Government Affairs Program


JUNE 1996

Text of Report
List of Related Sources
Appendix I: Intersociety Workshop Attendee List


The integration of the National Biological Service (NBS) into the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) can enhance the scientific capabilities needed to provide critical information to better manage the nationÕs resources, solve environmental problems, and prote ct the populace from natural hazards. Representatives from a broad range of scientific and professional societies in the geosciences and biosciences believe that this agency consolidation presents the opportunity to build comprehensive, multidisciplinary teams that will continue to collect, integrate, and analyze information on the nation's natural resources, environment, and natural hazards. The expanded USGS mission requires a new vision for the agency that encompasses all of these areas and that maint ains the separation of science from regulatory authority.

The workshop participants identified five areas of opportunity for strengthening the USGS by taking advantage of the integration:

In order for the USGS to take advantage of these opportunities, the workshop participants make the following recommendations:


The American Geological Institute convened a workshop on February 22-23, 1996 in order to discuss the future mission of the USGS and the scientific opportunities presented by the USGS-NBS consolidation. The presidents or their designees from 17 scientifi c and professional societies (see Appendix I) representing a cross-section of the geosciences and biosciences came together for the workshop, which was held at the American Geophysical Union in Washington, DC. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, USG S Director Gordon Eaton, NBS Director Ronald Pulliam, and other agency officials briefed workshop participants prior to a series of breakout sessions designed to explore the scientific opportunities and challenges provided by the merger. This report is a n outgrowth of those discussions, presenting a vision for the consolidated agency, a list of opportunities, and recommendations for the USGS to take advantage of these opportunities.

The workshop participants recognize that the USGS must continue to bring multiple areas of expertise to bear on the resource management decisions of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and other customers throughout federal and state governments and the private sector. This need for scientific information has traditionally been supplied by the various DOI science bureaus, and the merged scientific capacity in the USGS must continue to meet those needs. The consolidation provides certain opportunities t o better meet these needs through partnerships and an enhanced scientific capability. The participants strongly support the separation of science and regulatory functions within DOI, considering it essential for broad acceptance of both the science and t he regulations. However, participants also believe that it is critical that sound science must underlie regulatory functions. There is also agreement that research by the combined agency must be relevant to societal needs and remain responsive to the nee ds of resource management at all levels. The organizational structure of the expanded agency must accommodate and encourage interdisciplinary collaboration. By the same token, it is critically important to maintain the unique disciplinary features of bo th agencies. In order to seize the opportunities facing the USGS, the agency must be adequately funded: the overall budget increase from the consolidation should not be accompanied by cuts in any of the divisions. Workshop participants stressed the impo rtance of expanding partnerships between the USGS and other federal agencies, tribal governments, state and local government, academia, and the private sector. Such partnerships are an excellent tool in their own right but are particularly important in t his time of fiscal constraints, allowing the agency to broaden its expertise and establish ties that may be beneficial in the future.


When the USGS was created in 1879, it was charged with "classification of the public lands and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain." Whereas these functions remain important to the agency, the U SGS has also taken on the tasks of mapping the nation, monitoring and assessing its water resources, and characterizing many of its natural hazards. In the past two years, the USGS has been in the process of defining its activities along four themes: haz ards, environment, resources, and information and data management. These themes are intended to cut across the Survey's three current divisions -- Geologic, Water Resources, and National Mapping -- and enhance interdisciplinary problem-solving.

Biological research in the Department of the Interior dates from 1885, and there is a long history of biological survey activity in the US government, including placement of survey branches within both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Fi sh and Wildlife Service (FWS) at various times, and ongoing survey functions within the Smithsonian Institution and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The National Biological Survey itself, however, was formed by Secretarial Order in 1993, consolidat ing the biological functions from five DOI agencies, primarily the FWS and the National Park Service. Despite a name change in 1994 from Survey to Service, the mission of the NBS remained to provide biological research to support sound management and con servation of the nation's biological resources. In 1995, Congress mandated the integration of the NBS into the USGS as part of the fiscal year 1996 budget process in order to consolidate scientific activities within DOI separate from regulatory authority . The integration will officially take place on October 1, 1996 at the start of fiscal year 1997.

