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National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program


2005-2011 Program Plan

National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program Plan 2005-2011 (PDF, 738 KB)

The NCGMP provides accurate geologic maps and three-dimensional framework models that help to sustain and improve the quality of life and economic vitality of the Nation and to mitigate natural hazards. Activities associated with the development of these maps and models are guided by a 5-year Program Plan.

I. Executive Summary

In the next five years, the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP) anticipates several significant advances in delivery of our flagship products—geologic maps and reports on Earth history and processes. In this plan we often use the term "geologic map" in an expansive and inclusive manner. Not only do we use the term to mean the traditional paper geologic map that contains text describing the depositional and tectonic history of a particular area, cross sections portraying rocks below the surface of the Earth, correlation charts based on profound amounts of paleontologic and isotopic dating, but we also are talking about new digital products that are databases created with powerful software such as EarthVision. This is an exciting time to be a geologic mapper. Not only does one still have the opportunity to collect information by hiking over beautiful mountains and deserts, but we now are able to combine our data with a broad array of other geologic information, and present that integrated information using powerful visualization techniques that allow anyone to see the "secrets" that only well-trained geologists could understand in the past.

Since passage of the National Geologic Mapping Act (NGMA) in 1992, a durable partnership has been forged between the USGS and the Association of American State Geologists. This partnership has proudly promoted the education component of the program (EDMAP) that to date has trained and mentored more than 600 students at more than 130 universities across the Nation. The program has been tracking these students for several years, and has learned that they are a highly motivated group that continues their geoscience education at a greater rate than average, and to positions where their mapping skills are used and valued. During the past few years, the program has tried to diversify the applicant pool by visiting a number of historically black and tribal universities. During the next five years, we plan to increase this activity and will solicit help from organizations such as the Geological Society of America, the American Geological Institute, and the American Institute of Professional Geologists.

During the past 5 years NCGMP has worked hard to encourage cooperative mapping projects between USGS staff and staff at state geological surveys. We have discovered many instances where the federal and state priorities for geologic mapping have significant overlap, and that leveraging funds and expertise can accomplish the task more efficiently. We have also learned that these cooperative projects offer a rich mentoring environment for university students receiving training through the EDMAP component of the program. The program anticipates that during the next five years the need for sharing expertise and staff will grow, and the opportunities for joint cooperative mapping projects will increase.

NCGMP funding for ground-water related research increased steadily over the past five years in response to national needs recognized in the program’s previous 5-year plan. As with all geologic maps, and most NCGMP research, products originally proposed for one primary purpose, has been used to achieve a range of other outcomes. For instance, many 3-D geologic framework studies in the greater San Francisco, California, region were originally done in close cooperation with a number of county and community water commissions. While a major purpose of this work was intended to provide information on the architecture and extent of ground water aquifers, this information is critically needed to understand the tectonic setting of the San Andreas Fault zone. In 2006, on the 100th anniversary of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake, geologic maps and 3-D geologic frameworks were used to educate the public about future earthquake risk in this part of California. A simulation of the 1906 earthquake was performed by pumping velocity waves through a 3-D framework, and with iterative refinements was able to replicate the historic earthquake with remarkable accuracy. Seismologists learned much new about a number of faults in the San Andreas system, and were able to convey this information to the public over the Internet. NCGMP will promote this sort of public education using geologic map databases during the next five years, and will be uniquely positioned to provide framework needed in many new geologic hazard projects (earthquake, landslide, and others). While this will not require the program to shift significant funds from water-related research to hazard-related research, it may require that our 3-D frameworks are created in a manner to make them useful to a wider variety of modelers. In some cases this may mean incorporating more information into the frameworks about the geologic and engineering properties of earth materials.

The NCGMP will continue to be an active participant in the formation of the standards, goals, and implementation plan for the new National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program (NGGDPP) within the USGS Geologic Discipline. Within the context of data preservation, the NCGMP will create a USGS National Paleontological Preservation Database. By the end of 2010, all USGS paleontologic databases will be served through a common portal. NCGMP will also explore how best to play a role in the worldwide geologic mapping data integration effort known as OneGeology, working with over 50 other national geological surveys.

Since NCGMP was created by the National Geologic Mapping Act in 1992, publication of geologic maps by the USGS and the 50 state geological surveys has been something of a cottage industry--independent and diverse. In a time of rapid transformation of publication methods, and the proliferation of software packages, this has been a good thing. All 51 surveys have learned a great deal from one another, and consequently all our map publications have improved. Indeed, over the last eight years, many of our technical specialists have met annually to discuss how to improve map standards, formats, and common science language at Digital Mapping Techniques conferences organized jointly by USGS and AASG. The time has come for our surveys to begin coalescing around a few formats, to promulgate common standards used by all, and to make all maps available digitally through a single distributed database (i.e., the National Geologic Map Database). The recent review of NCGMP by AAAS made these recommendations, and over the next 5 years we hope to implement them all. While we are pursuing these goals nationally, we must work more closely with the international community as well. NCGMP plans a follow-up independent external review of NCGMP in 2011 to determine our success in implementing the goals outlined in this plan.

During the past 5 years NCGMP made remarkable strides in defining the geologic frameworks for a number of major aquifers. This work was done iteratively with ground water modelers and published in formats using powerful visualization software. Each time significant improvements are made to the geologic framework or groundwater model, an updated version can be released on CD. We anticipate that this method of publication will become more commonly adopted by our scientists in the coming five years. It has also become apparent that the same method can be employed to better understand the neotectonics of a region, such as southern California or the Puget Lowlands, and help assess the true natural hazard of an area. The ability to incorporate geophysical information into these 3-D models NCGMP has put powerful new analytical tools at our disposal. We will expand hazard assessments in the coming five years, while we try to maintain the current level of emphasis in ground water assessments.

Building upon the evaluation processes initiated during participation in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Program Assessment and Rating Tool (PART) process in 2005, the NCGMP will obtain regular, independent reviews of various aspects of the program. A 2007 review will focus on (1) how the program can increase integration and distribution of geologic information to facilitate analysis and decision-making and (2) the effectiveness of the National Geologic Mapping Database (NGMDB). It will be important to determine (1) the types of geologic map derivative products that land managers need and the best way to provide this information, and (2) the most effective way for the NGMDB to provide geologic information in a constantly expanding and interactive digital environment.

Priorities and metrics can only be met with the cooperation of NCGMP partners in the State geological surveys and universities. From 1993 to 2006, more than $60 million has been matched by the States to complete geologic maps, and over 600 students have been trained in geologic mapping.

National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program Plan 2005-2011


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