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The mission of the Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center (CGGSC) is to apply its expertise in geophysics, aquatic, environmental and isotope geochemistry, remote sensing, analytical chemistry, geology, and biology to interdisciplinary projects that address societal important scientific issues.


The Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center is part of the Southwest Region of the USGS. Located at the Denver Federal Center, our scientists are involved in substantial intra-Bureau, interdepartmental, inter-Governmental, and international programs. Researchers work with partners from the Department of the Interior and other federal and international agencies. Our scientists also collaborate with academia, and industry, and state agencies.

Science Center members serve as consultants to other Federal and State governmental agencies, as well as to other nations, on a variety of technical and scientific topics. The ultimate goal is to make scientific knowledge public, and to contribute to the resolution of issues through accurate, dependable, and impartial scientific research on mineral-environmental, mineral-resource, health, hazards, and other science issues in a manner that is useful for formulating governmental policy and decision making at appropriate levels of State and Federal government.

Our Science

We have capabilities to meet diverse research needs in geophysics, geochemistry, geoanalytical research chemistry, and remote sensing. Research covers a variety of areas, with a major focus on mineral resources research, funded by the USGS Mineral Resources Program.

Primary Research Goals

Utilizing the Science Center’s capabilities of Geophysics, Geochemistry, Remote Sensing, Chemistry, and Economic Geology, the Science Center strives to:

  • Develop new and existing geophysical and geochemical solutions for addressing critical geologic problems. The Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center is first and foremost an applied research organization.
  • Develop and apply geophysical and geochemical methods and capabilities to studies of mineral and energy resources and their impacts, human health, water quality, natural and anthropogenic hazards, wildfires, homeland security, rapid emergency responses, and national security interests.
  • Develop specialty methods for total and partial determinations of most inorganic elements for earth materials and human health studies, such as Libby asbestos issues, natural disaster response monitoring, abandoned mine lands projects, dusts, and the effects of acid mine drainage on the environment.
  • Participate in interdisciplinary studies within the USGS and with outside partners.


Our Capabilities

The CGGSC has a diverse group of scientists with expertise in geophysics, geochemistry, hydrology, biology, economic and structural geology, geologic framework, and remote sensing.

Geophysics and Remote Sensing

geophysicists in the field

Geophysics: Our geophysicists have strengths in electrical, electromagnetic, magnetotelluric, ground-penetrating radar, near-surface seismology, bore-hole methods, rock property determination, and potential field methods. Our geophysicists investigate and explore new applications, methodology, and research directions that require integration of geologic, geochemical, and geophysical information for traditional and nontraditional mineral and energy resource and associated environmental applications. These methods are also applied to groundwater resource investigations. We have petrophysical and geophysical instrumentation laboratories to support our research.

Current geophysical research includes the conducting geophysical surveys; development and application of geophysics for mapping hydrological and geological frameworks; mineral resource investigations for concealed deposits; aquifer characterization and groundwater studies; dam and levee investigations; airborne geophysical investigations of volcanic edifice alteration.

Remote Sensing (Imaging Spectroscopy): Our scientists in this group are made up of nationally recognized leaders in imaging spectroscopy and image analysis applied to a broad range of terrestrial and planetary investigations. The development of imaging spectroscopy and supporting spectroscopic analyses in the field and laboratory are applied to traditional resource studies as well as studies related to ecosystem health, planetary science, and human health.

Current spectroscopy research includes regional-scale hyperspectral mapping; development of spectral identification and mapping strategies for minerals, vegetation, man-made materials and other compounds; mapping of minerals and other materials that can affect human health and ecosystems; planetary science research; and development and maintenance of a digital spectral library.

Learn more about our geophysical and remote sensing research activities.

spectroscopy image


analytical equipment

Our geochemists and chemists specialize in stable and radiogenic isotopes, as well as noble gases, aqueous geochemistry, research geochemistry, environmental biogeochemistry, soil geochemical investigations, and the rapidly growing field of human health and geochemistry. The development of geochemical methods are being applied to studies of mineral and energy resources, human health, water quality, natural and anthropogenic hazards, wildfires, homeland security, rapid emergency responses, and national security interests.

