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Circular 1309

Facing Tomorrow’s Challenges—U.S. Geological Survey Science in the Decade 2007–2017

By U.S. Geological Survey

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Circular 1309
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Executive Summary

In order for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to respond to evolving national and global priorities, it must periodically reflect on, and optimize, its strategic directions. This report is the first comprehensive science strategy since the early 1990s to examine critically major USGS science goals and priorities.

The development of this science strategy comes at a time of global trends and rapidly evolving societal needs that pose important natural-science challenges. The emergence of a global economy affects the demand for all resources. The last decade has witnessed the emergence of a new model for managing Federal lands—ecosystem-based management. The U.S. Climate Change Science Program predicts that the next few decades will see rapid changes in the Nation’s and the Earth’s environment. Finally, the natural environment continues to pose risks to society in the form of volcanoes, earthquakes, wildland fires, floods, droughts, invasive species, variable and changing climate, and natural and anthropogenic toxins, as well as animal-borne diseases that affect humans. The use of, and competition for, natural resources on the global scale, and natural threats to those resources, has the potential to impact the Nation’s ability to sustain its economy, national security, quality of life, and natural environment.

Responding to these national priorities and global trends requires a science strategy that not only builds on existing USGS strengths and partnerships but also demands the innovation made possible by integrating the full breadth and depth of USGS capabilities. The USGS chooses to go forward in the science directions proposed here because the societal issues addressed by these science directions represent major challenges for the Nation’s future and for the stewards of Federal lands, both onshore and offshore.

The six science directions proposed in this science strategy are listed as follows. The ecosystems strategy is listed first because it has a dual nature. It is itself an essential direction for the USGS to pursue to meet a pressing national and global need, but ecosystem-based approaches are also an underpinning of the other five directions, which all require ecosystem perspectives and tools for their execution. The remaining strategic directions are listed in alphabetical order.

  1. Understanding Ecosystems and Predicting Ecosystem Change: Ensuring the Nation’s Economic and Environmental Future
  2. Climate Variability and Change: Clarifying the Record and Assessing Consequences
  3. Energy and Minerals for America’s Future: Providing a Scientific Foundation for Resource Security, Environmental Health, Economic Vitality, and Land Management
  4. A National Hazards, Risk, and Resilience Assessment Program: Ensuring the Long-Term Health and Wealth of the Nation
  5. The Role of Environment and Wildlife in Human Health: A System that Identifies Environmental Risk to Public Health in America
  6. A Water Census of the United States: Quantifying, Forecasting, and Securing Freshwater for America’s Future

Version 1.0

Posted April 2007

Suggested citation:

U.S. Geological Survey, 2007, Facing tomorrow’s challenges—U.S. Geological Survey science in the decade 2007–2017: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1309, x + 70 p.

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