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Developing integrated methods to address complex resource and environmental issues

February 17, 2016


This circular provides an overview of selected activities that were conducted within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Integrated Methods Development Project, an interdisciplinary project designed to develop new tools and conduct innovative research requiring integration of geologic, geophysical, geochemical, and remote-sensing expertise. The project was supported by the USGS Mineral Resources Program, and its products and acquired capabilities have broad applications to missions throughout the USGS and beyond.

In addressing challenges associated with understanding the location, quantity, and quality of mineral resources, and in investigating the potential environmental consequences of resource development, a number of field and laboratory capabilities and interpretative methodologies evolved from the project that have applications to traditional resource studies as well as to studies related to ecosystem health, human health, disaster and hazard assessment, and planetary science. New or improved tools and research findings developed within the project have been applied to other projects and activities. Specifically, geophysical equipment and techniques have been applied to a variety of traditional and nontraditional mineral- and energy-resource studies, military applications, environmental investigations, and applied research activities that involve climate change, mapping techniques, and monitoring capabilities. Diverse applied geochemistry activities provide a process-level understanding of the mobility, chemical speciation, and bioavailability of elements, particularly metals and metalloids, in a variety of environmental settings. Imaging spectroscopy capabilities maintained and developed within the project have been applied to traditional resource studies as well as to studies related to ecosystem health, human health, disaster assessment, and planetary science. Brief descriptions of capabilities and laboratory facilities and summaries of some applications of project products and research findings are included in this circular. The work helped support the USGS mission to “provide reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.” Activities within the project include the following:

  • Spanned scales from microscopic to planetary;
  • Demonstrated broad applications across disciplines;
  • Included life-cycle studies of mineral resources;
  • Incorporated specialized areas of expertise in applied geochemistry including mineralogy, hydrogeology, analytical chemistry, aqueous geochemistry, biogeochemistry, microbiology, aquatic toxicology, and public health; and
  • Incorporated specialized areas of expertise in geophysics including magnetics, gravity, radiometrics, electromagnetics, seismic, ground-penetrating radar, borehole radar, and imaging spectroscopy.

This circular consists of eight sections that contain summaries of various activities under the project. The eight sections are listed below:

  • Laboratory Facilities and Capabilities, which includes brief descriptions of the various types of laboratories and capabilities used for the project;
  • Method and Software Development, which includes summaries of remote-sensing, geophysical, and mineralogical methods developed or enhanced by the project;
  • Instrument Development, which includes descriptions of geophysical instruments developed under the project;
  • Minerals, Energy, and Climate, which includes summaries of research that applies to mineral or energy resources, environmental processes and monitoring, and carbon sequestration by earth materials;
  • Element Cycling, Toxicity, and Health, which includes summaries of several process-oriented geochemical and biogeochemical studies and health-related research activities;
  • Hydrogeology and Water Quality, which includes descriptions of innovative geophysical, remote-sensing, and geochemical research pertaining to hydrogeology and water-quality applications;
  • Hazards and Disaster Assessment, which includes summaries of research and method development that were applied to natural hazards, human-caused hazards, and disaster assessments; and
  • Databases and Framework Studies, which includes descriptions of fundamental applications of geophysical studies and of the importance of archived data.
Publication Year 2016
Title Developing integrated methods to address complex resource and environmental issues
DOI 10.3133/cir1413
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Circular
Series Number 1413
Index ID cir1413
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center