As the USGS Chief Scientist, Geoff provides strategic scientific vision and counsel to the Director and the USGS Executive Leadership Team on inter- and trans-disciplinary USGS science research priorities, opportunities, activities, capabilities, and partnerships, particularly those cross multiple Mission Areas and Regions.
Geoff serves as a USGS executive science liaison with the Department of the Interior (DOI) and other Federal agencies, and is the USGS/DOI principal or representative on various Federal interagency coordination bodies such as the NSTC Subcommittee on Global Change Research and the NSTC Joint Subcommittee on Environment, Innovation and Public Health.
As Chief Scientist of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Dr. Geoff Plumlee provides strategic scientific vision and counsel to the USGS Director and Executive Leadership Team on inter- and transdisciplinary USGS science research priorities, opportunities, activities, capabilities, and partnerships, particularly those that cross multiple USGS Mission Areas and Regions. He serves as an executive science liaison for the USGS with the Department of the Interior (DOI) and other Federal agencies and is the USGS/DOI principal or representative on various Federal interagency committees such as the Subcommittee on Global Change Research and the NSTC Joint Subcommittee on Environment, Innovation and Public Health. As reflected in his role as a USGS executive champion or co-champion of two USGS Employee Resource Groups, Geoff is committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive USGS workforce, and to enhancing USGS use-inspired science that better meets the needs of underrepresented and disadvantaged communities.
Geoff has been USGS Chief Scientist and Senior Science Advisor to the USGS Director since January 2019. From May 2016 to early 2020, Geoff was the USGS Associate Director for Environmental Health, where he led USGS research at the intersection of the environment and health.
Geoff brought to these executive leadership positions 33 years of research and science leadership experience with the USGS, as well as his ability to seek out and establish successful research collaborations with scientists from a broad range of earth, biological, health, social, emergency response, and engineering science disciplines. From 1983 through May 2016, Geoff helped lead and carry out many research projects on linkages between mineral resources, the environment, disasters, and human health.
Geoff is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America (GSA), Past Chair of the GSA Geology and Health Division, a leader in the founding of the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) GeoHealth Section, past AGU Council Member, and past adjunct clinical assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Public Health. He is author or coauthor of more than 140 scientific publications, including many in journals across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Geoff has received the Department of the Interior Superior and Meritorious Service awards, the inaugural AGU GeoHealth Section Award, the GSA Geology and Health Division Distinguished Service Award, and the Society of Economic Geologists Waldemar Lindgren (Early Career Scientist) Award.
Education and Certifications
Doctorate in Geochemistry from Harvard University, 1989
Bachelor’s of Science in Geology from the University of New Mexico, 1980
Abstracts and Presentations
Geoff’s key publications are listed under the publications tab below. PDF’s of specific publications, as well as a complete list of Geoff’s more than 140 publications, are available upon request.
Science and Products
U.S. Geological Survey wildland fire science strategic plan, 2021–26
Development of a simulated lung fluid leaching method to assess the release of potentially toxic elements from volcanic ash
Using information from global climate models to inform policymaking—The role of the U.S. Geological Survey
Assessment of leachable elements in volcanic ashfall: A review and evaluation of a standardized protocol for ash hazard characterization
U.S. Geological Survey environmental health science strategy — Providing environmental health science for a changing world
Method to characterize inorganic particulates in lung tissue biopsies using field emission scanning electron microscopy
Toxicants in folk remedies: Implications of elevated blood lead in an American-born infant due to imported diaper powder
Environmental implications of the use of sulfidic back-bay sediments for dune reconstruction — Lessons learned post Hurricane Sandy
Geologic materials and human health: Chapter 5.14
Trace elements in stormflow, ash, and burned soil following the 2009 station fire in southern California
Mining for metals in society's waste
Is Uranium in Water Resources near the Grand Canyon a Health Hazard?
Can There be Unintended Benefits when Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure is Upgraded?
Can Spills from Swine Lagoons Result in Downstream Health Hazards?
Are there Health Hazards from Contaminants Released to the Environment by Natural Disasters?
