Regions

Southwest

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The Southwest Region includes California, Nevada, and Arizona. The Regional Office, headquartered in Sacramento, provides Center oversight and support, facilitates internal and external collaborations, and works to further USGS strategic science directions. Our scientists do a broad array of research and technical assistance throughout the U.S. and across the globe.

Where are we?

Where are we?

The USGS Pacific Regional Directors Office is located at 6000 J Street, Placer Hall, Sacramento, CA 95819. For more information, please contact (916) 278-9551.

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Who are we?

Who are we?

We help support the USGS mission by providing objective science and technical support to address a wide array of important societal issues, our capabilities and activities are diverse.

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News

Date published: October 19, 2017

U.S. and Canadian Scientists Explore Major Undersea Earthquake Fault

An international team of scientists just finished probing the depths of the Pacific Ocean offshore of Alaska and British Columbia, to better understand the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather Fault. During the past century, the 700-mile-long fault has generated at least half a dozen major earthquakes, and future shocks threaten coastal communities in both the United States and Canada.

Date published: October 17, 2017

Future Temperature and Soil Moisture May Alter Location of Agricultural Regions

Future high temperature extremes and soil moisture conditions may cause some regions to become more suitable for rainfed, or non-irrigated, agriculture, while causing other areas to lose suitable farmland, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.  

Date published: September 27, 2017

Levels of Possible Human Carcinogen Declining in Most Wells in Tucson International Airport Superfund Site

Levels of a potential human carcinogen, 1,4-dioxane, have mostly declined in wells in the commercial and residential areas of the Tucson International Airport Area Superfund Site during 2002-2017, according to a new map published by the U.S. Geological Survey.

USGS is the nation's premiere earth and natural science research organization. Because our core mission is to provide objective science and technical support to address a wide array of important societal issues, our capabilities and activities are diverse. Our work is conducted by employees at our Science Centers, and in collaboration with our many external partners.

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Box Springs Field Station
Date Published: October 19, 2016
Status: Active

Box Springs Field Station

Deserts in the southwestern United States are experiencing rapid changes due to human activities. The growth of human populations and development of cities and towns affect adjacent rare, threatened, and endangered species and their associated ecosystems in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts of southeastern California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, and western Arizona. 

Contacts: Kristin Berry
A genetic analysis illustration
Date Published: August 10, 2016

Molecular Ecology Lab (MEL)

The Molecular Ecology Laboratory applies genetic and genomic technologies to address a variety of complex questions and conservation issues facing the management of the Nation's fish and wildlife resources. Together with our partners, we design and implement studies to document genetic diversity and the distribution of genetic variation among individuals, populations, and species. Information...

A brown treesnake in a tree in Guam. Photo by Bob Reed, USGS, 2009.
Date Published: July 6, 2016
Status: Active

Control and Landscape-Scale Suppression of the Invasive Brown Treesnake

The Brown Treesnake is a highly destructive reptile species that has extirpated many native species of birds, bats, and lizards from the U.S. Territory of Guam. For more than two decades branch scientists with the Invasive Reptile Project have developed, validated, and tested the feasibility of Brown Treesnake control and suppression at various spatial scales.

The National Map
Date Published: April 19, 2016

National Geospatial Program User Engagement Office

Would you like to learn more about USGS National Map products and services? Then welcome to the National Geospatial Program User Engagement office. We can help you leverage NGP products and services through The National Map and other venues. Connect with us through our network of National Map Liaisons. There's a liaison for every state!

homes damaged by hurricane Sandy on Fire Island, New York
Date Published: April 13, 2016

Understanding Coastal Change

Scientists perform a range of studies that document, assess, and model coastal change, risk, and vulnerability. Studies include historical shoreline change, the geologic structure and history of coastal regions, sediment supply and transport, sea-level rise, and how extreme storm events affect rates and impacts of coastal change.

Devastation of the coastal city of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Date Published: April 13, 2016

Geologic Hazards and Catastrophic Events

We study the distribution and hazard potential of coastal and submarine events such as earthquakes and submarine landslides and associated tsunami potential, hurricane induced coastal inundation, extreme storms, sea-level rise and oil and gas spills. We also model development to help evaluate and forecast coastal hazard probability and occurrence.

