Geographic Ontologies: USGS celebrates 125 years from a 21st Century perspective

Alicia Torregrosa, Peter Ng, and Mark Hessenflow
U.S. Geological Survey
Western Geographic Science Center
Menlo Park, CA


The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has integrated knowledge and developed workable geographic ontologies since the first teams of scientists ventured into the unknown West to survey, map, and report back to the Congress what lay beyond. As the needs of the Nation changed, the USGS responded. Our mission today is to serve the Nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life. The four USGS disciplines--Geology, Water Resources, Biology, and Geography--accomplish this mission with strategic support from the Geographic Information Office (GIO). The organizational culture of scientific excellence and public service translates into the delivery of real-time and near real-time data from stream-gages, earthquake recording seismographs, and remote sensing platforms that measure fire, flood, and landcover change. As the need for these data grows, the USGS is partnering with public and private organizations to develop and deploy applications that help decision-makers incorporate good science into the policy debates that shape our Nation's choices. The USGS can inform, enrich, and through collaboration support the Knowledge Integrating Virtual Iron Bird through current efforts that include The National Map, National Spatial Data Infrastructure, USGS Publication Warehouse, Death Valley Regional Groundwater Flow System, National Earthquake Information Center, Tahoe Decision Support System, and the Intelligent Information Dissemination System for Sage Grouse Conservation.