The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is an agency of the United States Department of the Interior. It is a scientific agency that researches Earth systems. Its mission is to make scientific data available to help people understand Earth, prepare for natural disasters, and manage the nation’s natural resources. The agency also provides data to lawmakers and community leaders to assist in decision-making.

The USGS was established in 1879. Originally its mission was to study the nation’s land, including natural resources and geological structures. This research was to be used to classify public lands and make decisions about land use. Since its formation, the USGS has evolved to meet the changing needs of the nation. Over time, its activities have ranged from surveying oil and natural gas resources to mapping the landscape to assisting in conservation efforts.

Today the USGS is involved in a variety of areas of scientific research. These “Mission Areas” include Core Science Systems, Ecosystems, Energy and Minerals, Land Resources, Water Resources, Environmental Health, and Natural Hazards. Another Mission Area, Core Science Systems, is tasked with “characterizing and understanding complex Earth and biological systems through research, modeling, mapping, and the production of high-quality data.”

Through its Natural Hazards Mission Area, the USGS plays an important role in protecting people and property. It monitors natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes. The data collected by the agency help communities predict and prepare for natural disasters.

United States Geological Survey

Scientist Doug Caprette ventures out in the rain to remove a GPS sensor from its spot on a USGS benchmark in the woods of McCarthy, Alaska, where it had been gathering data for a study on regional deformation caused by tectonic movements.

Plural Noun

(singular: datum) information collected during a scientific study.


community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

geodetic survey

collection of spatial information in which mathematical applications account for the curvature of the Earth.

natural hazard

event in the physical environment that is destructive to human activity.


a study or analysis of characteristics of an area or a population.


(United States Geological Survey) primary source for science about the Earth, its natural and living resources, natural hazards, and the environment.