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USGS Educational Videos and Animations

Most USGS videos and and animations created since 2009 are posted on the USGS Multimedia Gallery. All videos on that site have captioning or associated text. Many of these videos are also posted on the USGS YouTube channel.


The following is a collection of USGS videos and animations that are especially appropriate for classroom use. Although by no means exhaustive, the list provides a broad representation of the many different types of science at USGS.


Astrogeology|| Biology|| Climate Change|| Coastal and Marine Science|| Earthquakes|| Geology|| Geomagnetism|| Landslides & Sinkholes|| Mapping| Plate Tectonics|| Tsunamis|| Volcanoes|| Water|| Wind/Hurricanes

Overviews of USGS Science and USGS Careers

Science for a Changing World-A 2012 video describing a brief history of the USGS, the significance of USGS work, and the USGS mission in today's world. Length: 8 min

USGS Careers—Not Just Rocks-What can you do when you work for the USGS? This video is a general overview of how USGS scientists do science. This video is targeted to student audiences. Length: 15 min

What does a hydrologic technicain do?  Learn what is involved in the job of a hydrologic technician. Length: 7 min

Overview of the USGS Menlo Park Center in California-Briefly introduces the San Francisco Bay Area, shows the USGS campus and facilities in Menlo Park, and includes interviews with scientists who describe their work. Length: 7 min


Earth Resources and Observation Science (EROS) Center (for kids) Learn what scientists do at the Earth Resources and Observation Science (EROS) Astrogeology Center. Length: 4 min

USGS Gave NASA the Right Stuff-How the USGS worked with NASA to prepare astronauts for lunar landings. Length: 3 min

Historical Films Related to Astronaut Training-The USGS was heavily involved in planning and training for the Apollo moon landings. As part of their work, they reproduced a 10-acre swatch of Mare Tranquillitatis and built a model of the Apollo rover. Learn more in a series of videos. Length: 8 min

Rotating Mosaic Globes of Planets and Moons

Length: 1 min


Pollinator Research and Monitoring-Briefly shows why bees are a critical pollinator and how they're impacted by changes in land use. Length: 5 min

Precipice of Survival: The Southern Sea Otter-Documentary film made in 2004 that traces the history of the southern sea otter from the onset of the Pacific fur trade to the present. Focuses on the collaborative research effort to better understand these charismatic creatures. See how USGS scientists capture sea otters for health exams in a separate 4-minute video. Length: 48 min

Tracking Pacific Walrus: Expedition to the Shrinking Chukchi Sea Ice-Documentary film made in 2012 that follows walruses in their summer sea ice habitat in the Chukchi Sea and shows how USGS biologists use satellite radio tags to track their movements and behavior. There is also a one minute trailerfor this video and additional footage showing walrus radio taggingfemale Pacific walruses and their calves resting on shore near Point Lay Alaska, and aerial views of walruses hauled out near Point Lay, Alaska. Length: 12 min or less

Walrus-tagging Surveys-Animations for spring walrus tagging locations in Alaska, 2004-present. Length: continuous

Magical Manatees-Video shot in the Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge in 2014. Also see B-roll footage of manatee tagging. Length: 4 min

Polar Bear - Point of View Cams-Raw footage recorded by a camera-equipped radio collar on a female polar bear in the Beaufort Sea in April 2014. This is the first-ever footage from a free-ranging polar bear on Arctic sea ice. Watch scientists conduct a health evaluation of a polar bear in additional B-roll footage. Length: 2 min

Sonoran Desert: Fragile Land of Extremes-Documentary film made in 2003 showing how USGS biologists work with other scientists in an effort to better understand native plants and animals such as desert tortoises, saguaro cacti, and Gila monsters. The film is shown as part of a longer public lecture that includes an introduction, the film, and a question/answer session. Length: 28 min

The Heat is On: Desert Tortoises and Survival-Documentary film (2010) that explains why the Mojave Desert tortoise, which is an important indicator of desert ecosystem health, is declining and what scientists are doing to save them. The film can also be downloaded here. A 4-minute excerpt covers Gila monsters. Length: 31 min

Hatching of a Mojave Desert Tortoise-A short movie depicting the hatching of a Mojave Desert tortoise. Click here for more information about the research project. Length: 4 min

Mojave Golden Eagles-USGS scientists use their rock climbing skills to install cameras above golden eagle nests perched on steep mountain cliffs. Length: 5 min.