The National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program in the Water Resources Division is an example of an existing USGS program that has already integrated biology into the USGS. This program assesses the status of and trends in the quality of the nation 's ground- and surface-water resources, studying individual hydrologic basins across the country. The Ecosystems program in the Geologic Division is another example of how interdisciplinary science from the two organizations could be brought together to enhance the science provided by the organization as a whole.

Existing programs that emphasize cooperative arrangements with outside organizations are the NBS Cooperative Research Units that are co-located at universities in 40 states, and the USGS Water Resources Research Institutes, co-located at universities in a ll 50 states. The National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program leverages federal money with state and university funding, and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program augments its internal program with grants to university researchers and invol ves four federal agencies. Another partnering relationship used by the NBS is its reliance on trained volunteers to collect scientific data, an example being breeding bird surveys.


The mission of the USGS has been greatly expanded since its original 1879 charge from Congress. The consolidation with NBS underlines the opportunity and need for the USGS not simply to update its mission but to define a vision that encompasses all of th e Survey's research themes and disciplinary components. The USGS must strive to supply the geological, hydrological, cartographic, and biological information necessary to manage and conserve the nation's natural resources for today and the future, contri buting to the health and safety of the nation's citizens and to the understanding and maintenance of the environment that sustains them. By maintaining the separation of science from regulatory authority, the USGS can continue to focus sound science on a broad range of societally relevant issues in resources, hazards, and the environment through surveys, monitoring, assessment, and research on both living resources and their physical and chemical framework. In order for the USGS to be effective, its vis ion must include a commitment to public information and outreach.


The workshop participants identified a number of opportunities that will result from the addition of a biological component to the USGS. In several cases, such as the NAWQA program, strong cooperative interactions have been in place for a number of years , but in other areas integration will take considerable effort and skill to make use of interdisciplinary opportunities.

1. Credibility and quality assurance: Both the USGS and the biological science functions of DOI have a long record of providing unbiased scientific information to the nation. The NAWQA and other USGS monitoring programs have benefited greatly f rom quality assurance standards for hydrological and biological data collection developed by the Water Resources Division. It is critical that the new biological component of the USGS coordinate its data standards and protocols for providing compatible d ata. Another very different aspect of quality control is external peer review of agency research. The NBS brings with it a highly credible external peer-review system that can serve as a model for all parts of the USGS. Integration of the existing stre ngths of both agencies through the utilization of extensive peer review by governmental, academic, and industry scientists will help to assure the credibility and quality control that is critical for the integrated USGS.

2. Integration of information across disciplines and cross-disciplinary training: The consolidation should provide a new level of administrative coordination to facilitate the integration, synthesis, and analysis of data from a broader range of d isciplines. It should provide a consistent, systematic database to be used in dealing with pressing national problems. Because most resource problems cross the boundaries of traditional disciplines, it is important to assemble teams of top-level scienti sts from a range of disciplines who can work together to investigate and understand these problems and develop scientifically sound options and solutions. Such teams are particularly well suited for research conducted in federal agencies. Fostering deve lopment of these teams should be a high priority, as should cross-disciplinary training to improve communication among the scientists. Enhanced communication across disciplines will also help to quickly identify gaps in knowledge, improving the Survey's ability to meet the challenge of providing rapid, timely information and analysis for resource management decisions.

3. Research agenda based on natural boundaries: Just as environmental problems are not confined to single scientific disciplines, neither are they confined by arbitrary geographic boundaries. Understanding the complexities of biodiversity, ecos ystem management, and water quality requires that research be conducted within natural rather than artificial (i.e. political) geographic boundaries. The agency must have the flexibility to address scientific questions related to land management at diffe rent scales with variable boundaries. The federal role of the USGS is one of its strengths; the agency can select appropriate natural boundaries even if they cross state lines or agency jurisdictions. For example, state lines are crossed in many basins studied as part of the NAWQA program. By adopting a broad perspective, the USGS can determine where additional new data are needed. A different class of natural boundaries are the interfaces between rock, water, soil, and vegetation. By linking to othe r programs such as the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the USGS can be in a position to undertake interdisciplinary research into all of these interfaces.

