USGS - science for a changing world

U.S. Geological Survey - Ecosystems

Maps, Imagery, and Publications Hazards Newsroom Education Jobs Partnerships Library About USGS Social Media
 

International Ecosystems Research Activities

Browse samples of USGS international Ecosystems research activities by region:


Russia
Asia and the Pacific
North America
Europe
South America
Central America and the Caribbean
Antarctica
Africa and the Middle East

nnn map map map map map map map map map map map map map map

 

For more information about International Ecosystems activities, contact:

Joseph E. Bunnell
Phone: 703-648-6497
E-mail: jbunnell@usgs.gov

 

Russia

 
Avian influenza in the Sakha Republic of Russia
A resident of Iwate Prefecture feeds a wintering flock of northern pintail ducks and whooper swans in northern Honshu, Japan
A resident of Iwate Prefecture feeds a wintering flock of northern pintail ducks and whooper swans in northern Honshu, Japan. In spring 2008, both of these species were observed on wetlands in Japan where the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza was detected, and several swans died from exposure to the virus. Photograph courtesy of USGS

The USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) is collaborating with the Institute of Biological Problems of the Cryolithozone, part of the Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Yakutsk, Russia, on avian influenza research and surveillance in the Sakha Republic.  The research focuses on surveillance in migratory birds for H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza, but low pathogenicity influenza viruses are also studied.  We have established a letter of cooperation with the Academy for this collaboration.

 

 

U.S.-Russia Program: Institute for Biology of Inland Waters (IBIW) of the Russian Academy of Sciences Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC) of the U.S. Department of the Interior
A survey of fish populations in the. Rybinsk Reservoir, Yaroslavl, Russia, yields a catch of bream, Abramis spp.
A survey of fish populations in the. Rybinsk Reservoir, Yaroslavl, Russia, yields a catch of bream, Abramis spp.

For over 30 years, the Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC) has collaborated with the Russian Institute for Biology of Inland Waters on environmental protection as pertains to pollution effects on aquatic organisms and ecosystems.  CERC also has numerous other collaborations with Russian scientists including fisheries biology, large river ecology, algal toxins, sediment quality, mercury,  invasive species, contaminants, and an assessment of complex anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems, reservoirs and rivers.

For more information contact: Rip Shively, Director, Columbia Environmental Research Center

Publication:
Scientific Exchange Program with Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC) and the Institute for Biology of Inland Waters (IBIW) (pdf)

 

 

 

 

back to top

Infectious haematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV)
Photo: Rainbow Trout. Credit: Gael Kurath/USGS.
Photo: Rainbow Trout. Credit: Gael Kurath/USGS.
Rainbow trout fry experimentally exposed to infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus.
Rainbow trout fry experimentally exposed to infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus. Typical signs include darkening and exopthalmia (popeye) as shown by the fish in the lower portion of the photo. