Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program

18-30. Application of high spatial resolution airborne and UAS image sources for hyperspectral studies of critical minerals, geologic mapping, and/or characterization of abandoned mine lands


Closing Date: January 6, 2020

This Research Opportunity will be filled depending on the availability of funds. All application materials must be submitted through USAJobs by 11:59 pm, US Eastern Standard Time, on the closing date.


Enhancement of the domestic supply of critical minerals will help to decrease the United States’ reliance on foreign sources of minerals that are important to the Nation’s security and economy. Minerals containing critical resources such REE, Li, Te, Ga, In, and Ge are the products or by-products from mining of several major mineral deposit types such as carbonatite, evaporite playas, porphyry copper, and zinc-bearing massive sulfides. Locating undiscovered mineral deposits that are potential sources of these commodities will decrease our dependence on foreign supplies.  Additionally, mine tailings and waste rock piles in abandoned mine lands can potentially be re-processed as new or future critical resource streams. However, these resources can be exploited only if we have 3-dimensional high spatial resolution mineral maps to evaluate their potential economic and environmental impacts.

Hyperspectral instruments, stereo cameras, and/or lidar instruments mounted either on low-altitude manned aircraft or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have great potential for producing high-resolution 3-D mineral maps. Such data can be used to help delineate locations and volumes of potential critical resources and help determine environmental impacts of abandoned mine materials exposed across the landscape. The USGS is pursuing a major effort to identify areas that have the potential for containing undiscovered critical mineral resources, as a part of the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI – Day, 2019). Earth MRI efforts will include collection of new geophysical and lidar data surveys, rock drill cores, and more detailed geologic mapping in high priority areas coordinated with State geological surveys and other partners and stakeholders.

We are therefore seeking a Mendenhall Fellow who can utilize hyperspectral image data to produce high-spatial resolution 3-D mineral maps for analysis of critical minerals related to both undiscovered deposits and/or legacy mine waste materials. Successful candidates will propose research incorporating elements of (but not limited to) the use of hyperspectral imaging and mapping methods: 1) as an exploration tool for the detection of various types of REE (e.g., Long et al., 2010) and other critical mineral deposits such as lithium; 2) for providing detailed mineral maps that can help further prioritize Earth MRI geologic mapping efforts, especially in areas of remote and inaccessible terrain; and 3) for mapping the mineralogy of legacy mine waste piles (including nearby acid-buffering carbonate rocks) that can be combined with lidar and other datasets for determining amounts of by-product resources that can be extracted, as well as environmental impacts to surrounding surface and groundwater (e.g., Jackisch et al., 2018).

Ideal candidates should have some knowledge of hyperspectral image calibration and field validation methods, geological application of remotely sensed data, and demonstrated experience in remote sensing and geographic information systems analysis software. Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas.


Day, W.C., 2019, The Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI): Mapping the Nation’s Critical Mineral Resources: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2019–3007, 2 p.

Jackisch, R., Lorenz, S., Zimmermann, R., Möckel, R., and Gloaguen, R., 2018, Drone-Borne Hyperspectral Monitoring of Acid Mine Drainage: An Example from the Sokolov Lignite District: Remote Sensing, V. 10, No. 385, 23 p.; doi:10.3390/rs10030385.

Long, K.R., Van Gosen, B.S., Foley, N.K., and Cordier, D., 2010, The Principal Rare Earth Elements Deposits of the United States – A Summary of Domestic Deposits and a Global Perspective: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5220, 96 p.

Proposed Duty Station: Reston, VA

Areas of PhD: Geology, Earth and planetary sciences or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).

Qualifications: Applicants must meet the qualifications for: Research Geologist

(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.)

Human Resources Office Contact: Audrey Tsujita, 916-278-9395,



Bernard Hubbard

Research Geologist
Eastern Mineral & Environmental Resources Science Center
Phone: 703-648-6155

John Mars

Research Geologist
Eastern Mineral & Environmental Resources Science Center
Phone: 703-648-6302