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Circular 1369

Geology for a Changing World 2010—2020: Implementing the U.S. Geological Survey Science Strategy

By Linda C.S. Gundersen, Jayne Belnap, Martin Goldhaber, Arthur Goldstein, Peter J. Haeussler, S.E. Ingebritsen, John W. Jones, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, E. Robert Thieler, Robert S. Thompson, and Judith M. Back

Executive Summary

Thumbnail of front cover and link to report (14.7 MB)

This report describes a science strategy for the geologic activities of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for the years 2010–2020. It presents six goals with accompanying strategic actions and products that implement the science directions of USGS Circular 1309, “Facing Tomorrow’s Challenges—U.S. Geological Survey Science in the Decade 2007–2017.” These six goals focus on providing the geologic underpinning needed to wisely use our natural resources, understand and mitigate hazards and environmental change, and understand the relationship between humans and the environment. The goals emphasize the critical role of the USGS in providing long-term research, monitoring, and assessments for the Nation and the world. Further, they describe measures that must be undertaken to ensure geologic expertise and knowledge for the future.

The natural science issues facing today’s world are complex and cut across many scientific disciplines. The Earth is a system in which atmosphere, oceans, land, and life are all connected. Rocks and soils contain the answers to important questions about the origin of energy and mineral resources, the evolution of life, climate change, natural hazards, ecosystem structures and functions, and the movements of nutrients and toxicants. The science of geology has the power to help us understand the processes that link the physical and biological world so that we can model and forecast changes in the system.

Ensuring the success of this strategy will require integration of geological knowledge with the other natural sciences and extensive collaboration across USGS science centers and with partners in Federal, State, and local agencies, academia, industry, nongovernmental organizations and, most importantly, the American public. The first four goals of this report describe the scientific issues facing society in the next 10 years and the actions and products needed to respond to these issues. The final two goals focus on the expertise and infrastructure needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the geological sciences in the USGS.

The ultimate goal of USGS science and of the strategy laid out in this document is to contribute to the development of a sustainable society that operates in harmony with the Earth systems that society depends upon. As we begin the second decade of the 21st century, our Nation faces growing challenges in resource availability, climate and environmental change, and natural hazards. Meeting these challenges will require strong collaboration across the natural and social sciences and extensive partnerships with both the public and private sectors. The six goals described in this document represent a mix of scientific focus areas and operational necessities that together provide a comprehensive roadmap for USGS geologic science to effectively contribute to the USGS mission, providing science for a changing world.

First posted March 2011

For additional information contact:

Linda Gundersen
Director, Office of Science Quality and Integrity
U.S. Geological Survey
Mail Stop 911
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 20192–0002
Telephone: 703–648–6601
Fax: 703–648–6683


Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Acrobat® Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:
Gundersen, L.C.S., Belnap, Jayne, Goldhaber, Martin, Goldstein, Arthur, Haeussler, P.J., Ingebritsen, S.E., Jones, J.W., Plumlee, G.S., Thieler, E.R., Thompson, R.S., and Back, J.M., 2011, Geology for a changing world 2010–2020—Implementing the U.S. Geological Survey science strategy: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1369, 68 p. (Also available at

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