Geology Program (CMGP). In response to this request, the NRC formed the Committee to Review the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program. The committee was asked to review the history and status of the CMGP, particularly its most recent national plan and recent workshop reports in the context of the USGS and the new Geologic Division's science strategy, and provide advice on:

  • the general areas of future program emphasis (e.g., research, national assessments, monitoring, characterization) and cooperation with local, state, and national decisionmakers and with government and academic scientists;

  • the specific scientific and technical challenges (including components from the national plan such as coastal erosion, earthquake hazards, pollution studies, biologic habitats, distribution and significance of gas hydrates), as well as the challenge to maintain a strong and dedicated research staff;

  • balancing between issue-driven and knowledge-driven research and balancing between regional and national efforts;

  • the ideal mix of science staff as to discipline and status (permanent versus term) to meet needs and ensure long-term health of the Coastal and Marine Geology Program; and

  • the ideal ratio of core-funded research versus reimbursable research paid by clients.

This report, the outcome of the committee's review, attempts both to provide an understanding of the importance of the geologic sciences in understanding the coastal and marine areas of the United States and to provide advice to the USGS about how to better focus its efforts in this regard.


The coastal and marine areas of the United States not only include the landward portion of the region popularly thought of as the coast but state waters (which commonly extend offshore 3 nautical miles) and what is referred to as the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The EEZ, which extends seaward 200 nautical miles from the coastline, covers an area of 3 million square nautical miles (an area 30 percent larger than the land area of the entire United States). These coastal and marine regions owe much of their unique character to the geologic processes that formed the continent of North America and various islands of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

These geologic processes, in concert with atmospheric and oceanic processes, control the elevation of coastal areas, the bathymetry of the coastal seas and oceans, and the location of many of the commonly recognized features of these unique areas. These same processes, which moderate and interact with ecosystems, control the distribution of mineral and water resources, the patterns of shoreline change, the extent and nature of wildlife habitat, and the living

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement