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GMEG - Geology, Minerals, Energy, & Geophysics Science Center

About us
A faulted alluvium deposit A geologic map Rare Earth Element oxidesA geothermal energy plant A geophysical map

Scientists with the GMEG Science Center work on issues related to geologic processes and mineral and energy resource potential, primarily in the western United States. The science staff includes geologists, geophysicists, geochemists, biologists, GIS and remote sensing specialists who are located in offices in several states. Learn more about our scientific capabilities.

Select a topic below for project and publications information



View Selected Geology Publications

A faulted alluvium deposit A geologic map 3D cross-section of faults


View Selected Minerals Publications

Collecting samples for analysis Rare Earth Element oxides Sampling caliche material


More projects and publications from the Energy Resources program

Circum-arctic Resource Appraisal A geothermal power plant Image of transmission lines


View Selected geophysics publications

A geophysical map Collecting data on the ground Aeromagnetic survey
Contact us
Science Center Director: Colin Williams Office (650) 329-4881 - Cell (650) 888-3755
Deputy Director: Tom Frost (509) 368-3103
Administrative Officer: Kimberly Jenkins (509) 368-3104
Outreach Coordinator: Dave Frank (509) 368-3107  

GMEG Science Center staff directory

Answers for general science questions can be found at or by calling 1-888-ASK-USGS.

Additional contact information can be retrieved from the USGS Electronic Directory.

News & PubsNews & Publications

Fact Sheet 2014-3078

The Rare-Earth Elements—Vital to Modern Technologies and Lifestyles

Until recently, the rare-earth elements (REEs) were familiar to a relatively small number of people, such as chemists, geologists, specialized materials scientists, and engineers. In the 21st century, the REEs have gained visibility through many media outlets because of (1) the public has recognized the critical, specialized properties that REEs contribute to modern technology, as well as (2) China's dominance in production and supply of the REEs and (3) international dependence on China for the majority of the world's REE supply.

Since the late 1990s, China has provided 85–95 percent of the world’s REEs. In 2010, China announced their intention to reduce REE exports. During this timeframe, REE use increased substantially. REEs are used as components in high technology devices, including smart phones, digital cameras, computer hard disks, fluorescent and light-emitting-diode (LED) lights, flat screen televisions, computer monitors, and electronic displays. Large quantities of some REEs are used in clean energy and defense technologies. Because of the many important uses of REEs, nations dependent on new technologies, such as Japan, the United States, and members of the European Union, reacted with great concern to China’s intent to reduce its REE exports. Consequently, exploration activities intent on discovering economic deposits of REEs and bringing them into production have increased.

Cover of and link to SIR 2014-5126

High-Resolution Topography and Geomorphology of Select Archeological Sites in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona

Along the Colorado River corridor between Glen Canyon Dam and Lees Ferry, Arizona, located some 25 km downstream from the dam, archaeological sites dating from 8,000 years before present through the modern era are located within and on top of fluvial and alluvial terraces of the prehistorically undammed river. These terraces are known to have undergone significant erosion and retreat since emplacement of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. Land managers and policy makers associated with managing the flow of the Colorado River are interested in understanding how the operations of Glen Canyon Dam have affected the archeological sites associated with these terraces and how dam-controlled flows currently interact with other landscape-shaping processes. In 2012, the U.S. Geological Survey initiated a research project in Glen Canyon to study the types and causes of erosion of the terraces. This report provides the first step towards this understanding by presenting comparative analyses on several types of high-resolution topographic data (airborne lidar, terrestrial lidar, and airborne photogrammetry) that can be used in the future to document and analyze changes to terrace-based archaeological sites.

Graph showing the amounts of PGE and minor gold in three major areas compared with the rest of the world. (High resolution image 1.2 MB)

Global Platinum-Group Resources Estimated at More than 150K Metric Tons

The first-ever inventory and geological assessment of known and undiscovered platinum-group element (PGE) resources estimates that more than 150,000 metric tons of PGEs may exist in the two southern African countries that produce most of the global supply of these critical elements. The USGS study identifies 78K metric tons of known PGE resources in South Africa and Zimbabwe and estimates 75K metric tons in PGE resources that may be present, but are undiscovered. This is more than 20 times the total tonnage produced since the 1920s when PGE mining began in these countries. The U.S. is 90 percent reliant on imports of PGEs which are essential for cleaning automobile exhaust, for manufacturing glass, fertilizer, high-octane fuel, and a variety of chemicals, including cancer fighting drugs. They are widely used in jewelry and electronics such as hard drives, circuitry, and cell phones. PGEs could play a crucial role in fuel cell technology to produce clean energy for cars, homes, and businesses.