The Floating Marshes of Louisiana: A Unique Ecosystem-Extensive floating marshes occur in a few locations around the world. Learn how these marshes form and discover some of their unique features. Length: 9 min.

Wetlands Revival-2009 film covering the role of science in restoring south San Francisco Bay's salt ponds to wetland habitat. Length: 26 min

Status of Grizzly Bears in Northwest Montana-Video footage of grizzly bears in the wild taken by a remote camera and combined with audio from a USGS research biologist. Click here for more grizzly bear videos and information about the research project. Length: 7 min

Wolf-Bear Interaction in Glacier National Park-Fascinating video footage of a grizzly bear with two cubs interacting with a lone wolf in Glacier National Park. Taken by motion-triggered video camera. Length: 5 min

Remote Camera Wildlife in Montana -Video footage of black bears, grizzly bears, wolves, elk, a wolverine, and other wildlife at bear rubs, baited hair traps, and other locations in northwest Montana. All films were taken by remote, motion-triggered cameras. Scroll down the page for video thumbnails. Length: < 3 min

Secret Lives of Wildlife Exposed-Short videos of animals in the wild, including mountain lions, long-tailed weasels, and mountain beavers. Length: varies

Unraveling Mysteries of the Common Loon-Video podcast that describes the life of the common loon as captured by research scientists. Length: 7 min

Paddlefish Project-A comprehensive overview of the Paddlefish Project. Includes interviews with project scientists. Narrated throughout. Length: 6 min

Shocking! Electrofishing for Largescale Suckers on the Columbia River-Join USGS scientists as they collect fish to study water quality and ecological health of streams. Length: 7 min

Seasonal Distribution of Bats-Animation showing the seasonal distribution of hoary bats, silver-haired bats, and red bats in the conterminous U.S. Length: < 1 min

Return of the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear-Video footage of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and an explanation of grizzly bear research by members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. Length: < 6 min

Climate Change

Climate Impacts to Arctic Coasts: Peeking Into Permafrost-Barter Island sits at the top of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska; with the Arctic facing quickly rising temperatures, USGS is there to investigate what’s causing the North Slope bluffs to erode so quickly. Length: 4 min

Climate Impacts to Arctic Coasts: Time-lapse Photography of Barter Island in Alaska-Time-lapse photography during three summer months in 2014 shows the pack ice melting and subsequent impact to the beach and cliffs from storms. Length: 3 min

Glacier Erasure: South Cascade Glacier in a Changing Climate-Time lapse images from 1958-2006 showing changes to South Cascade Glacier in Skagit County, Washington. Length: 3 min

Climate Connections-USGS scientists answer climate change questions from members of the public and from students around the country: Denver, ColoradoWashington, D.C.Glacier National Park, MontanaMt. Airy, North CarolinaNorth and South Carolina; and Puerto Rico. Length: 6 min

Coastal and Marine Science

The Effects of Globally Transported African and Asian Dust on Coral Reef and Human Health-Mini-documentary movie. Scientists explain the importance of coral reefs, the deterioration of Caribbean coral health, and the implications of trans-Atlantic dust transport. Length: 10 min

Sea-Level Rise-Time-lapse animations showing maps of sea-level rise at locations around the globe and the population numbers that could be impacted.Length: < 1 min

Wetlands and Watershed Videos-Over twenty videos related to wetlands in Louisiana and the Mississippi River Delta. Length: varies

Woods Hole Science Center Animations and Movies-Over a dozen animations and movies covering bathymetry, Didemnum colonies, and divers collecting ocean-bottom cores. Some have narration; others have sound but no narration. Length: varies

