What are the history and functions of the USGS? The United States Geological Survey has a unique purpose and a dynamic history. Use the following FAQ to discover what this agency has to offer and why.
What is the USGS?
The United States Geological Survey is an agency of the U.S. government. It is a scientific organization charged with studying the natural resources and the landscape of the country.
What is the focus of the USGS?
The USGS encompasses four disciplines:
- Biology, the study of living organisms
- Geography, the study of places and the relationships between people and their environments
- Geology, the study of the earth’s physical structure
- Hydrology, the study of the earth’s water and its movement in relation to land
The focus of the agency is research in each of these areas.
What are the functions of the USGS?
The agency produces topographic maps of the U.S., as well as additional charts and documents. The USGS also monitors geological activity, such as earthquakes and magnetic activity. The agency also runs the National Wildlife Health Center and 17 biological research centers located across the nation. Additionally, this agency is involved with other organizations with common missions, such as the Geographic Names Information Center.
When was the USGS established?
Congress established the Unites States Geological Survey in 1879. At the time, the agency’s role was outlined as the “classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain.”
Why was the USGS created?
The first task assigned to the USGS was to inventory the Louisiana Purchase territory, parts of which had remained unmapped since its purchase in 1803. Early tasks also included geological surveys to support agriculture and mining activities.
How has the history of the USGS changed its purpose?
In the 1830s, states were exploring the mineral resources available in their lands. When gold was discovered in California, research into these resources became paramount. Congress wanted to determine the best route to ship resources from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. To solve conflicts between various interested parties who were creating land surveys, Congress created the Geological Geographical Survey of the Territories. This eventually became the USGS.
As years passed and priorities changed, the history and functions of the USGS changed as well. Today, the organization is focused on science and research. Goals include understanding the earth to provide helpful information regarding natural resources and natural disasters. The main role of the USGS is informative, not regulatory.
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