Resources for Teacher

Background Information 6-8

Here you can find background information that may be useful in classrooms 6-8.

Biology/Ecosystems|| Geography|| Geology|| Global Change|| Natural Hazards|| Oceans/Coasts|| Water|| Other

Biology/Ecosystems

Birds of North America Taxonomic List- Background Information
A table listing birds of North America that is sorted taxonomically (by order, family, and genus).

Invasive and Endangered Species Podcast- Background Information
This 8-minute podcast provides a nice introduction to the concepts of invasive and endangered species.

Whooping Cranes- Background Information
The USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center has been breeding whooping cranes for release to the wild since 1967. This site has extensive information and Frequently Asked Questions about whooping cranes plus videos and a list of recent articles. Be sure to click on the site map to see fascinating photos and information about raising individual chicks. An additional 16-minute video discusses health, exercise, diet, and training of these birds that were once on the brink of extinction.

USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI)- Background Information
As amphibian populations decline, reports of malformed frogs, toads, and salamanders are increasing. Learn about amphibians as environmental bellwethers and Congressionally-mandated USGS efforts in support of amphibian research and conservation. Links to taxonomy lists, copyright-free photos, and a national amphibian atlas.   

Geography

Topographic Map Resources for Teachers- Background Information and Maps
An overall summary of useful USGS resources for working with topographic maps: where to get them; how to interpret them; how to use them; explanations of coordinates, datums, and projections; and lessons for the classroom.

Map Projections- Background Information
Every map projection has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Learn about the eighteen most common map projections and how their properties and uses compare. A popular poster version of this information is available for free through the USGS Store (product number 16573).

Finding Your Way with a Map and Compass- Background Information
A brief description of how to navigate using a compass and topographic maps.   

Map Symbols- Background Information
An explanation of topographic maps and map symbols.

125 Years of USGS Topographic Maps- Background Information
December, 2009 marked the 125th anniversary of the USGS Topographic Mapping Program.

USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)- Background Information
GNIS contains information for almost 2 million physical and cultural geographic features in the United States and its territories. Query the database to find individual features and their corresponding coordinates. Search results include links to online air photos and topographic maps containing the feature.

Elevations and Distances- Background Information
Tables of information covering elevations of features and distances between points in the United States . Also locates the geographic center of each state.   

USGS Store- Background Information
A quick and easy way to find and order printed USGS products: paper maps, books, and other publications. Also use this site to download free 1:24K, 1:100K and 1:250K topographic maps for anywhere in the U.S. in GeoPDF format, and to browse educational products. Teacher discounts are available for some purchases.

Global Visualization Viewer (GloVis)- Background Information
The most user-friendly method for browsing and ordering Landsat, Terra ASTER, MODIS, and EO-1 satellite images and NAPP photography. Allows convenient preview of images and scene mosaics. All USGS satellite imagery is available through this Web site.Land Use History and Changing Landscapes

Land Use History of North America- Background Information
Describes the historical and on-going changes in land use and land cover for several regions around the U.S. The section on Land Use Changes in the Southwestern U.S. A section for teachers is under construction.

USGS Urban Dynamics Research Program- Background Information
Describes a project that analyzes land use change in urban environments in order to provide a historical perspective of land use change and an assessment of the spatial patterns, rates, correlation, trends, and impacts of that change. Includes links to computer animations of urban growth in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Baltimore-Washington Area.

Urban Growth in American Cities- Background Information
An on-line publication that illustrates the spatial history of urban growth in sixteen areas around the U.S. and the corresponding land use change. Images can be downloaded as GIF files.

Analyzing Land Use Change in Urban Environments (PDF)- Background Information
Four-page USGS Fact Sheet describing and illustrating the need for urban growth studies.

What is a Geologic Map?- Background Information
A brief overview of geologic maps and how they're made

National Geologic Map Database- Background Information
This exhaustive database provides bibliographic access to many thousands of geologic, geophysical, and other kinds of maps available in USGS publication, Web sites, and in popular science journals, etc.   

The North America Tapestry of Time and Terrain- Background Information
Reveals the geologic history of North America through the interrelation of rock type, topography, and time. Regional surface processes as well as continent-scale tectonic events are exposed in the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension, geologic time.