South Moloka'i Reef Tract-Three brief videos showing the coral reefs of the island of Moloka’i in Hawaii. No audio. Length: < 1 min


USGS Earthquake Science Center Seminar Series-Archive (2000-present) of lectures given at the USGS offices in Menlo Park, California on a variety of earthquake-related topics. Most of these lectures are designed for a technical, scientific audience. Click on blue video icon at the right side of the page. Go here for a collection of less-technical earthquake lectures. Length: 1 hour

An Illustrated Guide to Reading a Seismogram-A very simplistic look at how seismic signals can be interpreted. Length: 5 min

Shock Waves: One Hundred Years after the 1906 Earthquake-This award-winning 2006 film shows the century of progress that science and engineering have made since the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Includes dramatic historical footage, reenactments, colorful animations, and interviews with earthquake experts. Length: 46 min

When the Bay Area Quakes-Film made in 1990 documenting the science and social impacts of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that created heavy damage throughout the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Length: 22 min

Northridge, California Earthquake Damage (January 18, 1994)-Raw, silent video footage of the damage from the Northridge, CA earthquake that occurred in January, 1994. Length: 25 min

Preparedness Now-Video depicting the consequences of a hypothetical major earthquake in southern California. Length: 5 min

Animations for Earthquake Terms and Concepts-Animations illustrating 16 different earthquake terms and concepts. A 680 KB zip file of all animations can be downloaded. Length: < 1 min

San Francisco Earthquake Ground Motion Simulations-Earthquake models that recreate ground motion during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (M7.8) and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (M6.9). Files are available in low resolution or high resolution. Length: 1+ min

Hayward Fault Ground Motion Simulations-Computer simulations of ground motion during large, anticipated earthquakes on the Hayward and Rodgers Creek faults on the east side of San Francisco Bay. Files are available in low, high, and high definition resolutions. Length: 1+ min

1964 Quake: The Great Alaska Earthquake-Video made in 2014 for the 50th anniversary of the M9.2 Great Alaska Earthquake. Scientists explain the earthquake and related tsunamis. This earthquake triggered a critical understanding of how plate tectonics work. An abridged, 4-minute version is also available. Length: 12 min


The Living Rock: the Earth's Continental Crust-This beautiful 1995 film is a global tour of geologic processes; it is narrated by many USGS scientists. In addition to the imagery, the movie includes computer-generated animations. [Transcript] Length: 1 hour

The Future of Energy Gases-A 1994 film that explains the different types of energy sources our nation has used. Includes the technology, economics, and effects on the environment associated with each source. Also addresses solar, wind, and nuclear power and gas hydrates. A fine primer appropriate for all ages. A companion publication is online. Length: 30 min

Gas Hydrate Laboratory-Video of the USGS Gas Hydrate Laboratory in Menlo Park, California. Scientists explain how they use the laboratory to study gas hydrate and the importance of their work. Includes footage of frozen gas hydrate burning and dissociating into water plus gas. Gas hydrate occurs naturally in ocean sediments. Length: 7 min

Experimental Rock-Water Interaction Laboratory-Video of the USGS Experimental Rock-Water Interaction Laboratory in Menlo Park, California. Scientists demonstrate how they use the laboratory to study reactions between rocks and fluids. The results help model oceanic processes and the sub-surface storage of excess carbon dioxide. Length: 7 min

Powell 150 Video Learn about the 2019 educational expedition known as the Powell Project, during which USGS scientists retraced the original 1869 John Wesley Powell expedition of the Green and Colorado Rivers. Length: 6 min


Secrets in Stone-Film chronicling the scientific discoveries in the early 1960s that led to acceptance of the plate tectonics theory. Produced in 1996, this film traces the history of the hypothesis of continental drift, its early dismissal by experts, and the rise in acceptance after geomagnetic polarity reversals were shown to match magnetic anomalies on the sea floor. The film is shown as part of a public lecture at the USGS. The entire lecture is 65 minutes (short intro, then film, then long question/answer). The film itself is 25 minutes. Length: 25 min

