The broad objective of this project is to maintain and enhance the National Geochemical
Database (NGDB). The NGDB consists of 1) the original RASS and PLUTO data from the
USGS labs, which are now stored in a common format under the ORACLE relational database
management system; 2) the NURE data, which have been reformatted and reside currently on the
following web site: http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1997/ofr-97-0492/ where downloads may be made on
the basis of 1:250,000-scale quadrangles; and 3) the newly generated data (approximately 1996þ
present) which reside on the Laboratory Information Management System. The enhancements to
the NGDB will enable both USGS scientists and external customers to more easily extract
immediately useable data on a national, regional, and local scale to help establish a baseline for
the abundance and spatial distribution of chemical elements in the Earth's surficial materials.
Specific short-term objective include:
Linking the newly developed ORACLE-based database to the Laboratory Information
Management System (LIMS) to provide for the smooth transfer of newly generated data from the
LIMS to the NGDB.
Implement the new Sample Submittal Information procedure on a nationwide basis
throughout the USGS. This procedure has only been implemented at this time (June 2002) in the
Central Region. Without this new system in place, it is possible that more errors and omissions
regarding the nature and location of samples may be generated.
Complete the re-formatting of the NURE HSSR database based on 1:250,000-scale
quadrangles, compile the quadrangle-based data into one large data set, and provide these data to
the public via a web site and CD/DVD.
Complete the upgrading of archival USGS geochemical data for Alaska and release these to
the public via a web site and CD/DVD.
Initiate the upgrading of the remainder (non-Alaska) portion of the USGS-generated data.
Generate subsets of the master databases containing data in a format more useful to geochemists so
they do not have to wade through the process of extracting the data they need from the entire database.
Communicate and coordinate the work within this Project with other data delivery efforts
within the Bureau such as NatWeb, GEODE, and Spatial Data Delivery.
Produce map representations of the database showing the spatial variation of chemical
species throughout the nation and within sub-regions that are of priority to the USGS.
Relevance and Impact
An accurate, easily accessible geochemical database containing multi-element information
on the surficial materials of the nation is vital if the USGS is to respond quickly to earth science
issues raised by Congress and land management and environmental protection agencies. A
nationally consistent geochemical database provides baseline information on the natural
abundance and spatial variation of chemical elements to which changes caused by agricultural
and irrigation practices, waste disposal, urbanization, industrial pollution, mineral exploration
and mining activities, environmental induced and restoration activities, and other land-use
practices can be compared. Human-induced chemical changes to the environment are
superimposed on a variable natural geochemical background where trace-element abundances
can range over several orders of magnitude within short distances. These variations are
inadequately documented and their existence is often overlooked in the setting of public policy.
Important aspects of change cannot be measured, or their consequences anticipated, unless the
present composition of the earth's surface materials is known. In her 2000 Presidential address to
the Geological Society of America, Mary Lou Zoback identified six "grand challenges in earth
and environmental science". The first of these was "recognizing the signal within the natural
variability". Zoback stated that "documenting and understanding natural variability is a vexing
topic in almost every environmental problem. How do we recognize and understand changes in
natural systems if we don't understand the range of baseline values?" Preserving and enhancing
the vast amount of geochemical data within MRP's databases will provide a powerful tool for
addressing this "grand challenge". The ultimate goal of producing and electronically
disseminating the vast amount of geochemical data within MRP's databases directly supports
many of the goals and objectives as stated in the Science Strategy of the Geologic Division
(Bohlen and others, 1999). These databases are essential for understanding the relationship
between geologic processes and human health, ecosystem structure and function, and the
distribution of energy and mineral resources. This project also serves as the focal point of
requests for geochemical data from outside customers. From June 2001 through May 2002, the
predecessor project (National Geochemical Database Project) received over 100 requests for data
from Federal, state, and local government clients; private sector clients; and internal USGS
clients. At a conservatively estimated cost of $300 per sample for collection, preparation, and
chemical analysis, the geochemical databases under MRP management represent an expenditure
of over $500 million of taxpayer money. To realize the fullest possible return for this investment,
these data must be archived in perpetuity in an easily accessible and user-friendly format for full
utilization by the wide array of customers that need geochemical data to accomplish their work.
1, geochemical [,dʒi:ə'kemikəl]
2, spatial ['speiʃəl]
3, surficial [sə:'fiʃəl]
4, omission [əu'miʃən]
5, quadrangle ['kwɔdræŋɡl]
6, wade [weid]
7, portion ['pɔ:ʃən]
8, species ['spi:ʃiz]
10, irrigation [,iri'geiʃən]
11, urbanization [,ə:bənai'zeiʃən, -ni'z-]
12, remediation [ri,mi:di'eiʃən]
15, ecosystem [i:kə'sistəm]
16, geologic [dʒiə'lɔdʒik]
17, predecessor ['pri:disesə, 'pre-]
18, expenditure [iks'penditʃə, eks-]
19, perpetuity [,pəpi'tjuiti]