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Who Do We Think We Are? Find out in This Overview of the USGS

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Detailed Description

A fearsome foursome of CoreCasters gives you the lowdown on what the USGS is all about, from science responsibilities to products to public events. Warning: This episode of CoreCast is scary informative. Happy Halloween.




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Ha ha ha. Velcome, velcome. Vhat brings you to my home. You look lost. Vell, I know vhat can help. Ven I am lost and need news and information, I go to the USGS Newsroom at Now, how about a bit. Ahh ahh ahh.

Happy Halloween everybody. And stay tuned for our show.

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Steve Sobieszczyk

Hello and welcome, you're listening to the USGS CoreCast, episode 15, for October 2007. I'm Steve Sobieszczyk. Or that's what I would say, if I were alone. But today, we're doing a little something special, we're doing a "Meet the USGS" episode. So, I'll start again and say: Hello, I'm Steve Sobieszczyk...

Scott Horvath

I'm Scott Horvath...

David Hebert

I'm Dave Hebert...

John Clemens

And I'm John Clemens.


And there you go. As you can see I'm not alone. We have quite a few people here today, we have most of our CoreCast crew that are going to be teaming up to describe what it is the USGS does and how we share our information.


Yeah, we decided that if we were going to share some insider knowledge about the USGS, we should do it with a group of USGS insiders, so to speak.


We're also diversifying the perspective, as Scott and I are from the East Coast here at USGS Headquarters in Reston, Virginia.


While John and myself are going to give the left-coast perspective, as we're from Tacoma and Portland, respectively. Okay, enough with the introduction pleasantries. John, you're up first: Can you give us a little insider knowledge about what it is the USGS actually does?


Sure, Steve...One way of thinking about the USGS might be...disasters-are-us. We monitor natural hazards to protect people and've heard about our monitoring of volcanoes, certainly Mount Saint Helens is a big example. We also monitor for earthquakes, both in the US and around the world. And related to that: tsunamis. We help out with the warning systems, whether it's in Indonesia, for example, or along our own coasts.

Floods...droughts...hurricanes...landslides...our earth sciences provide protection.

The USGS is a science agency, and we have about 10-thousand scientists across the country, and in fact, all over the world. We have four science disciplines. We have water resources...studying the ground water, rivers, streams...and gaging the flow in rivers all over the country. We have the geology discipline, and they study the rocks...the movement of Earth's tectonic plates, and seismic activity...and minerals, where the USGS got its start back in the 1870s...that's the gee in USGS.

And we do advanced studies of the Earth in other ways...we're looking at biodiversity and ecological processes that are part of our most recent science addition, biological resources. Invasive species, West Nile virus, avian flu...these are just a few examples of our biological work.

Environmentally, we're looking at contamination...pollution...water quality. In fact, the USGS was the first to develop methods that can detect very small concentrations of prescription drugs...and even rivers and streams across the U.S. Other science topics that the USGS investigates: coastal erosion, climate change, glaciers, and land subsidence, like along the Gulf Coast, where some areas of land are actually sinking.

So...that's a brief summary of some of the things that we're doing, and what we're all about.


John, not to interrupt, but being a former geographer, you might want to actually mention the geography discipline.


Well, that's right, Steve, you know, in fact, I forgot to mention the Geography folks, they'll never forgive me if I don't. Of course, we're known for our maps, as you say, but we're also providing what they call geospatial data...or geographic information data...that relates in the computer what's on the ground, so that we can do advanced and sophisticated analyses for many issues, whether it's for water quality, or earthquake monitoring, or any of our other sciences as well, so geography is an important component as well.


Now, such a diversity of research topics might be surprising to some of our listeners, I'm actually thinking about my wife on this one. I think all she thinks the USGS does is make topo maps, or T-sheets for you hipcats out there. Speaking of which...David, can you explain what types of products, in addition to topo maps, that the USGS produces, as well as how we share this information? And don't forget to mention the CoreCast, because believe it or not, we're shameless enough to plug ourselves in ourselves.


Sure thing, Shameless Steve.

As your wife so astutely observed, we do make maps: we make geologic maps, hydrologic maps, photo-image maps, thematic maps with all kinds of info, such as ancient Native American tribes, cultures, and languages, monthly sunshine, vegetation, tectonic features, and more, and, of course, topographic maps.