Methane hydrate
Date Published: April 13, 2016

Ocean Resources for America's Needs

Our scientists conduct research studies focused on geologic mapping, sampling and understanding of mineral and energy resources and studies of the geologic setting and processes to inform renewable energy development offshore.

crustose coralline algae
Date Published: April 13, 2016

Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Science

We bring together multidisciplinary expertise focused on developing tools and models to improve understanding of how healthy ecosystems function as well as how they respond to environmental changes and human impacts including ecosystem restoration. Research studies address coral reef, coastal wetland, benthic habitat and groundwater resources.

USGS science for a changing world logo
Date Published: March 9, 2016
Status: Active

California Water Science Center

The Center's mission is to collect and analyze hydrologic data needed to manage water resources for the State of California. The CAWSC operates local and statewide networks to collect high-quality data that define natural and human hydrologic changes; analyzes hydrologic processes; maintains data bases; and publishes peer-reviewed reports to create unbiased hydrologic information.

Attribution: Southwest
USGS science for a changing world logo
Date Published: March 9, 2016
Status: Active

Nevada Water Science Center (NVWSC)

The NVWSC is committed to providing reliable scientific information about Nevada's natural resources to customers, cooperators, and the public. To provide this scientific information, we operate a widespread surface-water and groundwater data collection network as well as research a wide range of scientific issues throughout Nevada.

Attribution: Southwest
USGS science for a changing world logo
Date Published: March 9, 2016
Status: Active

Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics (GMEG) Science Center

Scientists at the GMEG Science Center work on issues related to geologic processes and mineral and energy resource potential, primarily in the western United States. The science staff includes geologists, geophysicists, geochemists, biologists, geospatial information specialists, and remote sensing specialists who are located in offices in several western states.

Attribution: Southwest
USGS science for a changing world logo
Date Published: March 9, 2016

Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center

We work with others to provide scientific understanding and technologies needed to support and implement sound management and conservation of our Nation's biological resources in Hawaii and other Pacific island locations.

USGS is known for the producing objective, high-quality data that is relevant to decision-makers, resource managers, the scientific community, and the public. We are recognized as the world leader in making data and tools readily available; as a result, our tools and data are widely used to better understand our world and protect human life and property.

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Janet Ruth releasing a color-banded male Grasshopper Sparrow. Photo by Noel Snyder.
July 6, 2017

The Arizona Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum ammolegus) occurs in the desert and plains grasslands of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and northern Sonora, Mexico. This data was produced as part of the first intensive study of its life history and breeding ecology, providing baseline data and facilitating comparisons with other North American Grasshopper Sparrow subspecies.

Digital Elevation Model in the Atchafalaya Basin, LA
April 19, 2016

The 3DEP products and services available through The National Map consist of lidar point clouds (LPC), standard digital elevation models (DEMs) at various horizontal resolutions, elevation source and associated datasets, an elevation point query service and bulk point query service. All 3DEP products are available, free of charge and without use restrictions.

Fish on seafloor, Offshore Northern California
April 18, 2016

This portal contains U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) video and photography of the seafloor off of coastal California and Massachusetts, and aerial imagery of the coastline along segments of the Gulf of Mexico and mid-Atlantic coasts. These data were collected as part of several USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program Seafloor Mapping projects and Hurricane and Extreme Storm research.

Colored, shaded multibeam data, offshore of Monterey, CA.
March 15, 2016

GIS data files for map areas offshore of California are listed with a brief description, a small image, and links to the metadata files and the downloadable data files.

USGS science for a changing world logo
March 12, 2016

WaterWatch is a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) World Wide Web site that displays maps, graphs, and tables describing real-time, recent, and past streamflow conditions for the United States. The real-time information generally is updated on an hourly basis.

USGS is a world leader in producing and distributing maps and geospatial data, ranging from local to national scales.

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Year Published: 2019

Modelling gully-erosion susceptibility in a semi-arid region, Iran: Investigation of applicability of certainty factor and maximum entropy models

Gully erosion susceptibility mapping is a fundamental tool for land-use planning aimed at mitigating land degradation. However, the capabilities of some state-of-the-art data-mining models for developing accurate maps of gully erosion susceptibility have not yet been fully investigated. This study assessed and...