Geology

A Brief Introduction to Geomagnetism- Background Information
The USGS uses ground-based observatories to provide continuous records of the Earth's magnetic field variations. This simplified description uses images and a time-laps animation to explain phenomena created by the magnetic field that can be easily monitored and studied.

This Dynamic Earth: the Story of Plate Tectonics- Background Information
"This Dynamic Earth" is one of the most recommended and referenced primers on plate tectonics. Topics include a history of the theory, scientific developments that spurred its development, the mechanics of plate motions, and the relationship of hotspots to plate tectonic theory. A companion best-selling map, "This Dynamic Planet", is also available online or in print.   

The Interior of the Earth- Background Information
This booklet is an introductory guide to what is known about the interior of our planet.

What is a Geologic Map?- Background Information
A brief overview of geologic maps and how they're made

National Geologic Map Database- Background Information
This exhaustive database provides bibliographic access to many thousands of geologic, geophysical, and other kinds of maps available in USGS publication, Web sites, and in popular science journals, etc.   

The North America Tapestry of Time and Terrain- Background Information
Reveals the geologic history of North America through the interrelation of rock type, topography, and time. Regional surface processes as well as continent-scale tectonic events are exposed in the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension, geologic time.

The Lifecycle of a Mineral Deposit- Background Information
A teacher's guide for hands-on mineral education activities. Designed to meet the National Science Standards, this product includes 10 activity-based learning exercises that educate students on basic geologic concepts; the processes of finding, identifying, and extracting the resources from a mineral deposit; and the uses of minerals. Geared for fifth through eighth grade science teachers.  

Metal Recycling- Background Information
How much metal does the U.S. recycle each year? Annual statistics and information about specific metals can be found here.

Gemstones- Background Information
Learn about the occurrence and production of various gemstones in the United States. The site is organized by state and gemstone.

Mineral Commodity Statistics and Information- Background Information
Statistics and information about the worldwide supply of, demand for, and flow of minerals and materials essential to the U.S. economy, the national security, and protection of the environment.

Rocks and Minerals- Background Information
Introductory information about rocks and minerals with a glossary of commonly-used geology terms.

Mineral Resources Online Spatial Data- Background Information and Maps
Easy access to maps and data related to geology and minerals. To find information about your county, click on "Geographic Area: United States", then select your state and county. For a simple geologic map of your state, click on the "Geological data" tab at top, then "Geologic maps of US States"

Historic Events in Minerals and Materials- Background Information
A review of significant changes in industries that consume metals and industrial minerals. It includes a timeline showing major achievements in mineral production and events that affected the U.S. mineral industry. These are related to overall U.S. mineral consumption and years of war or recession.

Mineral Use in Safety Applications in the Workplace- Background Information
Find more examples of common uses for minerals.

Building Stones of Our Nation's Capital- Background Information
Descriptions and examples of all the kinds of stone used in the buildings and monuments in the Washington DC area. Discusses the impact of acid precipitation on our national landmarks. An abbreviated and updated version of this publication is available as a 2-page fact sheet.

Mineral Commodity Fact Sheets- Background Information
Two-page, easily-understood fact sheets about important mineral commodities. Learn where each mineral comes from, how it's used, and why it's important

Gold—Why is gold such an important mineral?- Background Information
A 23-page booklet giving a brief history of gold mining and the "gold fever" that has endured for centuries of civilizations.

Mineral Resource of the Month- Background Information
How is a specific mineral used in the United States? How much of that mineral is produced? These questions are answered in this series of two-page articles written for over sixty different minerals.

Do We Take Minerals for Granted?- Background Information
Did you know that the average automobile contains 42 lbs of copper? Use this site to learn about the everyday use of minerals, minerals and the environment, mineral supplies, and much more. An additional report on Geology and Nonfuel Mineral deposits of the United States is an excellent source of information, page size maps, and illustrations of the geologic processes.

USGS Karst Web site- Background Information
Information about USGS research on karst aquifers, which are a vital ground-water resource in the United States.

Karst Topography - Teacher's Guide and Paper Model- Background Information and Activity
A brief description of karst topography with glossary and questions to ask students. The paper model must be downloaded separately.

Sinkholes- Background Information
A two-page fact sheet about sinkholes and their catastrophic occurrence in Missouri.