Are Naturally Occurring Algal Toxins in Water Resources a Health Hazard?
What is the Chemical and Microbial Content of Our Tap Waters?
Are Tumors in Wild Fish Harvested in the Great Lakes Region Related to Contaminants in Water Resources?
Are Spills Associated with Deep Well Injection of Wastewater from Oil and Gas Operations a Health Hazard?
Algal and Other Environmental Toxins — Lawrence, Kansas
Microbial Biogeochemistry — Menlo Park, California
High-Content Screening Alternative Toxicity Testing— Columbia, Missouri
Geospatial Analyses and Applications — Salt Lake City, Utah
In Vitro Bioaccessibility Extractions from Previously Collected Uranium Mineral Deposit Samples, 1971 and 1981, Southwestern U.S
Science and Products
Filter Total Items: 89
U.S. Geological Survey wildland fire science strategic plan, 2021–26The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Wildland Fire Science Strategic Plan defines critical, core fire science capabilities for understanding fire-related and fire-responsive earth system processes and patterns, and informing management decision making. Developed by USGS fire scientists and executive leadership, and informed by conversations with external stakeholders, the Strategic Plan is aligned wiAuthorsPaul F. Steblein, Rachel A. Loehman, Mark P. Miller, Joseph R. Holomuzki, Suzanna C. Soileau, Matthew L. Brooks, Mia Drane-Maury, Hannah M. Hamilton, Jason W. Kean, Jon E. Keeley, Robert R. Mason,, Alexa J. McKerrow, James Meldrum, Edmund B. Molder, Sheila F. Murphy, Birgit Peterson, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Douglas J. Shinneman, Phillip J. van Mantgem, Alison YorkByEcosystems Mission Area, Natural Hazards Mission Area, Science Analytics and Synthesis (SAS) Program, Alaska Science Center, Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center , Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Fort Collins Science Center, Geologic Hazards Science Center, Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center, Western Ecological Research Center (WERC)
Development of a simulated lung fluid leaching method to assess the release of potentially toxic elements from volcanic ashFreshly erupted volcanic ash contains a range of soluble elements, some of which can generate harmful effects in living cells and are considered potentially toxic elements (PTEs). This work investigates the leaching dynamics of ash-associated PTEs in order to optimize a method for volcanic ash respiratory hazard assessment. Using three pristine (unaffected by precipitation) ash samples, we quantifAuthorsInes Tomasek, David Damby, Carol Stewart, Claire J. Horwell, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Christopher J Ottley, Pierre Delmelle, Suzette Morman, Sofian El Yazid, Philippe Claeys, Matthieu Kervyn, Marc Elskens, Martine Leermakers
Using information from global climate models to inform policymaking—The role of the U.S. Geological SurveyThis report provides an overview of model-based climate science in a risk management context. In addition, it summarizes how the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will continue to follow best scientific practices and when and how the results of this research will be delivered to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and other stakeholders to inform policymaking. Climate change is a risk managementAuthorsAdam Terando, David Reidmiller, Steven W. Hostetler, Jeremy S. Littell, T. Douglas Beard, Sarah R. Weiskopf, Jayne Belnap, Geoffrey S. Plumlee
Assessment of leachable elements in volcanic ashfall: A review and evaluation of a standardized protocol for ash hazard characterizationVolcanic ash presents a widespread and common hazard during and after eruptions. Complex interactions between solid ash surfaces and volcanic gases lead to the formation of soluble salts that may be mobilized in aqueous environments. A variety of stakeholders may be concerned about the effects of ash on human and animal health, drinking water supplies, crops, soils and surface runoff. As part of tAuthorsCarol Stewart, David Damby, Ines Tomasek, Claire J. Horwell, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Maria Aurora Armienta, Maria Gabriela Ruiz Hinojosa, Moya Appleby, Pierre Delmelle, Shane Cronin, Christopher J Ottley, Clive Oppenheimer, Suzette A. Morman