Azareh, Ali; Rahmati, Omid; Rafiei-Sardooi, Elham; Sankey, Joel B.; Lee, Saro; Shahabi, Himan; Bin Ahmad, Baharin

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Year Published: 2019

Fire changes the spatial distribution and sources of soil organic carbon in a grassland-shrubland transition zone

AimsIn many mixed grass-shrub ecosystems, increased shrub biomass tends to promote overall carbon storage, but the distribution of carbon pools may be complicated by disturbances such as wildfires. We investigated the spatial distribution of surface soil organic carbon (SOC) and its relative contribution from grasses and shrubs after fires in a...

Wang, Guan; Li, Junran; Ravi, Sujith; Theiling, Bethany P.; Sankey, Joel B.

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Year Published: 2019

Responses of biological soil crusts to rehabilitation strategies

Biological soil crusts (biocrusts) are common to dryland ecosystems and can influence a broad suite of soil ecological functions including stability and surface hydrology. Due to long recovery times following disturbance, there is a clear need for rehabilitation strategies to enhance the recovery of biocrust communities. Essential to biocrust...

Chock, Taylor; Antoninka, Anita J.; Faist, Akasha M.; Bowker, Matthew A.; Belnap, Jayne; Barger, Nichole N.

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Year Published: 2019

Influence of climate, post‐treatment weather extremes, and soil factors on vegetation recovery after restoration treatments in the southwestern US

AimsUnderstanding the conditions associated with dryland vegetation recovery after restoration treatments is challenging due to a lack of monitoring data and high environmental variability over time and space. Tracking recovery trajectories with satellite‐based vegetation indices can strengthen predictions of restoration outcomes across broad...

Copeland, Stella M.; Munson, Seth M.; Bradford, John B.; Butterfield, Bradley J.

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Year Published: 2019

On the development of a magnetic susceptibility‐based tracer for aeolian sediment transport research

Aeolian processes — the erosion, transport, and deposition of sediment by wind — play important geomorphological and ecological roles in drylands. These processes are known to impact the spatial patterns of soil, nutrients, plant‐available water, and vegetation in many dryland ecosystems. Tracers, such as rare earth elements and stable isotopes...

Ravi, Sujith; Gonzales, Howell B.; Buynevich, Ilya V.; Li, Junran; Sankey, Joel B.; Dukes, David; Wang, Guan
Ravi, S., Gonzales, H.B., Buynevich, I.V., Li, J., Sankey, J.B., Dukes, D., and Wang, G., 2018, On the development of a magnetic susceptibility-based tracer for aeolian sediment transport research: Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, online, https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.4536.

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Year Published: 2019

Amendments fail to hasten biocrust recovery or soil stability at a disturbed dryland sandy site

In most drylands, biological soil crusts (biocrusts), an assemblage of lichens, bryophytes, fungi, green algae, and cyanobacteria, are critical to healthy ecosystem function. However, they are extremely sensitive to disturbance and attempts to facilitate their recovery have had variable success. In this study, we applied soil amendments designed...

Chandler, David G.; Day, Natalie; Madsen, Matthew D.; Belnap, Jayne

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Year Published: 2019

Landscape pivot points and responses to water balance in national parks of the southwest US

A recent drying trend that is expected to continue in the southwestern US underscores the need for site‐specific and near real‐time understanding of vegetation vulnerability so that land management actions can be implemented at the right time and place.We related the annual integrated normalized difference vegetation index (iNDVI), a proxy for...

Thoma, David P.; Munson, Seth M.; Witwicki, Dana L.

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Year Published: 2019

Climatic sensitivity of dryland soil CO2 fluxes differs dramatically with biological soil crust successional state

Arid and semiarid ecosystems make up approximately 41% of Earth’s terrestrial surface and are suggested to regulate the trend and interannual variability of the global terrestrial carbon (C) sink. Biological soil crusts (biocrusts) are common dryland soil surface communities of bryophytes, lichens, and/or cyanobacteria that bind the soil surface...

Tucker, Colin; Ferrenberg, Scott; Reed, Sasha C.

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Year Published: 2019

Post-fire redistribution of soil carbon and nitrogen at a grassland-shrubland ecotone

The rapid conversion of grasslands into shrublands has been observed in many arid and semiarid regions worldwide. Studies have shown that fire can provide certain forms of reversibility for shrub-grass transition due to resource homogenization and shrub mortality, especially in the early stages of shrub encroachment. Field-level post-fire soil...

