input from several USGS mission areas. All of the international scientific opportunities described meet the following criteria:

(1) they demonstrate clear means to leverage and benefit the scientific strengths and directions of the USGS and complement ongoing domestic activities; and

(2) they indicate strong potential for project results to increase the Survey’s ability to meet needs of the U.S. government and the American public.

Guidance for USGS international activities that can benefit U.S. government international priorities is available from the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in documents such as the 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (DOS, 2010); the strategic plan for the DOS and USAID for 2007–2012 (DOS, 2007); Project Horizon of the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State (Project Horizon, 2006); and the Final Report of the State Department in 2025 Working Group (Advisory Committee for Transformational Diplomacy, 2008).


A systems approach to scientific surveys of Earth processes is a viable and effective way to address the complex spectrum of interconnected, interdisciplinary problems affecting the Earth and its environment, including its burgeoning human population (see Chapter 3). For example, many scientific questions raised under the USGS Environmental Health mission area are inevitably affected by—and have feedback to—climate, ecosystems, water, energy and mineral extraction and use, and natural hazards, and they involve core science systems.

Taking this example further, a case could be considered where mineral resources are targeted for development in a given area of a country. In such an area, ensuring environmental and human health through sustainable, safe mining practices requires information about the commodities being extracted and processed; the amount and quality of water necessary to support mineral resource development and normal human and environmental activities; the ambient climate, which also can affect decisions about which extraction and processing technologies are used; and any effects of mining or mine waste on the surrounding ecosystem. Appropriate decision making about best approaches and practices in these circumstances requires access to a wide variety of data interpreted from the perspective of the entire lithosphere-hydrosphere-atmosphere-biosphere system at that potential mine site. This kind of information captured and interpreted through the lens of a systems approach is highly valuable for decision makers.

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