U.S. Geological Survey environmental health science strategy — Providing environmental health science for a changing worldExecutive SummaryAmerica has an abundance of natural resources. We have bountiful clean water, fertile soil, and unrivaled national parks, wildlife refuges, and public lands. These resources enrich our lives and preserve our health and wellbeing. These resources have been maintained because of our history of respect for their value and an enduring commitment to their vigilant protection. AwarenessAuthorsPatricia R. Bright, Herbert T. Buxton, Laurie S. Balistrieri, Larry B. Barber, Francis H. Chapelle, Paul C. Cross, David P. Krabbenhoft, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Jonathan M. Sleeman, Donald E. Tillitt, Patricia L. Toccalino, James R. Winton
Method to characterize inorganic particulates in lung tissue biopsies using field emission scanning electron microscopyHumans accumulate large numbers of inorganic particles in their lungs over a lifetime. Whether this causes or contributes to debilitating disease over a normal lifespan depends on the type and concentration of the particles. We developed and tested a protocol for in situ characterization of the types and distribution of inorganic particles in biopsied lung tissue from three human groups using fielAuthorsHeather A. Lowers, George N. Breit, Matthew Strand, Renee M. Pillers, Gregory P. Meeker, Todor I. Todorov, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Ruth E. Wolf, Maura Robinson, Jane Parr, Robert J. Miller, Steve Groshong, Francis Green, Cecile Rose
Toxicants in folk remedies: Implications of elevated blood lead in an American-born infant due to imported diaper powderThough most childhood lead exposure in the USA results from ingestion of lead-based paint dust, non-paint sources are increasingly implicated. We present interdisciplinary findings from and policy implications of a case of elevated blood lead (13–18 mcg/dL, reference levelAuthorsMateusz P. Karwowski, Suzette A. Morman, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Terence Law, Mark Kellogg, Alan D. Woolf
Environmental implications of the use of sulfidic back-bay sediments for dune reconstruction — Lessons learned post Hurricane SandySome barrier-island dunes damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy's storm surges in October 2012 have been reconstructed using sediments dredged from back bays. These sand-, clay-, and iron sulfide-rich sediments were used to make berm-like cores for the reconstructed dunes, which were then covered by beach sand. In November 2013, we sampled and analyzed partially weathered materials collected froAuthorsGeoffrey S. Plumlee, William Benzel, Todd M. Hoefen, Philip L. Hageman, Suzette A. Morman, Timothy J. Reilly, Monique Adams, Cyrus J. Berry, Jeffrey Fischer, Irene Fisher
Geologic materials and human health: Chapter 5.14No abstract available.AuthorsGeoffrey S. Plumlee, Suzette A. Morman
Trace elements in stormflow, ash, and burned soil following the 2009 station fire in southern CaliforniaMost research on the effects of wildfires on stream water quality has focused on suspended sediment and nutrients in streams and water bodies, and relatively little research has examined the effects of wildfires on trace elements. The purpose of this study was two-fold: 1) to determine the effect of the 2009 Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest northeast of Los Angeles, CA on trace elementAuthorsCarmen A. Burton, Todd M. Hoefen, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Katherine L. Baumberger, Adam R. Backlin, Elizabeth Gallegos, Robert N. Fisher
Mining for metals in society's wasteMetals are crucial to society and enable our modern standard of living. Look around and you can't help but see products made of metals. For instance, a typical gasoline-powered automobile contains over a ton of iron and steel, 240 pounds of aluminum, 42 pounds of copper, 41 pounds of silicon, 22 pounds of zinc and more than 30 other mineral commodities including titanium, platinum and gold. MetalsAuthorsKathleen S. Smith, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Philip L. Hageman
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Is Uranium in Water Resources near the Grand Canyon a Health Hazard?The public is concerned that uranium in natural geologic formations, mine tailings, dusts, water, and other geologic materials can pose a health hazard to humans and wildlife. Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, and geologists working together at a field site in the Grand Canyon region of the United States have shown: Elevated uranium concentrations (above the drinking water standard)...
Can There be Unintended Benefits when Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure is Upgraded?Science from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other entities has shown that a mixture of natural and synthetic estrogens and other similar chemicals are discharged from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) to streams and rivers.