Magnetic Field Changes Over Time-Animations showing global change in declination, inclination, and other magnetic characteristics from 1590 to 1990. Length: < 1 min

Hazards: Geomagnetic Storms-USGS scientists talk about the important consequences of space weather. What is space weather? How do we monitor the Earth's magnetic field? What are the continuing challenges? Length: 8 min

Landslides, Debris Flows, and Sinkholes

Riding the Storm: Landslide Danger in the San Francisco Bay Area-Film produced in 2006 about landslide science and landslide hazards in the San Francisco Bay Area. Focus is on a catastrophic 1982 rainstorm that triggered 18,000 landslides. Watch an 11-minute "trailer" of the film. Length: 1 hour

Debris Flow Dynamics-Made in 1984, this film covers the basic characteristics and behavior of a debris flow and includes a great deal of footage from many different locations. Length: 22 min

Debris Flows (Volcano Web Short)-Debris flows are hazardous flows of rock, sediment and water that surge down mountain slopes. Watch a description of USGS debris-flow research. Spectacular footage makes the destructive power of these events very clear. Length: 4 min

The Science of Sinkholes-A brief discussion on sinkholes and related science. Length: 2 min

Plate Tectonics

Plate Tectonics-Short, looping animations that illustrate various concepts of tectonic plate movement and earthquakes. Length: varies


Tsunami Preparedness for the Western United States-Focus is on the specific tsunami hazards of each location. Includes guidelines for correct tsunami response and community preparedness. Captioned.

Length: 8-14 min

December 2004 Tsunami Disaster: Reports from Field Teams in Sumatra and Sri Lanka-USGS lecture presented to a scientific audience in February, 2005 describing initial findings of international tsunami-survey teams in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Length: 1+ hour

Tsunamis: Lessons and Questions from the Indian Ocean Disaster-USGS public lecture given in June, 2005 covering the Indian Ocean tsunami and the implications for tsunamis on the west coast of the United States. Length: 1+ hour

Tsunami Animations-Animations from the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004, and the Papua, New Guinea tsunami of 1998. Also, hypothetical animations of tsunamis along Pacific Northwest coast. Length: < 1 min


Volcano Web Shorts: Photogrammetry-Photogrammetry is the science of making precise measurements using photography. USGS geologists describe the use of digital cameras and computer software to understand the growth rate of lava domes during a volcanic eruption. Length: 3 min

Volcano Web Shorts: Debris Flows-Debris flows are hazardous flows of rock, sediment and water that surge down mountain slopes. Watch a description of debris-flow research at the USGS. Spectacular footage makes the destructive power of these events very clear. Length: 4 min

Volcano Web Short: Seismology-USGS volcano seismologist, Seth Moran, describes how seismology and seismic networks are used to mitigate volcanic hazards. Length: 3 min

Volcano Web Shorts: Volcanic Ash Impacts-Volcanic ash is the most widespread of all volcanic hazards. USGS geologist Larry Mastin describes how volcanic ash can disrupt lives many thousands of miles from an erupting volcano. Length: 3 min

Volcano Web Short: Societal Impacts of Volcanism-USGS geologist, Angie Diefenbach, describes how she uses GIS, (Geographic Information Systems) software to study volcanic eruptions and their impacts on society. Length: 2 min

Volcano Monitoring Animations-Short videos that show how USGS scientists monitor Volcanic DeformationVolcanic Earthquakes, and Volcanic Gas. Length: 1 min

Yes! Yellowstone is a Volcano-The USGS Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory answers the questions: "How do we know Yellowstone is a volcano?", "What is a Supervolcano?", "What is a Caldera?","Why are there geysers at Yellowstone?", and "What are the other geologic hazards in Yellowstone?" (open captions) Length: 8 min

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory-The USGS Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory answers the questions: "What is YVO?", "How do you monitor volcanic activity at Yellowstone?", "How are satellites used to study deformation?", "Do you monitor geysers or any other aspect of the Park?", and "Are earthquakes and ground deformation common at Yellowstone?" (open captions) Length: 8 min

