Resource Library


United States Geological Survey

United States Geological Survey

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is a government–run agency that provides decision makers with reliable scientific data about Earth systems, natural disasters, and natural resources.


5 - 8


Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Geography, Human Geography, Physical Geography


USGS Surveyor

Scientist Doug Caprette ventures out in the rain to remove a GPS sensor from its spot on a USGS benchmark in the woods of McCarthy, Alaska, where it had been gathering data for a study on regional deformation caused by tectonic movements.

Photograph by George F. Mobley

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is an agency of the United States Department of the Interior. It is a scientific agency that researches Earth systems. Its mission is to make scientific data available to help people understand Earth, prepare for natural disasters, and manage the nation’s natural resources. The agency also provides data to lawmakers and community leaders to assist in decision-making.

The USGS was established in 1879. Originally its mission was to study the nation’s land, including natural resources and geological structures. This research was to be used to classify public lands and make decisions about land use. Since its formation, the USGS has evolved to meet the changing needs of the nation. Over time, its activities have ranged from surveying oil and natural gas resources to mapping the landscape to assisting in conservation efforts.

Today the USGS is involved in a variety of areas of scientific research. These “Mission Areas” include Core Science Systems, Ecosystems, Energy and Minerals, Land Resources, Water Resources, Environmental Health, and Natural Hazards. Another Mission Area, Core Science Systems, is tasked with “characterizing and understanding complex Earth and biological systems through research, modeling, mapping, and the production of high-quality data.”

Through its Natural Hazards Mission Area, the USGS plays an important role in protecting people and property. It monitors natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes. The data collected by the agency help communities predict and prepare for natural disasters.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about licensing content on this page, please contact for more information and to obtain a license. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. She or he will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to him or her, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.


If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.


Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.


Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources