The longstanding focus of USGS on Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada reflects a commitment to scientific collaboration, capacity building, global learning, and partnership throughout the Western Hemisphere.
At the USGS, we recognize that many of the most urgent problems in the Western Hemisphere are shared and inter-dependent challenges affecting the economies, environments, energy reserves, social groupings, cultures, and institutions of Latin American and Caribbean countries, and Canada. Within the broad range of scientific and technical expertise that the USGS provides in the geosciences, we seek to deliver products and services to assess conditions with significant impact on people and the planet. We believe that robust scientific information will help improve decisions and allow leaders through the region take steps to prevent and mitigate the harms on vulnerable communities and the environment.
The examples below illustrate a vibrant portfolio of recent or current activities in support of strategic country- or regional-initiatives in the Western Hemisphere. Collectively, these contributions underscore the diversity of geographies, conditions, and disciplines the USGS engages in to address local and regional priority concerns.
- SilvaCarbon — SilvaCarbon is a U.S. interagency technical cooperation program to enhance the capacity of tropical countries in the use of remote sensing products and the implementation of forest inventories to measure, monitor, and report on carbon in their forests and other lands. The SilvaCarbon Latin America and Caribbean Regional Program builds capacity for national-level forest carbon Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV), complementing other efforts in the region. SilvaCarbon began working with the Andean Amazon countries of Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru in 2011, and in 2014 expanded to include the Central American and Caribbean countries of Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. In 2019, SilvaCarbon began collaborating with Paraguay, and in 2022 expanded to include Uruguay and Argentina.
- Gold mining in Guyana — At the government of Guyana’s request, USGS, the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, and the U.S. Department of State began a project in 2021 to help map and assess nationwide artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASM) – a challenge facing many nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. The project, in cooperation with Guyana’s Ministry of Natural Resources, Geology and Mines Commission, Forestry Commission, and Guyana Environmental Protection Agency, includes satellite imagery and geospatial analysis, as well as field work to identify gold mining sites, associated deforestation, and mining impacts such as sedimentation and mercury contamination.
- Lithium resources — USGS has brought expertise in arid region hydrogeology and groundwater modeling to bear on development of lithium brine resources in northwestern Argentina. This work, in cooperation with multiple U.S. agencies and with provincial and federal partners in Argentina, focused on the development of Argentine technical capacity to support the sustainable extraction of lithium resources from closed basins in northwestern Argentina. Sensitive wetland environments and fresh water supplies may be impacted by brine extraction and evaporation to produce lithium. Additional management and regulatory challenges include multiple operations within a single basin and in basins which cross provincial boundaries.
- Latin America and Caribbean Initiative (LACI) for climate assessment capacity building — LACI, an effort co-led by the USGS and the National Science Foundation, was launched in 2021 as a collaborative initiative between the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and the U.S. Group on Earth Observations (USGEO) and regional partners, including AmeriGEO and the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research. LACI provides opportunities for partnerships between Caribbean, Latin American, and North American countries to enhance capacity for climate risk and vulnerability assessments that support local and regional decision-making in response to climate change and its impacts. As of 2022, representatives from 13 countries have participated in regional scoping and partnership-building activities allowing national institutions and experts from the region to expand their knowledge of assessment practices and protocols while building meaningful relationships across geographic, disciplinary, and institutional borders.
- Developing an international water institute in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico — In 2021, USGS began hydrogeological and ecological studies with the Global Water Partnership and the International Community Foundation, for the Alumbra Innovations Foundation at Rancho Ancon, a working ranch and research base of operations in the Sierra Cacachilas mountains near La Paz in southern Baja California Sur, Mexico. Natural Infrastructure and Dryland Streams (NIDS), made of rock, log jams and jute bags are being installed to harvest rain. The Aridland Water Harvesting Study is helping improve hydrogeological understanding of the ranch, which supports management and preservation of water resources in the arid environment. These activities will converge in the development of an international water institute, providing the scientific communities of the Baja California Sur region a platform that translates to the larger, growing global interest in desert and dryland restoration.
- Volcanic hazards — The Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP), a partnership between the USGS and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was formed in 1986 in response to the devastating volcanic mudflow triggered by an eruption of Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia. VDAP has expanded global capabilities that mitigate the impacts of volcanic events on people and livelihoods, helping develop and improve monitoring, eruption forecasting, seismic data interpretation, remote sensing, as well as providing volcano monitoring equipment. During 2021-2022, over 3.5 million people benefitted from VDAP collaborations with Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
- Stakeholder engagement for natural hazards investigations in the Caribbean — Regional-scale natural hazards impacting the Caribbean, such as coastal storms and sea level rise, can be more effectively investigated through collaboration with international partners in the region. The Stakeholder Engagement for Natural Hazards Investigations in the Caribbean project (SENHIC), in cooperation with the U.S. Agency for International Development, connects USGS researchers with local natural hazards experts in U.S. territories and Caribbean countries to help understand their natural hazard vulnerabilities and disaster response, and to help improve their mitigation and adaptation efforts.
- Abandoned mines in Peru — The USGS has been collaborating with Peru’s Instituto Geológico, Minero y Metalúrgico (INGEMMET) and several Peruvian universities through the U.S. State Department’s Fulbright Specialist Program to develop Peruvian expertise in the assessment of abandoned mines and of the environmental risks of future mining. The effort has published several INGEMMET reports, with a current focus on wider distribution in international conference proceedings and scientific journals.
- Capacity building in water science and monitoring for Itaipu Binational Hydropower company, Brazil and Paraguay — The Itaipu Binational hydropower company is celebrating 35 years of operation as the world’s largest generator of electricity by hydropower. Formed by an international treaty between Paraguay and Brazil in 1973, its mission focuses on energy generation, while balancing the needs of the environment, tourism, and social responsibility. Itaipu performs its own environmental monitoring and data analyses, which led them to seek out collaboration with the USGS who is known world-wide as a leader in environmental monitoring techniques. The USGS and Itaipu have a Technical Assistance Agreement in place and will continue to establish a program of collaboration, technological exchange, and capacity building for scientific and technological advances focused on water quantity and quality in the proximity of one of the largest human-made impoundments in the world.
- Geohazard assessments in the Rio Coca basin, Ecuador — USGS scientists are working with other Federal agencies (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Department of Agriculture) and the Corporacion Electrica del Ecuador (CELEC) in assessing an unusual and catastrophic geohazard: the collapse of a 132-meter-tall (433 feet) lava dam on the Rio Coca, which triggered massive erosion along the river that has damaged critical infrastructure (roads, buildings, pipelines) and cut off transportation corridors to local communities. The erosion and increased sediment transport are threatening the Coca Codo Sinclair dam and hydroelectric facility. The interagency team is applying modeling, monitoring, and remote-sensing techniques to understand this geohazard, predict future events, and help CELEC evaluate engineering solutions.
- Continued partnerships with the Brazil National Water Agency and Brazil Geological Survey — The USGS has intermittently collaborated with Brazil's Geological Survey (CPRM) since the early 1970s. With the creation of the Brazil’s National Water Agency (ANA) in 2000, Brazil's hydrologic monitoring network took on a higher socioeconomic importance. Collaboration agreements among USGS, Bureau of Reclamation, Environmental Protection Agency, and ANA/CPRM have strengthened Brazilian hydrologic monitoring networks and have increased scientific capacity in water quantity and quality assessments, water conveyance systems, and dam safety.
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