4. Enhanced development of data collection, analysis, and information technologies: Both the USGS and NBS have been responsible for developing vast quantities of spatially oriented data that need to be integrated, analyzed, synthesized, and ultim ately made available to a wide range of potential users through new information management technology. The consolidation provides the opportunity to link geological, hydrological, and biological databases within a single geographic framework and establis h effective data standards. Utilization of the National Mapping Division's expertise in geographic information system (GIS) technology presents a tremendous opportunity for the integration of these databases that could lead to cost reductions and also en hance data compatibility for regional assessments and assessment models. The NBS Gap Analysis Program is an excellent example of the opportunity for linkages. This program uses remote sensing to link the distribution of biodiversity and protected areas for use in management decisions. In this program and others, considerable collaboration between NBS and the USGS National Mapping Division already exists and can only be enhanced by the consolidation.

Bringing NBS into the USGS also presents an unparalleled opportunity to build the infrastructure necessary to produce a world-class system for organizing and disseminating credible, understandable information about the biological, geological, and hydrolog ical resources of the nation. The USGS will hold responsibility both for long-term management of critical databases and for continuing to build new information onto existing databases. Informed resource management demands the historical understanding th at can only come from information contained in actively growing, long-term databases.

5. Improved assessment of "hot spots": A key opportunity lies in having a solid data base to use in integrated problem solving for "hot spots", areas where environmental conflicts have come to the fore and are in immediate need of a major scienti fic effort to understand and resolve them. An example would be the current project to study the South Florida ecosystem in support of Everglades restoration. These "hot spot" studies can serve as laboratories for cooperation between earth and biological scientists as well as for enhancing partnerships between the USGS and other federal, state, and local entities. Involving state and local colleagues in these regional efforts allows the USGS to take advantage of local expertise and cost sharing. The "h ot spot" concept fits well with a commitment to strategic science through study of specific sites and problems that have regional or national applications. Ongoing projects that hold great promise for such interdisciplinary collaboration include: the Sa n Francisco Bay ecosystem, water quality and selenium contamination of the Great Valley of California, the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, the Pacific Northwest ecosystem, non-point-source pollution and water quality in the Midwest, and restoration of abandoned mine lands.

6. Anticipation of environmental problems: By taking a prospective view of the landscape and evaluating trends of land use, geological, hydrological, biological, and demographic change, the agency has the ability to identify where tomorrow's hots pots will be and use this information to defuse them before they heat up. The USGS holds vast amounts of environmental information that increasingly is being linked through technology and being augmented through partnerships, allowing for an integrated a pproach to environmental problem-solving. By working together to mesh scales in data collection to deal with a wide variety of problems, the USGS will be able to develop a long-term analysis of critical environmental issues in partnership with other feder al and state agencies. Stakeholders, resource managers, and outside scientists can play an important role in focusing the SurveyÕs attention on the most critical problems.


The following recommendations are intended to help the USGS take advantage of the opportunities presented by the consolidation and, in doing so, better accomplish its mission:

1. Develop interdisciplinary initiatives and budgets that will produce new approaches and solutions to problems: In order to make the most of this consolidation, problem-solving research should be conducted by multidisciplinary teams established to seek solutions for well-defined, specific problems. This practice mirrors the growing trend in the private sector of forming ad hoc, multidisciplinary teams to solve a problem, then dissolving the team and forming a new one to handle the next problem. The organizational structure must accommodate collaboration and partnerships initiated at any level in the agency, promote both horizontal and vertical integration, and develop budgeting mechanisms to facilitate interdisciplinary, project-based teamwork . In order to maintain professional development, scientists should remain in their own organizational units, but efforts must be made to encourage scientists from many disciplines to work together by developing reward structures that reflect the positive benefits of interdisciplinary teamwork.

