Mission Areas


Changes to the natural world combined with growing human demands put our health and safety, national security, and economy at risk. We are focused on some of the most significant issues society faces, and our science is making a substantial contribution to the well-being of the Nation and the world. Learn more about the major topics our research covers and the programs focused on those topic

Critical Zone

The Core Science Systems (CSS) Mission Area leads the USGS’s mission as the civilian mapping agency for the Nation—a legacy since the establishment of the USGS in 1879. CSS conducts detailed surveys and distributes the resulting high quality and highly accurate topographic, geologic, hydrographic, and biogeographic maps and data. Mapping accuracy enabled by cutting-edge technologies allows precise planning for critical mineral assessments; energy development; transportation and pipeline infrastructure projects; urban planning and development; flood prediction at regional, local, and neighborhood scales; emergency response; and hazard mitigation. CSS builds on the core strengths of the USGS in characterizing and understanding complex Earth systems.

A female grizzly with a cub.  Adult females are considered the most important segment of the grizzly population and consequently

The USGS Ecosystems Mission Area, the biological research arm of the Department of the Interior (DOI), provides science to help America achieve sustainable management and conservation of its biological resources. This work is done within the broader mission of the USGS to serve the Nation with science that advances understanding of our natural resources and inform land and water stewardship.

Energy Minerals

The Energy and Minerals Mission Area conducts research and assessments that focus on the location, quantity, and quality of mineral and energy resources, including the economic and environmental effects of resource extraction and use.

Environmental Health Venn Diagram

"Everything we do is designed to safeguard the Nation's health, economy, and resources"

The USGS Contaminant Biology and the Toxic Substances Hydrology Programs work in tandem to provide unbiased science for understanding the occurrence, transport, and effects of environmental contaminant exposure.

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Understanding a changing world and how it affects our natural resources, livelihoods, and communities. Science plays an essential role in helping communities and resource managers understand the local to global implications of change, anticipate the effects of change, prepare for change, and reduce the risks associated with decisionmaking in a changing environment.

Natural Hazards

Every year in the United States, natural hazards threaten lives and livelihoods and result in billions of dollars in damage. We work with many partners to monitor, assess, and conduct targeted research on a wide range of natural hazards so that policymakers and the public have the understanding they need to enhance preparedness, response, and resilience.


Water information is fundamental to national and local economic well-being, protection of life and property, and effective management of the Nation’s water resources. The USGS works with partners to monitor, assess, conduct targeted research, and deliver information on a wide range of water resources and conditions including streamflow, groundwater, water quality, and wateruse and availability.