Can Spills from Swine Lagoons Result in Downstream Health Hazards?Livestock manure spills have been shown to result from events such as equipment failures, over-application of manure to agricultural fields, runoff from open feedlots, storage overflow, accidents with manure transporting equipment, and severe weather. Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, biologists and geologists, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health...
Are there Health Hazards from Contaminants Released to the Environment by Natural Disasters?Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, and geologists working together at field sites in Northeastern US after Hurricane Sandy have shown: Metal contaminants were released to the environment after Hurricane Sandy due to some dune restoration activities. In other locations the storm actually decreased contaminant exposures to bottom dwelling aquatic biota. Natural disasters like...
Are Naturally Occurring Algal Toxins in Water Resources a Health Hazard?A growing number of human gastrointestinal, respiratory, dermatologic, and neurologic effects, as well as dog and livestock illnesses and deaths, in the United States have been linked to exposures to algal blooms in recreational lakes and stock ponds. Some of the blooms contain cyanobacteria, which have the potential to produce cyanotoxins in freshwater systems. However, the connection between...
What is the Chemical and Microbial Content of Our Tap Waters?Safe Drinking Water Act compliance addresses the safety of public-supply water systems. The composition of public-supply drinking water is generally only tested at the treatment facility, and not at the tap in homes and businesses after traveling through the water distribution system. Only lead and copper are tested at a subset of residential and other taps.Testing of water in private wells is...
Are Tumors in Wild Fish Harvested in the Great Lakes Region Related to Contaminants in Water Resources?Our specialized teams of scientists are working in our laboratories and at field sites around the Great Lakes in collaboration with other federal and state resource agencies to document the prevalence of skin and liver tumors in fish. Tumor prevalence in white suckers (Catostomus commersonii), a fish harvested as a food source by local communities, is related to the degree of urbanization in the...
Are Spills Associated with Deep Well Injection of Wastewater from Oil and Gas Operations a Health Hazard?Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, biologists, and geologists worked together in the New River Gorge National River watershed to answer this question. Wastewater generated in association with oil and gas operations at this site is managed by injection in deep wells designed to safely dispose and contain contaminants in deep geologic formations. Contaminants associated with oil and...
Algal and Other Environmental Toxins — Lawrence, KansasAbout the Laboratory The Environmental Health Program collaborates with scientists at the Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory (OGRL) in Lawrence, Kansas, to develop and employ targeted and non-targeted analytical methods for identification and quantitation of known and understudied algal/cyanobacterial toxins. The laboratory contructed in 2019 is a 2,500 square foot modern laboratory facility...
Microbial Biogeochemistry — Menlo Park, CaliforniaAbout the ResearchThe Environmental Health Program collaborates with microbiologists at the Microbial Biogeochemistry Laboratory to develop and apply innovative methods to measure key microbial processes. These methods are used to better understand how major biogeochemical cycles (carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and iron) interact with and control the speciation and fate of metals like mercury and...
High-Content Screening Alternative Toxicity Testing— Columbia, MissouriAbout the ResearchThe Environmental Health Program works with toxicologists at the High-Content Screening Laboratory develop alternative toxicity testing to efficiently provide specific toxicity data to managers and regulators and prioritize compounds for further testing. Our high-content imaging capability provides a highly adaptable platform for early life stage fish toxicity testing at stages...
Geospatial Analyses and Applications — Salt Lake City, UtahAbout the ResearchThe Environmental Health Program collaborates with scientists within the Geospatial Analyses and Applications Team to develop and apply geospatial analytical methods to answer broad-scale questions about source-sink and cause-effect relationships between contaminants and vulnerable communities. Multivariate statistics are used to identify connections between landscape gradients...
In Vitro Bioaccessibility Extractions from Previously Collected Uranium Mineral Deposit Samples, 1971 and 1981, Southwestern U.SThis data set provides total element concentration and simulated lung and gastric fluid bioaccessibility from previously collected Uranium mineral deposit samples (1971 and 1981, Southwestern U.S.) exploring possible exposures to other hazardous trace metals. Elevated total as well as simulated gastric and lung fluid concentrations were observed for arsenic, cobalt, manganese, thallium, vanadium a