Wang, Guan; Li, Junran; Ravi, Sujith; Dukes, David; Gonzales, Howell B.; Sankey, Joel B.

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Year Published: 2019

Isotopic evidence that nitrogen enrichment intensifies nitrogen losses to the atmosphere from subtropical mangroves

Nitrogen (N) enrichment can have large effects on mangroves’ capacity to provide critical ecosystem services by affecting fundamental functions such as N cycling and primary productivity. However, our understanding of excess N input effects on N cycling in mangroves remains quite limited. To advance our understanding of how N enrichment via water...

Reis, Carla Roberta Gonçalves; Reed, Sasha C.; Oliveira, Rafael Silva; Nardoto, Gabriela Bielefeld

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Year Published: 2018

Life history with emphasis on geographic variation

Every organism is defined by a set of vital rates that evolve to enhance lifetime reproductive fitness and survival of individuals and their progeny. These traits vary due to the complex but sometimes predictable interactions between individuals, populations and their environments. Collectively, these attributes are referred to as life history...

Roosenburg, Willem M.; Kennedy, Victor S.; Lovich, Jeffrey E.; Gibbons, J. Whitfield; Greene, Kathryn
Lovich, J.E., Gibbons, J.W., and Greene, K.M., 2018, Life history with emphasis on geographic variation, in Roosenburg, W.M., and Kennedy, V.S., eds., Ecology and conservation of the diamond-backed terrapin: Baltimore, Md., Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 63-80.

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Year Published: 2018

Taxonomy: A history of controversy and uncertainty

No abstract available. 

Roosenburg, Willem M.; Kennedy, Victor S.; Lovich, Jeffrey E.; Hart, Kristen

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scientific instruments and platform next to river surrounded by snow
December 31, 2017

USGS Streamgaging on the Pit River operates year round.

 USGS Streamgaging equipment and cableway on the Pit River near Canby, California operates year round.

Two technicians in a cablecar over a river, with an instrument hanging below them
December 31, 2017

Lowering an acoustic Doppler current profiler from a cable way.

USGS technicians preparing for a streamflow measurement by lowering an acoustic Doppler current profiler from a cable way on the American River near Fair Oaks, California. 

two men in camo-patterned overalls standing next to a boat on the shore of a river with an instrument on the ground.
December 31, 2017

Technicians prepare to board a boat to measure water flow.

USGS technicians prepare to board a boat to go out to the center of the channel in the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam to get an accurate measurement of water flow during releases from the Dam for flood control.

man in yellow slicker standing in rushing river up to his thighs, holding a stick-like instrument in the water
December 31, 2017

Measuring streamflow in fast moving floodwater.

USGS hydrographer measuring streamflow using a handheld Acoustic Doppler Velocimeter in fast moving floodwater Cajon Creek near Keenbrook, California. 

Gray metal box standing next to a river with a sign in green and black writing
December 31, 2017

USGS Streamgaging Station in northern Nevada.

USGS Streamgaging Station in northern Nevada. 

Unmanned Aerial System prior to takeoff
December 31, 2017

Unmanned Aerial System

This small unmanned aerial system with digital camera has been used to create digital elevation models to answer questions about erosion, bridge scour, and other hydraulics analyses. 

Woman standing in middle of stream next to instruments
December 31, 2017

Measuring streamflow in northern Nevada.

USGS technician measuring streamflow in northern Nevada.

Unmanned Aerial System takes images in Arizona
December 31, 2017

Unmanned Aerial System in Flight

Small Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) collecting digital photos to create digital elevation models. UAS are an increasingly important tool for monitoring, assessing, and conducting targeted scientific research for the nation.

man in yellow shirt and camo coveralls standing in thigh-high water with instrument.
December 31, 2017

Measuring streamflow in the Sisquoc River near Garey, California.

USGS technician measuring streamflow in the Sisquoc River near Garey, California, upstream of the Santa Maria Mesa Road Bridge.

October 20, 2017

Introduction to GIS Data for ArcMap 10.1 and Higher

An introduction to GIS data using ArcMap 10.1 and higher; intended for planetary geologic mappers. 
 

