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A Research Agenda for Geographic Information Science at the United States Geological Survey
The USGS’s science strategy outlines an inspirational science agenda for the agency. Every one of the six interdisciplinary “science directions”1 discussed in the report has a profound reliance on geospatial databases and methodologies. This broad and deep reliance on geospatial content and solutions points to a rich opportunity for CEGIS to contribute to the other USGS disciplines, especially through an improved National Map. Examples are cited in the following paragraphs.
For the ecosystem direction, the report states that “USGS and partners will develop new products, including standardized national maps of ecosystems in the United States and regularly updated status and trends assessments” The human health direction underscores its dependence on geospatial technology with the statement that “USGS capabilities in environmental monitoring and mapping are important components for understanding environmental relations to human health and evaluating probable outcomes of future human health risk factors.” However this initiative goes further in defining a strategic action for geospatial technology to “develop an online atlas of potential environmental health threats … [and] develop and implement a national-scale, real-time, environmental health threat warning system that combines biological, water-quality, and geologic information with GIS [geographic information system] decision-support tools.” Indications that there is more work to be done in GIScience also appear in relation to the water census direction: “The Water Census will also require improvements in the mapping and characterization of the geologic and geomorphic framework of the Nation’s principle aquifers and watershed systems.”
These objectives will necessitate enhancements to current databases, platforms, and tools—in particular, advances in scale handling, temporal analysis, real-time access to data, standards, and multidisciplinary analysis. Requirements for the first three are captured in the vision of the ecosystem direction that “comprehensive, multi-scaled, online digital maps of the Nation’s ecosystems and their physical and biological components are routinely used for management, education, and portrayal of change over time. Real-time ecological data, images, maps, and research findings are available to the public on interactive USGS websites.”
The ecosystem direction aims to “coordinate, develop, and regularly update a standardized national map of ecosystems and their physical and biological components, at scales appropriate to land-manager needs, to facilitate the ability to assess, monitor, manage, and restore ecosystems.” This range of scales is unique to USGS: “The position of USGS as a non-regulatory agency, with capabilities in environmental
Water census, human health, hazards, ecosystems, climate, and energy.