Most environmental problems are intrinsically interdisciplinary, and the techniques and methodologies for addressing many of these problems have yet to be developed. Providing increased interactions among scientists can stimulate a creative synergy that should be recognized and fostered. In order to ensure that the final product is broadly useful, the teams should also involve the resource managers and other customers. The NAWQA program has been very successful in demonstrating the gains from integrati ng hydrological, geological, and biological data collection and analysis, and it is a model of how to form multidisciplinary teams. The program is moving beyond a watershed approach to include an ecosystem focus and has expanded to include coastal zones impacted by freshwater discharge and larger river systems.

2. Enhance scientific capacity through partnerships: Even with the addition of the NBS, the USGS still lacks the broad spectrum of expertise needed to fully characterize environmental problems. To do so requires an "earth systems" approach that i ncorporates knowledge of the lithosphere (solid earth), the hydrosphere, the biosphere, and the atmosphere. The most obvious missing components are the oceanic and atmospheric sciences for which NOAA is the primary agency. Because most environmental issu es, particularly "hot spots", involve human interactions, the social sciences are another broad area of research that is missing. Examples of more specific areas where a perceived weakness exists are soil science, botany, microbiology, invertebrate biolo gy, and systematics. It is important to note that no federal agency currently has a mandate for the systematic study of biological resources or for exploring their tremendous economic potential as genetic and biotechnology resources.

In order to be effective, the USGS must build upon existing partnerships and develop new ones with scientists, managers, and decisionmakers. With partnerships as with all of its activities, the USGS must define how it can work on national goals while sup porting research at a regional or local level. In the spirit of reinventing government, efforts should be made to remove many of the procedural obstacles that currently hamper partnership agreements. Workshop participants developed the following list of some of the more important existing and potential partners for the USGS. This list is in addition to the DOI agencies that remain its core partners:

Partnership arrangements can take a variety of forms, the most direct being staff exchanges to fill gaps in expertise. The prospect of flat or declining budgets leaves the USGS with only limited opportunities for augmenting staff. Some additional personnel could be secured through rotations within the federal government such as bringing in guest scientists from other federal agencies, using interagency personnel agreements to bring scientists from academia and the states, and dev eloping mechanisms to bring in scientists from the private sector.

Standing partnerships like the university-located NBS Cooperative Research Units offer unique opportunities for the agency to increase research collaborations with academia as do collaborative partnerships in geologic mapping and earthquake hazards. Univ ersities and museums represent an effective work force which can provide quality-controlled, peer-reviewed research. Collaborations provide access to faculty expertise and university facilities. Utilization of academic institutions has the important ben efit of education and training for the next generation of scientists, providing them with the opportunity to apply their developing skills toward real-world problems.

3. Develop regional and national stakeholders councils: In order to facilitate partnerships and communication, stakeholders councils should be formed to review the progress of USGS programs on an annual basis and consider future directions, foste ring up-front "buy in" by stakeholders on Survey initiatives. Such councils are an excellent mechanism to provide research priorities based on what the end-user customers need. A program-scale example is the recently appointed National Cooperative Geolog ic Mapping Program Advisory Committee, which will improve input from the various communities involved in geologic mapping activities as users and producers, including the federal, state, academic, and private sectors. The need for stakeholder input is ev en greater at the regional level. The USGS has enhanced the effectiveness of several "hot spot" projects through the use of regional stakeholder councils, and this practice should be fostered and expanded. These councils provide much-needed input from o utside interests, including state and local government, Native American tribes, academia, public interest groups, industry, and other concerned parties. The "buy-in" from increased stakeholder involvement will result in much-needed political support for agency programs, a consideration that cannot be overemphasized in these tight fiscal times.