Current geochemical research includes research geoanalytical chemistry and specialty analytical methods development; development of geochemical reference materials; environmental geochemistry studies; soil geochemistry studies; stable isotope geochemistry research; biogeochemical and bioaccessibility research; as well as emergency disaster response for identifying sources of potential environmental health risks. Learn more about our activities in Minerals, Environment, Health, and in Analytical Research and Development.



We provide geoscience research for a wide range of Federal, State, local, International, and nongovernmental organizations. This research is focused on problems that require novel, innovative, or unusual solutions not available from the commercial sector. The breadth of our skills leads us to work in a large variety of areas that change rapidly.

We have developed a Rapid Response Team to scientifically address both natural and man-made crises. This team development is a good example of the blending of all of our Center's skills developed over the years in mineral resource research. We have been working very closely with other USGS scientists in all the other USGS mission areas to investigate wildfires, earthquakes and resulting tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes/typhoons. This work has lead to partnership opportunities with agencies such as NOAA, EPA, Forest Service, and BLM.

Partnership Highlights

The Center's members of the Mass Balance Team of the Deepwater Horizon Flow Rate Technical Group, used data from the NASA AVIRIS airborne sensor flown over the Gulf of Mexico on May 17, 2010 to determine a minimum discharge rate of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This effort required a close working relationship with DOI, NOAA, NASA, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

We have earned a reputation for our skills in geophysical and geological evaluation of leaky dams and levees and developed a strong partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers.

We had two Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with PerkinElmer, Inc. The first CRADA (05-217) resulted in the development of a new inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) system, the NexION 300, which has unique capabilities for measuring the elemental content in geochemical and environmental samples. The second CRADA (10-1227) provides USGS scientists with access to state-of-the-art optical and mass spectrometry systems for elemental analysis and allows USGS to collaborate with other scientists from industry and academia to develop new methodologies resulting in improved accuracy and precision for the analyses of complex geochemical samples.

We have also been working with other USGS, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and non-Federal scientists on a project funded through the USGS's National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center to evaluate the potential influence of changing climate on the persistence of native trout and char species in the western United States. Along these same lines, we received funding through the USGS/USFS Science Support Partnership (SSP) program to evaluate climate risks to an Endangered Species Act "candidate species," the Rio Grande cutthroat trout.

Our analytical laboratories participated in a collaborative investigation with the Consumer Products Safety Commission into the health and safety issues related to the presence of Chinese wallboard material in U.S. homes.

We have seen a huge growth in geophysical investment in support of groundwater resources (state governments). This work has spawned international collaborations in Denmark and Australia.

Some of our collaborators:

State and Local

  • Alaska
  • New Mexico
  • Nebraska
  • Nebraska
  • Santa Fe County, NM
  • City of Santa Fe, NM
  • Edwards Aquifer Authority, TX
  • San Antonio Water System, TX
  • California State University Fullerton
  • East Carolina University
  • Denver Metro Wastewater, CO


  • Afghanistan
  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Denmark
  • Djibouti
  • Ethiopia
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Kenya
  • Mauritania


Rapid Response Team

spilled oil floating on ocean Image of oil emulsion from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Photograph taken on May 7, 2010, by Gregg Swayze/Sonia Gallegos. Cover image from USGS Open-File Report 2010-1101.

The Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center has developed a Rapid Response Team to scientifically address both natural and man-made crises. The Rapid Response Team blends all of the Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center's skills development over the years in mineral resource, geochemical, geophysical, and imaging spectroscopy research. The Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center has been working very closely with scientists across the USGS to investigate wildfires, oil spills, earthquakes and resulting tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes/typhoons. This work has led to partnership opportunities with agencies such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Selected Activities

  • Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
  • Geophysical and geological evaluation of leaky dams and levees
  • Collaborative investigation into health and safety issues related to Chinese wallboard
  • Wildfire Environmental Response
  • Red Mud Spill, Hungary
  • World Trade Center Dust Characterization
  • Libby, Montana Asbesitiform Mineral Characterization

Environmental Disaster Research by USGS Scientists


For additional information regarding our Rapid Response Team, please contact Center Director Trude King (


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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