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Overview

Why is USGS doing this research?

Beginning in 1964, analytical laboratories now housed within the Mineral Resources Program have recorded geochemical data in digital databases. During this time, these laboratories have analyzed over 1.4 million samples of geologic material such as soils, stream sediments, and rocks, and continue to analyze several thousand samples annually. The database representing these analyses contains in excess of 50 million analytical determinations and is growing daily. In 1984 the Mineral Resources Program inherited management responsibilities for the geochemical data generated on over 500,000 samples of stream sediments, soils, and waters by the Department of Energy's National Uranium Resource Evaluation (NURE) Hydrogeochemical and Stream Sediment Reconnaissance (HSSR) Program, which was conducted during the late 1970s and early 1980s. This project addresses the preservation of all the archival chemical data and all the newly generated data in perpetuity in an accurate, easily accessible, user-friendly, secure database.

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 remediation 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.

Since 1995, National Geochemical Database projects have succeeded in converting, reformatting, combining, and preserving disparate geochemical data stored in Rock Analysis Storage System (RASS - the geochemical database maintained by the former Branches of Regional Geochemistry and Exploration Research from 1968-1987); archive PLUTO (the archive geochemical database maintained by the former Branches of Analytical Laboratories and Geochemistry from 1979-1995); and ATHENA (the geochemical database maintained by the Mineral Resources Science Center within the former in-house Laboratory Information Management System (PLUTO/LIMS) from 1995-1997). All of these data are now housed in the Oracle relational database management system as the National Geochemical Database.

What research is USGS going to do?

The National Geochemical Database project assembles, reformats, corrects, and archives historical data obtained from the geochemical analysis of millions of geologic samples collected for USGS studies. These data, representing hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of USGS research, are provided to USGS researchers; other Federal agencies; State Geological Surveys and Environmental Protection agencies; mining, mineral exploration, and environmental industries; independent consultants; academicians; students; and private citizens through online Web portals and project collaboration.

The current phase of the National Geochemical Database project has been divided into five tasks, each of which uniquely contributes to the goals and the strategy of the project.

  1. National Geochemical Database Reassessment, Outreach, and Liaison
  2. National Geochemical Database Development and Maintenance
  3. National Geochemical Database and NURE Database Delivery
  4. Data Renovation and Recovery
  5. Web-based Sample Submittal Process Development
Student contractors scanning chemistry data.
Student contractors scanning chemistry job folders from the former Branch of Analytical Laboratories. Almost 17,000 of the 35,000 folders have been scanned. Photos by USGS.

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Products

Online data portal
Data are made available at http://mrdata.usgs.gov/.

Geochemical datasets derived from the National Geochemical Database can be accessed at the Mineral Resources On-Line Spatial Data website (http://mrdata.usgs.gov/).