The Department of the Interior is charged with providing scientific information essential for the appropriate management and preservation of the nation's public lands and natural resources for present and future use. The consolidation of the NBS into the USGS, coupled with the elimination of the U.S. Bureau of Mines, leaves the USGS as the sole agency whose mission is to carry out scientific investigations in support of the DOI mission. Establishing this single DOI science agency brings the great majorit y of the Department's biologists into the same organization as its geologists, hydrologists, cartographers, and other scientists. Better coordination among these disciplines and continued sufficient federal funding will lead to improved evaluation and br oad-based solutions to complex environmental, resource, and natural hazards problems, better serving customers in government and the private-sector who need reliable information. The consolidation retains the separation of science from regulatory authori ty that is crucial to assure the credibility of scientific conclusions needed by decision-makers and the public. The separation must be combined with mechanisms to maintain close linkages with the needs of DOI and other federal, state, tribal, and local resource managers. An emphasis on partnerships will allow the future USGS to take advantage of new opportunities for interdisciplinary initiatives and still maintain strong support for the unique activities and responsibilities of the current USGS and NB S.

This report is by its nature a general document, but the vision, opportunities, and recommendations discussed here can serve as guideposts to assist the USGS in implementing the specifics of the consolidation. This report should also act as the catalyst for additional and continuing input from the various scientific constituencies of the consolidated agency. Scientific societies are eager to work with the USGS and Congress to develop an effective agency that fulfills its mission and goals. The workshop clearly demonstrated to its participants the benefits of bringing together different disciplines to address common problems.



Hirsch, R. M., W. M. Alley, and W. G. Wilber. 1988. Concepts for a National Water-Quality Assessment Program. U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1112 (Denver, CO, Government Printing Office)

 Kim, Ke Chung and Lloyd Knutson, editors. 1986. Foundations for a National Biological Survey (Lawrence, KS, Association of Systematics Collections)

 National Research Council. 1993. A Biological Survey for the Nation (Washington, DC, National Academy Press)

 U.S. Geological Survey. 1995. Yearbook for Fiscal Year 1994 (Washington, DC, Government Printing Office)

Environment and Natural Resource Research Issues

Ad hoc Committee on Ecosystem Management. 1995. The Scientific Basis for Ecosystem Management (Washington, DC, The Ecological Society of America)

 Barnett, Ernie, Jim Lewis, and David Trimble, editors. 1995. Ecosystem Management Implementation Strategy (Tallahassee, FL, Florida Department of Environmental Protection)

 Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government. 1992. Environmental Research and Development: Strengthening the Federal Infrastructure (Washington, DC)

 Committee for the National Institute for the Environment. 1993. A Proposal for a National Institute for the Environment: Need, Rationale, and Structure (Washington, DC)

 Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives. 1994. Federal Environmental Research: Promises and Problems. Hearing 103-126 (Washington, DC, Government Printing Office)

 Naiman, Robert J. et al., editors. 1995. The Freshwater Imperative: A Research Agenda (Washington, DC, Island Press)

 National Commission on the Environment. 1993. Choosing a Sustainable Future (Washington, DC)

 National Research Council. 1991. Opportunities in the Hydrologic Sciences (Washington, DC, National Academy Press)

 National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment (Washington, DC, National Academy Press)

 National Research Council. 1993. Solid Earth Sciences and Society (Washington, DC, National Academy Press)

 National Research Council. 1994. Promoting the National Spatial Data Infrastructure Through Partnerships (Washington, DC, National Academy Press)

National Research Council. 1995. Mineral Resources and Sustainability: Challenges for Earth Scientists (Washington, DC, National Academy Press)

 National Science and Technology Council. 1995. Preparing for the Future Through Science and Technology: An Agenda for Environmental and Natural Resource Research (Washington, DC, Government Printing Office)

 Office of Technology Assessment. 1993. Preparing for an Uncertain Climate (Washington, DC, Government Printing Office)

 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1992. Safeguarding the Future: Credible Science, Credible Decisions (Washington, DC, Government Printing Office)

Natural Hazards Research Issues

National Science and Technology Council. 1996. Strategy for National Earthquake Loss Reduction (Washington, DC, Government Printing Office)

 National Science Foundation Active Tectonics Planning Committee. 1996. Active Tectonics and Society: A Plan for Integrative Science

Office of Technology Assessment. 1995. Reducing Earthquake Losses (Washington, DC, Government Printing Office)

 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 1995. The Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (Woods Hole, MA)


Robert D. Hatcher Jr.*, Workshop Chair
President, American Geological Institute
University of Tennessee
Knoxville TN