The North America Tapestry of Time and Terrain- Background Information
Reveals the geologic history of North America through the interrelation of rock type, topography, and time. Regional surface processes as well as continent-scale tectonic events are exposed in the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension, geologic time.

Fossils, Rocks, and Time- Background Information
This general guide provides an overview of geologic time and the use of fossils to determine the age of layers in the earth.

Our Changing Continents- Background Information
This general interest publication provides an overview of how North America's landscape has changed through geologic time.

Geologic Time- Background Information
A brief online booklet that explains how the geologic time scale is defined and how the age of the earth is determined.

Global Change

USA National Phenology Network- Background Information
A partnership that brings together citizen scientists, government agencies, non-profit groups, educators, and students of all ages to monitor the impacts of climate change on plants and animals in the United States. The Web site provides training and resource materials plus opportunities to contribute as an individual or group.

El Niño and La Niña- Background Information
A brief description of the El Niño phenomenon and graphics showing the differences between El Niño ocean conditions, normal ocean conditions, and La Niña ocean conditions.

Deserts—Geology and Resources- Background Information
A publication written for the general public, it describes how deserts form, types of deserts, and landscape features typically associated with deserts. Learn about desertification as an indicator of climate change.

Volcanic Gas- Background Information
A fact sheet describing gases released by volcanoes. Volcanic gases contribute to the ongoing evolution of the atmosphere.

Natural Hazards

Natural Hazards Gateway- Background Information
Provides many links and resources to USGS information related to earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanoes, and wildfires.

Learning Page for USGS Earthquake Hazards- Background Information
The best starting point for education links related to USGS earthquake science. There are separate sections for Educators and Kids, plus animations, photos, FAQs, and earthquake basics. Use the top menu to navigate to earthquake data and a realtime earthquake map.

Earthquake Science Explained: Ten Short Articles for Students, Parents, and Families- Background Information
A series of short articles for students, teachers, and parents originally published as aweekly newspaper feature. Concepts introduced in each feature are designed to address state and national science education standards. Written by USGS scientists, the articles go beyond traditional textbook information to discuss state-of-the-art thinking and technology that we use today.   

Earthquakes- Background Information
A 20-page online booklet that explains the nature and causes of earthquakes. Describes techniques used to detect, record, measure, and predict seismic disturbances.

The Severity of an Earthquake- Background Information
The severity of an earthquake can be expressed in terms of both intensity and magnitude. Learn the difference between these two terms and how the scales are determined.

Quaternary Faults and Fold Database of the United States- Background Information
This Web site contains information on faults and associated folds in the United States that are believed to be sources of M>6 earthquakes during the Quaternary (the past 1,600,000 years). Maps of these geologic structures are linked to detailed descriptions and references. Many of the faults described in this database are in California.   

The Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami of March 27, 1964- Background Information
Explore numerous resources created for the 50th anniversary of the second largest earthquake ever recorded and the tsunami that it created. Watch videos, animations, archival film, and a public lecture; read short fact sheets and summaries; and delve into historical photographs. An interactive "story map" of 1964 Anchorage is an especially good way to engage students.

Putting Down Roots In Earthquake Country- Background Information
Booklets written for the general public to explain everything that residents need to know about earthquakes in their area: Where are the faults and what are the dangers? Why is it important to prepare? How do I prepare for a significant earthquake?

The San Andreas Fault- Background Information
This general interest publication describes the San Andreas Fault system and its history of earthquakes.

New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812- Background Information
Several of the largest historical earthquakes to strike the continental U.S. occurred in the winter of 1811-1812 along the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which stretches from just west of Memphis, Tennessee into southern Illinois. Download and print the Bicentennial of the 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquake Sequence poster, and learn more about earthquakes in the central United States with the fact sheet Earthquake Hazard in the Heart of the Homeland.

FAQs about Earthquakes, Faults, Plate Tectonics, and Earth Structure- Background Information

USGS Flood Information- Background Information
The best starting point for information about current and past floods. Includes links to alerts, maps, photographs, and videos.

Large Floods in the United States: Where they Happen and Why (Circular 1245)- Background Information
A 13-page on-line publication that describes the geographic and climatic factors that influence the occurrence and impacts of large floods in the United States.

