hydrosphere, and inherently requires a global perspective. Climate anomalies and patterns develop over scales that transcend political borders, and changing land-use patterns have global causes, feedbacks, and impacts. Thus for climate research, international activities require the capacity to anticipate the impacts of climate on the Earth and its inhabitants, and to suggest strategies for adaptation to and mitigation of ongoing climate change (e.g., NRC, 2010; 2011a).

Mission Area and Core Activities

The current DOI strategic plan charges the USGS with “conduct[ing] reliable scientific research in ecosystems, climate and land use change…to inform effective decision making and planning” and with “lead[ing] the effort on climate change science research for the Department” (DOI, 2011). The plan recognizes the need to engage internationally in this

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