Databases

Reports

  • Bailey, E.A., Smith, D.B., Abston, C.C., Granitto, M., and Burleigh, K.A., 2000, National Geochemical Database: U.S. Geological Survey RASS (Rock Analysis Storage System) geochemical data for Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 99-433, http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1999/of99-433/.
  • Day, W.C., and Granitto, Matthew, 2014, Geologic field notes and geochemical analyses of outcrop and drill core from Mesoproterozoic rocks and iron-oxide deposits and prospects of southeast Missouri: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2014–1053, 7 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20141053.
  • Ellefsen, K.J., Van Gosen, B.S., Fey, D.L., Budahn, J.R., Smith, S.M., and Shah, A.K., 2015, First steps of integrated spatial modeling of titanium, zirconium, and rare earth element resources within the Coastal Plain sediments of the southeastern United States: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1111, 40 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20151111.
  • Eppinger, R.G., Giles, S.A., Lee, G.K., and Smith, S.M., 2015, Database creation, data quality assessment, and geochemical maps (phase V, deliverable 59)—Final report on compilation and validation of geochemical data, chap. D of Taylor, C.D., ed., Second projet de renforcement institutionnel du secteur minier de la République Islamique de Mauritanie (PRISM-II): U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013‒1280-D, 52 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20131280. [In English and French.]
  • The Geologic Materials Repository Working Group, 2015, The U.S. Geological Survey Geologic Collections Management System (GCMS)—A master catalog and collections management plan for U.S. Geological Survey geologic samples and sample collections: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1410, 108 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/cir1410.
  • Granitto, Matthew, Bailey, E.A., Schmidt, J.M., Shew, N.B., Gamble, B.M., and Labay, K.A., 2011, Alaska Geochemical Database (AGDB)—Geochemical data for rock, sediment, soil, mineral, and concentrate sample media: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 637, 31 p. pamphlet and database, 1 DVD, http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/637/. (Revised October 2012)
  • Granitto, Matthew, Schmidt, J.M., Shew, N.B., Gamble, B.M., and Labay, K.A., 2013, Alaska Geochemical Database, Version 2.0 (AGDB2)—including “best value” data compilations for rock, sediment, soil, mineral, and concentrate sample media: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 759, 20 p. pamphlet and database, 1 DVD, http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/759/.
  • Grossman, Jeffrey N., 1998, National Geochemical Atlas: The geochemical landscape of the conterminous United States derived from stream sediment and other solid sample media analyzed by the National Uranium Resource Evaluation (NURE) Program: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 98-622, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/ofr98622.
  • Jones, J.V., III, Karl, S.M., Labay, K.A., Shew, N.B., Granitto, M., Hayes, T.S., Mauk, J.L., Schmidt, J.M., Todd, E., Wang, B., Werdon, M.B., and Yager, D.B., 2015, GIS-based identification of areas with mineral resource potential for six selected deposit groups, Bureau of Land Management Central Yukon Planning Area, Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1021, 78 p., 5 appendixes, 12 pls., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20151021.
  • Smith, D.B., Smith, S.M., and Horton, J.D., 2013, History and evaluation of national-scale geochemical data sets for the United States: Geoscience Frontiers, 4(2), p. 167–183. doi: 10.1016/j.gsf.2012.07.002
  • Smith, K.S., Balistrieri, L.S., Smith, S.M., and Severson, R.C., 1997, Distribution and mobility of molybdenum in the terrestrial environment, in Grupta, U.C., ed., Molybdenum in agriculture: Cambridge University Press, p. 23–46.
  • Smith, S.M., 1997, National Geochemical Database; Reformatted data from the National Uranium Resource Evaluation (NURE) Hydrogeochemical and Stream Sediment Reconnaissance (HSSR) Program, Version 1.40, (2006): U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 97-492. http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1997/ofr-97-0492/
  • Werdon, M.B., Granitto, Matthew, and Azain, J.S., 2015, Geochemical reanalysis of historical U.S. Geological Survey sediment samples from the Zane Hills, Hughes and Shungnak quadrangles, Alaska: Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys Raw Data File 2015-9, 5 p. doi: 10.14509/29453
  • Werdon, M.B., Granitto, Matthew, and Azain, J.S., 2015, Geochemical reanalysis of historical U.S. Geological Survey sediment samples from the Tonsina area, Valdez Quadrangle, Alaska: Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys Raw Data File 2015-8, 5 p. doi: 10.14509/29452
  • Werdon, M.B., Granitto, Matthew, and Azain, J.S., 2015, Geochemical reanalysis of historical U.S. Geological Survey sediment samples from the northeastern Alaska Range, Healy, Mount Hayes, Nabesna, and Tanacross quadrangles, Alaska: Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys Raw Data File 2015-7, 6 p. doi: 10.14509/29451
  • Werdon, M.B., Granitto, Matthew, and Azain, J.S., 2015, Geochemical reanalysis of historical U.S. Geological Survey sediment samples from the Kougarok area, Bendeleben and Teller quadrangles, Seward Peninsula, Alaska: Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys Raw Data File 2015-6, 5 p. doi: 10.14509/29450
  • Werdon, M.B., Granitto, Matthew, and Azain, J.S., 2015, Geochemical reanalysis of historical U.S. Geological Survey sediment samples from the Haines area, Juneau and Skagway quadrangles, southeast Alaska: Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys Raw Data File 2015-5, 5 p. doi: 10.14509/29449
  • Werdon, M.B., Granitto, Matthew, and Azain, J.S., 2015, Geochemical reanalysis of historical U.S. Geological Survey sediment samples from the Inmachuk, Kugruk, Kiwalik, and Koyuk River drainages, Granite Mountain, and the northern Darby Mountains, Bendeleben, Candle, Kotzebue, and Solomon quadrangles, Alaska: Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys Raw Data File 2015-4, 5 p. doi: 10.14509/29448
  • Werdon, M.B., Azain, J.S., and Granitto, Matthew, 2014, Reanalysis of historical U.S. Geological Survey sediment samples for geochemical data from the western part of the Wrangellia terrane, Anchorage, Gulkana, Healy, Mt. Hayes, Nabesna, and Talkeetna Mountains quadrangles, Alaska: Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys Raw Data File 2014-5, 6 p. doi: 10.14509/27287