We also offer some interactive ways to look at a lot of this map info online-one is the National Map, which lets you overlay maps with different info, and another is the Map Locator and Downloader, which lets download or order a map of any part of the U.S.

We also offer satellite, aerial, and other remotely sensed imagery, including infrared, LIDAR, and multispectral-which has nothing to do with specters, despite the fact that it's Halloween-as well as ground-based images of places such as Antarctica and historical images you can compare side-by-wide with newer images of the same location.

As with maps, we have interactive, online ways of looking at images, including Earth Explorer, which lets you pick a place and see what imagery we have available.

And then there are publications, and man, do we have publications-tens of thousands of them. We have fact sheets, posters, circulars, booklets, and other reports on an almost countless number of science topics. Some of these date back more than 100 years, so they're also a really cool record of USGS history.

And finally, we provide data. We have Web-streamed info about water levels in streams and rivers nationwide, about natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and much more. And we also provide data and software that scientists and other professionals can download from our Web site and use in their research.



And don't forget about the USGS CoreCast.


Yes, Steve. And the USGS CoreCast, which we use as a more informal way of getting our science out.


So, we've heard from everybody except Scott. Ball's in your court, how about you finish strong and tell people what they can do if they want to learn more about USGS efforts or products? What if they want to visit one of our facilities, or if they want to contact one of our scientists, what should they do?


Well, Steve, there are many ways people can learn more about USGS efforts. The obvious one, of course, is to visit usgs-dot-gov. But the big things, by far, that people want when they visit our site are maps, satellite images, and publications. We've just updated our Maps, Imagery, and Publications Web site to help people find what they're looking for much easier.

Sometimes, though, you just want to get a personal response back from someone. Well, we can help out with that as well. While you're at the USGS Web site, you can click the "Contact USGS" link and send us an e-mail, find contacts for our various State offices, get directions to our facilities, and even speak to someone personally through the handy-dandy 1-888 number.

Speaking of visiting one of our facilities, I have to tell everyone that the USGS Headquarters in Reston, Virginia, is having its Open House on November 3rd from 10 a.m. to 5 .p.m. This is a great event for the entire family.

We'll have over 80 exhibits, many of which are hands-on activities for parents, young adults, and children alike. You can even get the little ones to do fish painting. Nothing makes you feel like a man, or woman for that matter, than slapping a rubber fish into a bucket of paint and throwing it on some paper. Ahhh . . . I am ALL over that one.

If you're interested in coming to the Open House, then go to www-dot-usgs-dotgov-slash-openhouse to learn more.

For those of you interested in USGS events in other parts of the country, check out the "Science in Your Backyard" section at usgs-dot-gov to find contact info for a USGS facility near you. Just call or e-mail the facility to see if they have anything going on.


That's about all we have for today's episode. It's a different approach then we're normally used to. I hope you enjoyed it. It's a quick look, I guess you could say, into what it is the USGS does, what products we put out, and what you can probably get from the USGS that you may not be aware of. So, thanks for listening.


Remember, you contact us at corecast-at-usgs-dot-gov.


Also, don't forget to tell your friends, colleagues, co-workers, family members, and even random people on the street to tune in. We're doing what we're doing for you. And, yes, we're shameless when it comes to plugging CoreCast.


And don't forget to subscribe early, often and anywhere you can find. So go to your favorite podcast directory and subscribe there or you can subscribe through our USGS CoreCast website. So if you like what you're hearing, let us know. You can do that through the email at Or if you want us to change something, or if there is something you want to hear more of, or if you want us to keep, you know, Scott off the air, we can do that as well.


Hey, watch it!


Well, Scott, he's right. If that's what our listeners want...


In all seriousness, though, let us know what you'd like to hear, and we'll see if we can pull some strings and get it into future episodes. In fact, CoreCast Episode 8, if you recall was a submit-a-question episode. We did get some good insight from people on that one, and we're always open to more ideas. With that, don't forget to check out the links in our show notes. It's a great way to get access to greater depth of the information that we're providing here.


Also, if you're curious what the USGS is doing in your area, feel free to contact your local Science Center. Tell em' we sent you.


Okay, guys, that wraps it up. Be sure to check us out in a few weeks.


Thanks for listening to the USGS CoreCast. CoreCast is a product of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior.


This is the USGS CoreCast team. Until next time, rock on!


Mentioned in this segment:


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Musical credit: "Elec_guit_cleanfunk_riff6", Soundgram Post.

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