USGS - science for a changing world

Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center

  CMERSC Home | About Us | Our Science | Projects | Products | Contact Us

Project status is complete. Work is continued under the National Geochemical Database II project.

National Geochemical Database - Phase I

Project Objectives

The broad objective of this project was 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 were reformatted and reside currently on the following web site: see where downloads may be made on the basis of 1:250000-scale quadrangles; and 3) the newly generated data (approximately 1996 - 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 objectives included:

  1. 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.
  2. Implementing 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.
  3. Re-formatting of the NURE HSSR database based on 1:250000-scale quadrangles, compiling the quadrangle-based data into one large data set, and providing these data to the public via a web site and CD/DVD.
  4. Completing the upgrade of archival USGS geochemical data for Alaska and release to the public via a web site and CD/DVD.
  5. Initiating the upgrading of the remainder (non-Alaska) portion of the USGS-generated data.
  6. Generating 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.
  7. Communicating and coordinating the work within this Project with other data delivery efforts within the Bureau such as NatWeb, GEODE, and Spatial Data Delivery.
  8. Producing 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 & 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 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. 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 the Mineral Resources Program's (MRP) 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 supported many of the goals and objectives as stated in the 1999 Science Strategy of the Geologic Division. 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 served as the focal point of requests for geochemical data from outside customers. From June 2001 through May 2002, over 100 requests for data were received from Federal, state, and local government clients; private sector clients; and internal USGS clients.

Project Contact

Steven Smith
Phone: (303) 236-1192


Products are listed according to task:

Project Reassessment and Redefinition



Other Products

National Geochemical Database Development and Maintenance

Renovation and Rescue of USGS-generated Geochemical Data


NURE HSSR Geochemical Database


National Geochemical Atlas (Eastern Region MRP)



Related Links

Reformatted Geochemical Data From NURE HSSR Program

USGS RASS geochemical data for Alaska

Downloadable USGS Geochemical Data Sets

Mineral Resources On-Line Spatial Data

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

Download if needed: Excel Viewer | PDF Reader | Powerpoint Viewer | Word Viewer

Mineral Resources Program
Eastern Central GMEG Alaska Minerals Information Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Spatial Data

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

USAGov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: CMERSC Webmaster
Page Last Modified: 09-Jul-2013@22:13