Presentations

  • Smith, S.M., 2010, The USGS National Geochemical Database: Northwest Mining Association 116th Annual Meeting, Our Future is in Today's Mines, December 5–10, 2010, Spokane, Wash., Technical Session Abstract Book, p. 36–37.
  • Smith, S.M., 2010, Rocks in the attic and dirt in the garage: Why do we keep all of this stuff?: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 42, no. 5, p. 166. View Smith 2010 GSA abstract.
  • Smith, S.M., 2009, Data preservation lessons learned the hard way: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 41, no. 7, p. 555. View Smith 2009 GSA abstract.
  • Smith, D.B., Goldhaber, M.B., and Smith, S.M., 2003, The U.S. Geological Survey's National Geochemical Database: A possible link between earth science and health science: 21st Annual Epidemiologic Research Exchange, Feb. 7, 2003, p. 12.
  • Smith, S.M., Neilson, R.T., and Giles, S.A., 2015, Levelling and merging of two discrete national-scale geochemical databases—a case study showing the surficial expression of metalliferous black shales: 27th International Applied Geochemistry Symposium Abstracts, April 20-24, 2015, Tucson, Arizona.
  • Smith, S.M., and Smith, D.B., 2011, USGS National Geochemical Database—Recovering, repackaging, and repurposing 50+ years of historical data: 242nd American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition, Denver, Colorado, Aug. 28 – Sept.1, 2011. View Smith 2011 ACS abstract.
  • Smith, S.M., and Smith, D.B., 2007, Development and utilization of a National Geochemical Database, in Proceedings of the First U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Information Management Workshop, March 21–23, 2006, Henkel, H.S., compiler: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5232, p. 73–74, http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2007/5232/.
  • Smith, S.M. and Smith, D.B., 2005, Development and Utilization of a National Geochemical Database, in Programs & Abstracts, 22nd International Geochemical Exploration Symposium, Perth, Western Australia, 19-23 September 2005, p. 161.
  • Smith, S.M., Smith, D.B., Bailey, E.A., 2003, The USGS National Geochemical Database and its environmental applications: Final Programme & Book of Abstracts, 6th International Symposium on Environmental Geochemistry; University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, 7–11 September 2003, p. 209.
  • Smith, S.M., Smith, D.B., and Bailey, E.A., 2003, The U.S. Geological Survey's National Geochemical Database: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Program, vol. 34, no. 7, p. 366. View Smith 2003 GSA abstract.
  • Wang, B., Yager, D.B., Lee, Gregory, Ellefsen, K.J., Granitto, Matthew, Hults, C.P., Rockwell, B.W., and Mauk, J.L., 2015, Elemental Distribution in the Alaskan Landscape: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 47, No. 4, p.4. View Wang GSA abstract.

Workshops

  • Walker, Douglas, and Smith, Steven M., 2007, EarthChem Workshop on USGS National Geochemical Database.

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Project Contact

Steven M. Smith
Phone: 303-236-1192
Email: smsmith@usgs.gov
Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center

Mineral Resources Program Science Priority

The use of firm, trade, and brand names is for identification purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. government.

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