Western Geographic Science Center

The Western Geographic Science Center  (WGSC) helps decision makers understand how people and the environment interact 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. We work with many partners and link numerous natural 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.

WGSC remote sensing science at Flagstaff Science in the Park!!!

USGS Western Geographic Science Center Geographer Adam Oliphant showing students how visible and near infrared light are useful for classifying agriculture using Landsat satellites by demonstrating a full spectrum camera at Science in the Park in Flagstaff Arizona on 9/23/2017. Common cameras are sensitive to near infrared light if an internal filter is removed. Students practiced taking apart cameras to remove the filter using broken cameras (top right). Image taken with a converted full spectrum camera (bottom left) and the same camera with a filter (680 nm) that blocks most visible light (bottom right). Green vegetation selectively reflects near infrared light, which is why the leaves appear so bright.

WGSC students spend months in valley heat for the benefit of birds

NAGT student James Anderson (left) and student contractor Austen Lorenz (right) spent most of the summer mapping seasonal wetland vegetation throughout the California Central Valley in to help assess winter food for water fowl.

WGSC and Joint Venture Silicon Valley hosted a HayWired Telecom workshop!

On September 26th Anne Wein (USGS) and David Witkowski (Joint Venture Silicon Valley) led a large group of Bay Area telecommunications experts and local city and county planners in discussing preliminary results from the soon to be published HayWired Telecom Chapter. Many breakout groups throughout the day discussed how potential connection disruptions can be recognized ahead of time and resolved, and how the different players (private and public) can work together to solve the problems during a real earthquake emergency.

Recent publication indicates Increases in Wildfire-Caused Erosion Could Impact Water in the West

Alameda Tsunami Evacuation Playbook Zones map

A growing number of wildfire-burned areas throughout the western United States are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

As a number of previous peer-reviewed studies have shown, the area burned annually by wildfires has increased in recent decades and is expected to continue to increase this century. Many growing cities and towns rely on water from rivers and reservoirs that originates in watersheds where wildfire and sedimentation are projected to increase. Increased sedimentation could negatively impact water supply and quality for some communities.

Photo: Ash and sedimentation saturating a stream in Las Conchas, New Mexico. (Photo credit: USDA Forest Service)

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