Yellowstone Eruptions-The USGS Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory answers the questions: When was the last supereruption at Yellowstone?", "Have any eruptions occurred since the last supereruption?", "Is Yellowstone overdue for an eruption?", "What does the magma below indicate about a possible eruption?", "What else is possible?", and "Why didn't you think the Yellowstone Lake earthquake swarm would lead to an eruption?" (open captions) Length: 7 min

Caldera Demonstration Model-Demonstration of how a caldera forms using flour, a balloon, and a bicycle pump. Length: 2 min

Yellowstone Videos-A collection of all USGS videos related to Yellowstone Volcano, including fascinating interviews with some of the scientists who were instrumental in mapping and interpreting the geology and geothermal systems in Yellowstone. Length: varies

Lava Sample Collection at Kilauea Volcano-Accompany USGS geologists as they collect hot lava samples from a flow on Kilauea Volcano. Length: 1 minute

Kīlauea Volcano, Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, Summit Vent Lava Lake-Stunning footage taken between July 24 and July 31, 2016. No narration. Length: 12 min

Collapse of the Pu'u 'O 'o Crater Floor on March 5, 2011-A video made from images collected by a time-lapse camera Length: < 1 minute

Time-lapse Movies of the East Rift Zone Eruption of Kilauea Volcano, 2004–2008-The 26 time-lapse movies in this report were selected for their content and aesthetic appeal. They document a variety of flow-field and vent processes from Kīlauea’s ongoing east rift zone eruption. Length: <2 minutes

Molten Paradise-Follow USGS scientists at work after a dramatic 2002 eruption at Hawai'i's Kilauea Volcano. Scientists are interviewed and shown collecting molten lava. Spectacular photography. Segments of this film are on the USGS Natural Hazards YouTube channel. Length: 27 min

Kilauea Volcano (Hawaii) Eruptions – May 29, 2003-Short movies of eruptions at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano in May 2003. These are fine examples of non-explosive volcanic eruptions. Length: < 1 min

Kilauea Volcano (Hawaii) Eruptions, July 21, 2002-Videos of eruptive activity at Kilauea volcano in Hawaii on July 21, 2002. Scroll down to "31 July 2002." Length: < 1 min

The Eruption of Kilauea 1959–1960-Beautifully restored award-winning USGS film documenting the eruption of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii in 1959 and 1960. Includes spectacular footage of the highest lava fountains ever recorded and of the formation of Kilauea Iki lava lake. Narrated throughout. Length: 28 min

Early Hawaiian Volcano Footage-Films of Mauna Loa volcano and Kilauea volcano in Hawaii erupting in the 1930s and 1940s. Includes the second black and white film ever produced of an erupting volcano and the earliest color film of an erupting volcano. Significant footage of flowing lava.

Length: 8-17 min

Mount St. Helens: May 18, 1980-In this 2010 video, USGS scientists recount their experiences before, during and after the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Loss of their colleague David A. Johnston and 56 others in the eruption cast a pall over one of the most dramatic geologic moments in American history. Length: 8 min

Mount St. Helens: Catalyst for Change-Shows how the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens triggered a growth in volcano science and volcano monitoring. Length: 7 min

Mount St. Helens 1980 Ash Cloud as Seen From Space-A compilation of NOAA satellite images after the 1980 eruption. Length: <1 min

Mount St. Helens' Runaway Glacier: A Time-lapse Video of Crater Glacier, 2005-2010-A time-lapse video showing extensive glacier growth in the crater of Mount St. Helens. Length: 2 min

Time-lapse Images of Mount St. Helens Dome Growth 2004-2008-Remote cameras capture the dramatic growth of lava extrusion in the crater of Mount St. Helens over a period of 4 years. Length: 2 min

Time-series of Dome and Glacier Growth at Mount St. Helens, 2004-2012-Watch a digital animation as the dome in the crater of Mount St. Helens volcano and the glacier around it grow over time. Length: <1 min

Mount St. Helens 2004–2006, Instrumentation and Continuing Dome Growth-Each mp4 is a compilation of "chapters" of various lengths showing films of Mount St. Helens taken from a helicopter; films taken from inside the crater; films of equipment installation, maintenance, and removal; and more. Some films have companion 49MB "trailers" that are 5 minutes long.