Global copper consumption

Global Undiscovered Copper Resources Estimated at 3.5 Billion Metric Tons

The first-ever, geologically-based global assessment of undiscovered copper resources estimates that 3.5 billion metric tons of copper may exist worldwide. The U.S. Geological Survey outlined 225 areas for undiscovered copper in 11 regions of the world.  The amount of undiscovered global copper estimated by the USGS would be enough to satisfy current world demand for more than 150 years. According to the assessment, South America is the dominant source for both identified and undiscovered copper resources.  Particularly important, several regions of Asia including China have a large potential for undiscovered copper resources.

U.S. Geological Survey researcher Noah Athens secures a magnetometer pack onto Stanford graduate student Melissa Pandika, who blogged the team’s first year’s research for USGS in Surprise Valley, Modoc County, Calif., in 2012.

Self-Flying Planes Aid Geothermal, Seismic Exploration

Characterizing complex seismic and geothermal systems and understanding the relationships between them is challenging, largely because it can be difficult to see them. Not only are they in remote areas, but many are also deep underground, showing no surface trace except for an occasional hot spring. USGS geophysicist Jonathan Glen, in cooperation with scientists and engineers from NASA, Carnegie-Mellon University and Central Washington University, is working to address these challenges. They are using an experimental system called payload-directed flight (PDF) to study and map the underground fracture and fault systems of Surprise Valley, Calif., a promising target for geothermal exploration and development in the far northeast corner of the state. They hope to complete their two-year study not only with comprehensive geophysical data from Surprise Valley itself, but an efficient research strategy for exploring geothermal systems in comparable terrain throughout the world.

Schematic of the Colorado River aquifer

GMEG geologist Kyle House recognized by the Geological Society of America

In a recent GSA announcement the paper “Stratigraphic evidence for the role of lake spillover in the inception of the lower Colorado River in southern Nevada and western Arizona,” by P. Kyle House with Phil A. Pearthree and Michael E. Perkins, is the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Kirk Bryan Award for Research Excellence. The paper describes geologic evidence supporting a model of lake-spillover as a primary mechanism in the origin of the course of the lower Colorado River downstream of Grand Canyon. The results of the research provide a parsimonious solution for part of a problem that has been vexing geologists for more than a century...the age of Grand Canyon. By unraveling key details in the stratigraphic record of the river’s first arrival downstream from the canyon, House and his co-authors have provided new and strong support for previous arguments for a 5 to 6 Million year age of the modern course of the lower Colorado River and have presented evidence for a downstream river integration process involving a stair-stepping series of filling and spilling lakes. This new evidence for the nature of the river’s origin downstream from Grand Canyon has revitalized interest in developing a more complete understanding of the complete geologic history of the lower Colorado River, and its linkage to climatic and geologic change, and has led to a new regional geologic mapping project being led by House that will focus the river.

Map of the Inner and Outer Melanesian Arcs, Papua New Guinea.

Porphyry Copper Assessment of Southeast Asia and Melanesia

The U.S. Geological Survey collaborated with member countries of the Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia (CCOP) on an assessment of the porphyry copper resources of Southeast Asia and Melanesia as part of a global mineral resource assessment. The region hosts world-class porphyry copper deposits and underexplored areas that are likely to contain undiscovered deposits. Examples of known porphyry copper deposits include Batu Hijau and Grasberg in Indonesia; Panguna, Frieda River, and Ok Tedi in Papua New Guinea; and Namosi in Fiji. View all products from the Global Mineral Resource Assessment project.

Composite satellite image of integrated water vapor (IWV) from Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) depicting substantial plume capable of generating heavy rainfall and regional flooding

BIGFOOT: BIG-storm FOOTprint on California and future hazards

Through a series of geomorphic process maps highlighting landscape responses to such big storms, GMEG scientists aim to tie the spatial patterns of geology and tectonics, landsliding and erosion, fluvial and alluvial responses, and onshore/offshore records of sedimentation.




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