James L. Baer*, President
AAPG Div. of Environmental Geoscience
Brigham Young University
Provo UT

Mary Barber*, Executive Director
Sustainable Biosphere Initiative
Ecological Society of America
Washington DC

Eugene Bierly*, Director of Educ. & Research
American Geophysical Union
Washington DC

David Blockstein*
The Ornithological Council
Committee for the NIE
Washington DC

Emery Cleaves*
Natl. Water Quality Monitoring Council
Maryland Geological Survey
Baltimore MD

Alan Covich*, President
North American Benthological Society
Colorado State University
Fort Collins CO

Thomas Franklin, Wildlife Policy Director
The Wildlife Society
Bethesda MD

William French, Executive Director
Amer. Soc. for Photogramm. & Remote Sensing
Bethesda MD

Sarah Gerould*, Board Member
Society of Envir. Toxicology & Chemistry
U.S. Geological Survey
Reston VA

Murray Hitzman, AAAS/Sloan Fellow
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Washington DC

Elaine Hoagland*, Executive Director
Association of Systematics Collections
Washington DC

L. Douglas James*, Past President
American Institute of Hydrology
(also Int'l. Assn. of Hydrogeologists)
National Science Foundation
Arlington VA

Brian Keller*, Executive Director
Ecological Society of America
Washington DC

Kei Koizumi
Amer. Assoc. for the Advancement of Science
Washington DC

Joseph Kuchler, Director of Government Affairs
American Congress on Surveying and Mapping
Bethesda MD

Diane McKnight*, President-Elect
Amer. Society of Limnology and Oceanography
U.S. Geological Survey
Boulder CO

Keith Menchey, AESOP
(for Soil Science Society of America)
Washington DC

Robert Merrill*, President
American Institute of Professional Geologists
Sugar Land TX

Dennis Murphy*, President
Society for Conservation Biology
Stanford University
Stanford CA

Amy Rossman*, Board Member
American Institute of Biological Sciences
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Beltsville MD

Daniel Sarewitz*, Program Manager
Institute for Environmental Education
Geological Society of America
Boulder CO

Craig Schiffries, Director
Board on Earth Sciences and Resources
National Research Council
Washington DC

Walter Schmidt*, President
Association of American State Geologists
Florida Geological Survey
Tallahassee FL

Sean Solomon, President-Elect
American Geophysical Union
Carnegie Institution of Washington
Washington DC

George Thompson*, Vice-President
Geological Society of America
Stanford University
Stanford CA

Thomas Usselman, Associate Director
Board on Earth Sciences and Resources
National Research Council
Washington DC
*Participant in break-out sessions.

AGI Staff
David Applegate, Director of Govt. Affairs
Maeve Boland, Educ. & Human Resources
John Dragonetti, Senior Advisor

Representatives from the Department of the Interior

The Honorable Bruce Babbitt
Secretary of the Interior
Washington, DC

Mark Schaefer
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water & Science
Washington, DC

 U.S. Geological Survey

Gordon P. Eaton, Director
Reston, Virginia

Gary Hill, Chief
Programming, Planning, & Coordination
Reston, Virginia

Robert Hirsch, Chief Hydrologist
Water Resources Division
Reston, Virginia

P. Patrick Leahy, Chief Geologist
Geologic Division
Reston, Virginia

Richard Witmer, Acting Chief
National Mapping Division
Reston, Virginia

National Biological Service

H. Ronald Pulliam, Director
Washington, DC

Barry Gold, Chief
Scientific Planning and Coordination
Washington, DC

Doyle Frederick, Assistant Director
Office of Inventory and Monitoring
Washington, DC

Anne Frondorf, Coordinator
Natl. Biological Info. Infrastructure
Washington, DC

James Reichman, Assistant Director
Office of Research
Washington, DC

For additional copies of this report or further information, please contact:

David Applegate, Director of Government Affairs
American Geological Institute
4220 King Street
Alexandria VA 22302-1502
(703) 379-2480 Voice
(703) 379-7563 Fax

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Last updated June 14, 1996 (Technical corrections: September 27, 1998 and January 30, 2001)

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