Length: 13+ min

Taming of a Wild Research Well in Yellowstone National Park during November 1992-In 1992, valve failure caused an uncontrolled eruption of steam and hot water in a USGS research well just 2 miles north of Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park. This video shows how a drilling contractor plugged the well and includes a short news story by CNN. A 9-minute trailer is also available. Length: 28 min


USGS Water Resources Seminar Series-Archive (2003 to present) of lectures given at the USGS offices in Menlo Park, California, on a variety of water-related topics. Most of these lectures are designed for a technical, scientific audience. Go here for a collection of less-technical water lectures. Length: 1 hour

Lake of the Sky: USGS Tahoe Basin Science-A 2011 documentary film highlighting USGS research around the largest alpine lake in North America. The story is told through the use of narration, expert interviews, graphics, animations, incredible video imagery, and time-lapse video. Length: 12 min

California's Water-A series of 4 videos that describe water in the San Francisco Bay Delta. Much of the content could apply to any location.

Length: 3 min

Delta Revival: Restoring a California Ecosystem-Award-winning, 2003 film showing scientists from many disciplines working together to guide the unprecedented restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta east of San Francisco Bay. View the movie as part of a filmed public lecture: introduction, then 22 minute movie, then montage of scientists at work, followed by question and answer session. Length: 1 hour

Chasing the Mud: The Mississippi River Flood of 2011-USGS scientists investigate sediment deposition in the wetlands of the Mississippi River delta plain resulting from the 2011 flood, which was the largest flood along the river in the past century.Length: 13 min

Connecting People and Urban Streams-A video podcast outlining the importance of habitat to the health of a stream, and giving examples of ways that urban streams are being rehabilitated across the U.S. Length: 6 min

1923 Grand Canyon Expedition-A silent film compiled from footage shot during the 1923 USGS expedition down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. This is the earliest USGS film and one of the first black and white films distributed nationally. Length: 30 min

Deconstructing Dams: A Sediment Story-A brief review of the science behind sediment transport following large dam removals. Focuses on the Elwha, Glines Canyon, Marmot, and Condit Dams and the research done before, during, and after the dams were deconstructed. Length: 6 min

Glen Canyon Dam High Flow Experiment-USGS experts give preliminary observations on what took place during the high flow experiment on the Colorado River in March, 2008. Includes links to time-lapse videos. Length: 8 min

Streamgages: The Silent Superhero-Whether you drink water from your tap, use electricity, or canoe down your local river, chances are you benefit from USGS streamgage information. So what is a streamgage and what does it do for you? Length: 5 min

NAWQA-Studying Water Quality Over Time-A USGS hydrologist explains the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. Length: 2 minutes

Organic Carbon and the World around Us-USGS scientists talk about the carbon cycle and the role that it plays in their research, with an emphasis on the aquatic environment. Length: 7 min

Monthly Streamflow Maps for the U.S.-Animation of monthly streamflow maps for the conterminous U.S., 1921 to 1996. Length: 2 min

Flyover Movies of Shaded Relief Bathymetry in Lake Tahoe-Flight over Lake Tahoe, above and below the water. Length: < 1 min

Changing Size of the Great Salt Lake in Utah-Time-lapse (1972-1996) elevation change movie for the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Length: < 1 min


Exploring Storm Surge
Preparedness movie made in 1995 about the dangers of storm surges that are associated with hurricanes. Length: 15 min

In Harm's Way: Measuring Storm Impacts to Forecast Future Vulnerability-Documents how scientists study the impacts of extreme winds, waves, and currents brought by extreme storms Length: 6 min