Western Geographic Science Center

The Western Geographic Science Center  (WGSC) helps decision makers understand the interaction between people and the environment through geographic research on environmental and societal impacts from natural hazards and climate change. Our projects analyze human and environmental interactions over space and time, involving many partners and linking numerous natural science and social science disciplines. WGSC staff are located across the USGS Pacific, Southwest, and Northwest regions, with our research topics ranging in scale from global food security to nationwide land cover change to community-level hazard analyses. Our research methods utilize the latest in remote sensing and GIS software to analyze a variety of spatial data such as Landsat satellite imagery, U.S. Census Bureau demographic data, LiDAR elevation data, and various data collected from local sensors built by our team.

Changing California Land Uses will Shape Water Demands in 2062 Field Photo Map

If past patterns of California land-use change continue, projected water needs by the year 2062 will increase beyond current supply. If historical trends of land use changes to or from urban, agricultural or other uses continue, the result will be increased water-use demand beyond what existing supplies can provide. Large uncertainties associated with weather and climate variability have the potential to exacerbate the problem.

“Modeling the future based on historical trends is not a prediction of what will happen, though patterns do emerge that can help guide water-use policies,” said Tamara Wilson, USGS research geographer and lead author of the study.

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WGSC fog science highlighted on NBC's OpenRoad:

Field Photo Map

Water, water in the air, is there enough to drink?

Redwoods do it, arboreal salamanders do it, even some humans do it. Getting water from fog is not new but mimicking nature to increase fog water yield is new. The Kia OpenRoad segment to be aired on NBC Sunday May 15 and archived on the web highlights the USGS research partnership with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District to explore harvesting water from fog. 

Contact Alicia Torregrosa atorregrosa@usgs.gov

For more about fog science visit http://geography.wr.usgs.gov/fog/

A Mendenhall Opportunity!!


16-31. Remote Sensing of Rangelands to Support Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

At 308 million hectares, rangelands represent 31 percent of the total land area of the United States (Havstad et al., 2007 ). In California, rangelands are the largest land cover by area, covering over one half of the state. Given the scale and diversity of ecosystems that these rangelands encompass, they have substantial capacity to support biodiversity and provide ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, soil protection, water quality and quantity (Byrd et al., 2015; Havstad et al., 2007). Annual precipitation and fresh water supply on California rangelands is unpredictable, given their Mediterranean climate. According to climate change projections, the uncertainty in timing and quantity of precipitation in California is likely to increase (Shaw et al., 2011 ). Despite this uncertainty, rangelands can serve an important role in supplying water. In addition, given the vast land area of rangelands, their soils represent a substantial carbon pool (Byrd et al., 2015 ).

We seek a Mendenhall Fellow to develop algorithms linking remotely sensed data to California rangeland GHG dynamics, water balance, and ecosystem state and transitions. Promising avenues of research include opportunities to develop algorithms to map trends and variation in rangeland vegetation characteristics such as evapotranspiration (ET), biomass, residual dry matter, fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation, percent vegetation cover, plant community composition, leaf nitrogen concentration (N) and chlorophyll.

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