3 men leaning over big yellow metal grab bucket on the deck of a ship. Dark sediment is visible inside bucket
September 28, 2017

Examining bucket of seafloor sediment collected off southeast Alaska

USGS research geophysicist Danny Brothers (right) and colleagues examine the surface of a sediment grab sample just pulled onto the deck of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship John P. Tully. The sample was collected from the top of a mud volcano north of the border between southeast Alaska and British Columbia. Expedition scientists are investigating the Queen Charlotte

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boom & pulley w/ long slender equipment hanging over side of ship w/ 3 people in hard hats & life preservers standing at rail
September 20, 2017

Collecting a piston core of seafloor sediment off British Columbia

Scientists prepare to lower a piston corer off Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, to sample seafloor sediment near the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather fault. Expedition scientists are studying layers of sediment in the cores they collected to identify and determine ages of past earthquakes along the fault. This information will help them assess future threats to coastal

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Research and technical support provided by USGS makes a difference Some recent press releases and media advisories from the Pacific Region are highlighted below.

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3 men leaning over big yellow metal grab bucket on the deck of a ship. Dark sediment is visible inside bucket
October 19, 2017

An international team of scientists just finished probing the depths of the Pacific Ocean offshore of Alaska and British Columbia, to better understand the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather Fault. During the past century, the 700-mile-long fault has generated at least half a dozen major earthquakes, and future shocks threaten coastal communities in both the United States and Canada.

Dryland agriculture in the Northwestern Great Plains ecoregion.
October 17, 2017

Future high temperature extremes and soil moisture conditions may cause some regions to become more suitable for rainfed, or non-irrigated, agriculture, while causing other areas to lose suitable farmland, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.  

Map showing decline of a potential human carcinogen, 1,4-dioxane, in the Tucson International Airport Area Superfund Site
September 27, 2017

Levels of a potential human carcinogen, 1,4-dioxane, have mostly declined in wells in the commercial and residential areas of the Tucson International Airport Area Superfund Site during 2002-2017, according to a new map published by the U.S. Geological Survey.

USGS science for a changing world
September 7, 2017

Editor: In the public interest and in accordance with FAA regulations, the USGS is announcing this low-level airborne project. Your assistance in informing the local communities is appreciated.

A wildfire in a forest
September 7, 2017

A growing number of wildfire-burned areas throughout the western United States are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Image: Burning Sagebrush
September 6, 2017

An examination of long-term data for lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management finds that land treatments in the southwestern United States are increasingly large, expensive and related to fire and invasive species control.

USGS science for a changing world
August 14, 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey awarded approximately $4.9 million this week to six universities and a university-governed non-profit, to support transitioning the west coast “ShakeAlert” earthquake early warning system into a production system.

Image: USGS Logo
July 31, 2017

A new U.S. Geological Survey-led study suggests that earthquake-related deformation just below the Earth's surface can be quite different from how it is expressed at the surface.

Photo of the Mud Creed landslide near Big Sur, California
July 14, 2017

Scientists from the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center mapped the offshore extent of the Mud Creek landslide on California’s Big Sur coast on July 11, 2017.

Full-Circle Vista from Naukluft Plateau on Mars
July 3, 2017

Billions of dollars and a decade worth of research are on the line in the instant that a spacecraft touches down on Mars. When deciding where to land on the planet’s rocky surface, it is essential to analyze potential landing sites and their surface characteristics.

An extremely rare Mojave River western pond turtle was recently observed in the Mojave Desert.
May 23, 2017

An extremely rare Mojave River western pond turtle was recently observed by U.S. Geological Survey scientists and staff from The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in the Mojave Desert. Turtles of this population have rarely been seen since the late 1990s.

2014 South Napa Earthquake in California
May 15, 2017

Early on the morning of August 24, 2014, Loren Turner was awoken by clattering window blinds, a moving bed, and the sound of water splashing out of his backyard pool. He experienced what is now named the “South Napa Earthquake.” 

Nine USGS Science Centers are administered by the Pacific Regional office, which is headquartered in Sacramento, California.

The Pacific Region works with a wide array of partners across the country, including other Federal and state agencies, regional and local governments, academic institutions, research organizations, non-governmental organizations, and more.

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