USGS - science for a changing world

Eastern Geographic Science Center




Current Research Activities

Eastern Geographic Science Center

EGSC scientists monitor and analyze changes on the land, study connections between people and the land, and provide relevant science information to inform decision making. Learn more about our research activities by selecting your topics of interest below. Additional topics are forthcoming.


Photo of drill rig.

Landscape Disturbance Effects of Oil and Gas Development in the Marcellus Shale Region of Pennysylvania


Relatively new deep well drilling technology, such as hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), has created an economic boom in the market for hydrocarbons. While there are many environmental concerns associated with fracking, one of the often overlooked issues is the effect that these practices have on the landscape. More information....




Lidar map photo.

Detection of Geomorphic Features from Lidar-Derived Topographic Data


Effective watershed and stream management plans require a detailed understanding of the location and structure of erosional and depositional features along channel reaches. A comprehensive accounting of these features can be used to reduce costs and promote the effectiveness of targeted conservation and management efforts. Researchers have been exploring new techniques for extracting high-resolution drainage networks and other geomorphic features from lidar data. More information....



Lidar map photo.

Coastal National Elevation Database Application Project (CoNED)


Airborne and terrestrial lidar-based high-resolution bare earth Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) are important in measuring coastal erosion, assessing vulnerability to pending climate change impacts such as sea level rise and extreme storm events, and modeling and monitoring features such as beaches, sea cliffs, levees, and dunes. More information....




Photo of a bridge over a waterway.

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Surface Inundation Dynamics


The presence and extent of inland surface water features such as water bodies (lakes and ponds), rivers and wetlands (swamp and marshland) is dynamic at multiple space and time scales given variable weather, water resource management, land use and climate. To be as efficient and effective as possible, Chesapeake Bay Ecosystem restoration activities require information on these dynamics for purposes of hydrologic model development/testing, aquatic and water fowl habitat characterization, climate and land use change assessment, resource protection and restoration adaptive management. More information....



Photo of a Great Blue Heron.

The Implications of Land Use, Cover, and Management Change in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed


The population of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed has more than doubled since 1950 and is expected to continue growing at over 1-million persons per decade. Understanding how land use/cover have changed through time; what drives the change; how land use/cover change in the future; and what consequences to stream flow, water quality, and wildlife habitat from plausible future land change scenarios result; are questions that need to be addressed to help manage and restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. More information....



Photo of sand trap in bottom of hill with nearby houses.

Urban Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management


The majority of the human population lives in urban areas; the ability of these areas to provide ecosystem services including water quality and quantity control, open space, and recreation is important to human well-being and quality of life. Best Management Practices (BMPs) are used to help preserve local and downstream ecosystems through hydrologic and water quality treatment of stormwater runoff. More information....




Aerial photo of crop fields.

Reporting USDA agricultural conservation data for Chesapeake Bay farmland


Understanding the impact of agricultural conservation practices on water quality is a key component of successful watershed management. The U.S. Geological Survey has developed USDA-approved aggregation protocols to report farm implementation data for agricultural conservation programs to the public at watershed scales that are useful for tracking and understanding implementation while also protecting farmer privacy. More information....




Photo of a sampling plot marker in a mangrove forest.

Mangrove Monitoring and Carbon Assessment


Even though mangrove ecosystems provide various ecological and economic services such as coastal erosion protection, water filtration, and breeding grounds for fish, mangroves belong to the most threatened and vulnerable ecosystems worldwide and experienced a dramatic decline during the last half century. The overall goal of this project is to assess mangrove vulnerability to climate change and land use change and to understand effects of the changes on mangrove carbon storage and sequestration. More information....



Photo of a lake trout.

Endocrine Disruptors in the Chesapeake Bay - Using GIS to identify potential EDC sources and vulnerable fish communities


Endocrine disruption is a national and global concern that affects fish, wildlife, and human populations. Through interactions with neural, endocrine, and immune systems, endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) can influence growth, development, reproduction, disease, and mortality, with adverse outcomes for populations, communities, and ecosystems. Within the Chesapeake Bay, understanding the effects of EDCs on fish and wildlife populations has been identified as a priority to help inform natural resource management. More information....



Landsat image of wetlands in coastal Louisiana.