Significant Floods in the United States During the 20th Century - USGS Measures a Century of Floods- Background Information
During the 20th century, floods were the number-one natural disaster in the United States in terms of the number of lives lost and property damage. This 4-page fact sheet briefly describes the different types of floods and lists the 32 most significant floods during the 20th century.

What is a 100-Year Flood?- Background Information
The term "100-year flood" is part of the national lexicon, but is often a source of confusion. Download and/or print this free poster that attempts to explain the concept, probabilistic nature, and inherent uncertainties of the "100-year flood" to the layman. Print full-size at 44" x 38" or on 11" x 17" paper.

Floods and Flood Plains- Background Information

USGS FAQs on Floods and Droughts- Background Information
Frequently Asked Questions about floods and droughts.

Tsunamis & Earthquakes- Background Information
The best starting point for information about tsunamis. Follow links to basic information and an amazing list of animations and simulations.

Can it Happen Here?- Background Information
Could a tsunami happen in the Unites States? Here's what we know about tsunamis that have struck our coasts in the past.

Life of a Tsunami- Background Information
A very basic explanation of how earthquakes can trigger a tsunami. Includes diagrams.

Surviving a Tsunami-Lessons from Chile, Hawaii, and Japan- Background Information
This on-line publication describes the causes and impacts of large tsunamis, with examples from around the Pacific Rim.

The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America- Background Information
Follow along with scientists as they discover clues about a mysterious tsunami that struck Japan in 1700. Could it have originated from a large earthquake in North America? Learn how we use the past to help warn of future hazards. Also watch an archived public lecture about this tsunami.

USGS Landslide Hazards Program - Learning and Education- Background Information
The best starting point for Landslide information. Quick links to "Landslides 101", photos, glossary, hazards, and preparedness.

Landslide Types and Processes- Background Information
This four-page fact sheet provides a brief introduction to types of landslides and mass movement associated with gravity and stream floods.

The Landslide Handbook—A Guide to Understanding Landslides- Background Information
What is a landslide? Where do they occur? What causes them? How are they monitored? How can they be prevented? All these questions are answered in this 129-page publication. Written for a general audience, it is heavily illustrated with diagrams and photographs.

Landslide Hazards- Background Information
A two-page fact sheet with basic information about landslide hazards and safety issues related to wet weather conditions in landslide-prone areas.

Riding the Storm—Landslide Danger in the San Francisco Bay Area- Background Information
A catastrophic 1982 rainstorm triggered 18,000 landslides in the Bay Area, claiming 25 lives and causing $66 million in property damage. Learn what USGS scientists have discovered in the last two decades about landslide dynamics and which slopes are most susceptible to sliding.

Volcano Hazards Web Site- Background Information
The starting point for all USGS volcano science. Interact with a real-time status map of U.S. volcanoes and follow links to a Resource Page for Educators, photos, web cams, volcano lists and information, and simple descriptions of volcano hazards. For region-specific information, explore the USGS websites for:

Volcanoes- Background Information
A 45-page online booklet that summarizes basic information about volcanoes: their types, different kinds of eruptions, related features, volcano research, and more.

Mount St. Helens, 1980 to Now- Background Information
On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens Volcano exploded violently, causing the worst volcanic disaster in the history of the United States. The right-side menu has links to six downloadable (MP4) video clips about the 1980 eruption, volcano monitoring, and volcanic processes. Download and print a poster: 

30 Cool Facts about Mount St. Helens (free through the USGS Store).- Background Information

Alaska Volcanoes Guidebook for Teachers- Background Information
Over a third of Alaska's 140 volcanoes have been active in the last 300 years. This online publication has chapters covering the tectonic setting, rocks, eruption styles, landforms, community impact, effect on climate, and monitoring of Alaska's volcanoes. Each chapter has 3-4 detailed classroom activities for grades 6-12 and many supplemental materials. Many of these activities can be applied to volcanoes in other locations!

Eruptions of Hawaiian Volcanoes - Past, Present and Future- Background Information
Written for a general audience and richly illustrated with diagrams and photographs, this report describes the eruptive history of two of Hawai'i's active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

Volcanic Ash- Background Information
What is volcanic ash? How does it affect agriculture, transportation, communications, water supplies, and human health? Learn all this and more at the USGS Volcanic Ash Web site.

