The USGS tracks biology, geology, geography, and hydrology in the United States. Hydrology can be pretty chilly, as this USGS employee hip-deep in North Dakota's Red River demonstrates.

Photograph courtesy Jennifer LaVista, U.S. Geological Survey
  • On March 3, 1879, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) was created. The main purpose of the USGS was to classify public lands into categories based on the land’s mineral content. The USGS was important not only for mining, but also for farming. By mapping out the location of natural resources, the USGS encouraged both explorers and settlers to move to new areas. In fact, the first director of the USGS, Clarence King, quit his job in search of his own mining fortune.

    Today, the USGS provides scientific information on a variety of topics, including earthquakes, rivers, water quality, and wildlife. Its website features maps, aerial photographs, and help on figuring out the geographic coordinates of where you live.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    classify Verb

    to identify or arrange by specific type or characteristic.

    coordinates Noun

    a set of numbers giving the precise location of a point, often its latitude and longitude.

    farming Noun

    the art, science, and business of cultivating the land for growing crops.

    mineral Noun

    inorganic material that has a characteristic chemical composition and specific crystal structure.

    mining Noun

    process of extracting ore from the Earth.

    natural resource Noun

    a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.

    public Noun

    people of a community.

    settler Noun

    person who migrates and establishes a residence in a largely unpopulated area.

    USGS Noun

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

    Encyclopedic Entry: USGS