Land Change Research


Land Change Research (LCR) addresses fundamental scientific issues concerning changes on the Nation's land surface that help to understand what changes are occurring on the Nation's land surface and why they are occurring; understand the impacts of these land surface changes on ecosystem health, climate variability, biogeochemical cycles, and hydrology; and understand how these impacts may, in turn, affect the land surface through feedback mechanisms. More information....



Microscopic image.

Hyperspectral Imaging Microscopy


Hyperspectral Imaging (HSI) is a mature technology that separates light and other forms of electromagnetic energy into numerous narrow image bands usually measuring only few nanometers each in width. The National Institute for Standards and Technology, in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Mitre Corporation has developed a laboratory dedicated to measuring the optical properties of materials through the use of commercial and custom hyperspectral imagers. More information....



Photo of submerged grasses.

Hyperspectral Analysis of Submerged Aquatic Vegetation


Assessments of aquatic vegetation and algae are important for monitoring riverine ecosystem integrity and can alert National Park Service (NPS) managers to water quality degradation and eutrophication from upland land uses outside the park boundary. USGS scientists are utilizing hyperspectral data to map submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), along with the invasive algae Didymosphenia geminata (didymo, a.k.a. "rock snot"), in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. More information....



Photo of sprouting crops after use of conservation tillage method.

Remote Sensing of Agricultural Crop Residue and Conservation Tillage


Conservation tillage is an agricultural best management practice designed to reduce the loss of soil and nutrients from farmland by protecting the soil surface from wind and rain. Adoption of conservation tillage methods by regional farmers has been identified as a priority practice by Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program partners, and a need has been identified to monitor conservation progress. More information....




Photo of 3D Arc map.

Geospatial Support for Chesapeake Bay Program Partner Conservation and Restoration Decisions


The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) is a unique regional partnership that has led and directed the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since 1983. Integrated, multi-media analysis of geographical information is being used to plan and target nutrient, sediment, and chemical contaminant reduction and prevention programs in an optimal manner, making the most effective use of limited federal, state, local and private resources. More information....




Screen shot of WNV website.

CDC Near-Real-Time Mapping


The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hosts a website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to make epidemiological information in the United States available to health officials, epidemiologists, researchers, and the public to include news outlets. The website also plays a critical role in facilitating the CDC's need to work closely with state health departments and their vector-borne disease coordinators to monitor the spread of reportable arboviral diseases. More information....



Satellite photo of rivers in Fairbanks, AK.

Stream Discharge Estimation Using Remote Sensing


Direct gaging of discharge in remote regions of the United States such as Alaska poses substantial logistical difficulties that increase costs of science and adversely affect resource monitoring and management. If suitable techniques for estimating river discharge from satellite based remote sensing can be developed, the existing gage network of Alaska could be significantly augmented. More information....




Satellite photo Lake Mead.

Dynamic Surface Water Extent


How do land inundation changes over time affect and reflect climate, hydrology, biology, geology and natural resource management? Public release of the Landsat Archive and the proliferation of government and commercial remote sensing systems are providing an unprecedented opportunity to address this question by measuring and tracking the dynamics of surface water extent from local to global scales. More information....




Photo of sunset over Potomac River.

Chesapeake Bay Studies Data Management


Ecosystem-based management is the new model for managing environmentally important resources like the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (CBW). To accomplish ecosystem-based management, scientists need to be able to analyze long-term periods of data from multiple science themes to provide information to land managers on the health of their environmental resources. More information....




ACES logo.

A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES)


Ecosystem services are the benefits provided by the natural environment that are of value to people such as provisioning services, regulating services, cultural services, and supporting services. Ecosystem service quantification and valuation can help identify service tradeoffs given alternative management actions, and address the growing demand for more sophisticated analysis of the integrated social, economic, and environmental consequences of biophysical land management decisions. More information....



Photo of Soper Branch.

Assessment of Stream and Floodplain Ecosystem Services in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed


Streams and floodplains provide significant ecosystem services including water quality regulation, wildlife habitat, flood attenuation, and recreation. This project was inspired by direct observations of land use decision makers (county councils) trying to incorporate the economic, ecologic, and social values of these environments into land use decisions, but being unable to do so effectively. More information....




Photo of Great Dismal Swamp.

Ecosystem Service Assessment in Support of Land Management at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge


This collaborative research project assesses ecosystem services and estimates carbon balance in relation to water management and other restoration actions at the Great Dismal Swamp (GDS) National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The ability for public lands such as this to maximize the ecosystem service of carbon sequestration is a focus of this project. More information....





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