Oceans/Coasts

Coastal Landforms and Processes at the Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts: A Primer- Background Information
[Although this targets Cape Cod, many of the concepts can be applied to coastal processes in other locations.] Written as an educational guide for the general public. Covers basic coastal processes; landform changes, sea-level change, wind and weather, waves, and tides. Many illustrations.

The Fragile Fringe: A Guide for Teaching about Coastal Wetlands- Background Information and Activites
Material to use for developing a comprehensive study of coastal wetlands.  Includes background information, suggested activities, glossary, references, and reading list. Activities can be demonstrated by the teacher or performed by students. Emphasis is on Gulf Coast wetlands.   

Coasts in Crisis- Background Information
Describes types of coasts (rocky shores, sandy beaches, coastal wetlands, and coral reefs) and discusses processes that affect beaches and coastlines including waves, tides, weather, water-level changes, coastal vegetation, and human activities.

Water

Education Page from the USGS Water Resources Program- Background Information
A comprehensive list of water-related materials created for the classroom and for the general public.

USGS Water Data Discovery- Background Information
Go here to find historical and real-time water data for classroom use. For data from a specific river or stream, the interactive National Water Information System Mapper is a good starting point.

Science in Your Watershed- Background Information
Find scientific information about your local watershed. Information is from the USGS and many other organizations. Includes links to educational information from many of those agencies.

Water Use in the United States- Background Information
How much water do we use in the United States? How do those numbers change over a 5 year period?

Ask a River to Text You with a WaterAlert- Background Information
Incorporate real-time data in the classroom by receiving instant, customized updates about water conditions at a specific river through WaterAlert.

USGS Groundwater Information Page- Background Information
This gateway to ground water information and data is an excellent starting point for learning about groundwater. Includes links to maps, real-time data, ground water basics, publications, and selected topics.

What is Ground Water?- Background Information
A very simple explanation of ground water and aquifers. Diagrams are included.

Ground Water- Background Information
A short booklet that describes how groundwater occurs and how its quality is assessed. Contains a good glossary.

Ground Water Atlas of the United States- Background Information and Maps
Learn about the ground-water resources of regional areas that collectively cover the U.S. and its territories. Text and maps are used to describe the climate, physiography, geology, land use, major aquifers, and ground-water withdrawals for each region.

Aquifer Basics- Background Information
An aquifer is an underground layer of permeable rock, sediment, or soil that yields water. This site describes different kinds of aquifers and where they are located.

Sustainability of Ground-Water Resources- Background Information
Ground water provides about 40 percent of the Nation's public water supply. Written for the general public, this publication contains numerous diagrams and maps.

Groundwater and Surface Water - A Single Resource- Background Information
Written for the general public, this online publication includes a chapter on the hydrologic cycle and has many excellent diagrams that illustrate the interactions of groundwater and surface water. Discusses issues related to water supply, water quality, and degradation of aquatic environments.

Ground Water and the Rural Homeowner- Background Information
Written for the general public, this heavily illustrated 36-page booklet describes groundwater issues that might impact students who get their water from wells, such as water-level declines and contamination.

USGS Flood Information- Background Information
The best starting point for information about current and past floods. Includes links to alerts, maps, photographs, and videos.

Large Floods in the United States: Where they Happen and Why (Circular 1245)- Background Information
A 13-page on-line publication that describes the geographic and climatic factors that influence the occurrence and impacts of large floods in the United States.

Significant Floods in the United States During the 20th Century - USGS Measures a Century of Floods- Background Information
During the 20th century, floods were the number-one natural disaster in the United States in terms of the number of lives lost and property damage. This 4-page fact sheet briefly describes the different types of floods and lists the 32 most significant floods during the 20th century.

What is a 100-Year Flood?- Background Information
The term "100-year flood" is part of the national lexicon, but is often a source of confusion. Download and/or print this free poster that attempts to explain the concept, probabilistic nature, and inherent uncertainties of the "100-year flood" to the layman. Print full-size at 44" x 38" or on 11" x 17" paper.

Floods and Flood Plains- Background Information

USGS FAQs on Floods and Droughts- Background Information
Frequently Asked Questions about floods and droughts.

Other

What Is A Bolide?- Background Information
Learn how an asteroid impact may have contributed to a mass extinction and led to the formation of Chesapeake Bay.