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22-10. Data science and methods for multi-resource integrated assessments

We seek a Mendenhall Fellow to develop, integrate, and analyze foundational datasets for multi-resource assessments, ideally on the critical mineral potential of mine waste in Alaska. The proposed work may also address broader questions related to assessment methods; data development, integration, analysis, and delivery; other nature resources (e.g., geothermal, energy); and stakeholder engagement

Description of the Research Opportunity

Multi-resource integrated assessments (MRIAs) are a structured approaches to interdisciplinary analysis of multiple, often spatially overlapping, physical, biological, and societal resources for evaluating the effect of developing or conserving one or more resources in relation to others (Jenni, 2018). MRIAs are transparent, purpose driven, and address uncertainties to the extent possible. MRIAs are also iterative and incorporate new information as it becomes available. A MRIA is designed to synthesize resource, conservation and development information, aide decision-making, and evaluate of alternative scenarios. The USGS is presently developing MRIA approaches to energy and mineral resources that will consider the natural resources in their social and environmental context and provide a more robust and integrated decision support framework for a broad stakeholder community that includes Federal land management agencies.

One MRIA currently in development is focused on critical minerals that may be present in active and (or) legacy mine sites in Alaska. This work is motivated by a Federal mandate to identify domestic sources and supply chains for critical mineral commodities (Executive Order 13817, A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals) coupled with interest in critical mineral recovery from mine waste streams. Tailings from past and present mining activities may be important sources of many critical commodities (e.g., Sarker and others, 2022), and reprocessing of mine waste at legacy sites may contribute to reclamation goals and have additional environmental benefits. Strategies for producing critical commodities as coproducts or byproducts of active or planned mining for other core commodities such as copper or gold may optimize supply chains and minimize the risks from mine waste in the future (e.g., Dold, 2020). The enrichment and distribution of critical elements in any mineral system or ore deposit is influenced by myriad factors in the original geotectonic environment, and these factors can be identified and mapped through integration of geologic, geochemical, and geophysical data. Subsequent enrichment and (or) redistribution of critical elements in mine waste depends on other factors such as mining and processing practices and landscape setting (i.e., physiography, climate, hydrography) that can be similarly mapped. An initial step in the MRIA process is identifying critical mineral prospectivity for any mined resource based on the mineral system framework and characteristics of the individual deposit and environment. Alaska has a robust geospatial data framework that has been used to develop statewide prospectivity models for most bedrock critical mineral resources (e.g., Karl and others, 2016). This approach is being adapted and refined for mine waste, and additional considerations or datasets to be integrated into the MRIA will include reprocessing and recovery favorability, ecological vulnerabilities, socioeconomic context, and societal priorities. This fully integrated approach requires traditional geoscience expertise (e.g., geologic setting, mineral systems, geochemistry, economic geology), as well as expertise in socioeconomic context (e.g., demographics, infrastructure, critical facilities, cultural assets), ecological resilience, societal goals (e.g., minimizing vulnerability, increasing equity, meeting adaptation goals), and information usability (e.g., decision support and web applications).  The emphasis on socioeconomic context also warrants the need to capture more non-federal perspectives and broaden the discussion on who contributes to an assessment, such as indigenous expertise, social scientists, nonprofit organizations, industry, and local and state agencies. Including more voices and perspectives during an assessment will improve the relevance to the broadest possible user community.

We seek a Mendenhall Fellow to develop and conduct research related to development, integration, and analysis of datasets that are foundational to multi-resource assessments. The proposed work will ideally contribute one or more aspects of the current MRIA focused on critical mineral potential of mine waste in Alaska. The research proposal may also address broader questions related to MRIA methods; mineral resource assessment methods; data development, integration, analysis, and delivery; consideration and (or) assessment of other nature resources (e.g., geothermal, energy); and stakeholder engagement. Research topics of interest may include, but are not limited to, the following:

*  novel methods for developing, integrating, and analyzing multidisciplinary datasets

*  computational/machine learning methods to processing free text

*   computational methods of integrating data with different data structures

*  development of web tools for visualizing, integrating, and analyzing data in a MRIA framework

*  development of decision-support frameworks and associated data-driven toolkits

This work will support one or more active USGS projects in this area, and it will directly address strategic priorities of the USGS Energy and Minerals Mission Area and Mineral Resource Program focused on critical minerals, mineral systems, mine waste, and geospatial data infrastructure. The work may also influence or directly contribute to MRIA efforts in the USGS Energy Resources Program.

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas.


Dold, B., 2020, Sourcing of critical elements and industrial minerals from mine waste – The final evolutionary step back to the sustainability of humankind? Journal of Geochemical Exploration, v. 219, 8 p.,

Executive Office of the President, 2017,

Karl, S.M., Jones, J.V., III, and Hayes, T.S., eds., 2016, GIS-based identification of areas that have resource potential for critical minerals in six selected groups of deposit types in Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1191, 99 p., 5 appendixes, 12 plates, scale 1:10,500,000,

Jenni, K.E., Pindilli, E., Bernknopf, R., Nieman, T.L., and Shapiro, C., 2018, Multi-Resource Analysis —Methodolgy and synthesis: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1442, 81 p.,

Sarker, S.K., Haque, N., Bhuiyan, M., Bruckar, W., and Pramanik, B.K., 2022, Recovery of strategically important critical minerals from mine tailings: Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering, v. 10, 16 p.,


Proposed Duty Station(s)

Anchorage, Alaska

Reston, Virginia


Areas of PhD

Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications:  Geoinformatics, data science, computer science, statistics, geology, geography, ecology (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).



Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications: Research Geographer, Research Physical Scientist, Research Statistician, Research Geologist, Research Computer Scientist

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)