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USGS Science in the American Territories

May 17, 2023
Map of Pacific Ocean with outlines of continents, United States, Alaska, and U.S. Pacific islands labeled, and EEZ outlined.
Dark blue areas on this map outline the Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States and affiliated islands, including the five permanently inhabited territories.

The United States is more than just the fifty states and the District of Columbia. Five permanently inhabited territories in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea are overseen by the U.S. and are home to more than 4 million people, many of whom are American citizens.

The island territories of American Sāmoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are rich with cultural and ecological resources, all of which fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior (DOI). As DOI’s science research bureau, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducts science to help environmental managers and policy makers address the myriad threats affecting America’s territories. 

With volcanic islands and tropical rainforests to breathtaking ocean views and coral reefs, these territories are postcard-worthy locales. However, due to their small area, immense amount of coastline, and often remote locations, these island territories are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, coastal hazards, invasive species, and other natural resource concerns.

Explore the Geonarrative!

Image shows sun setting on a tropical island near shore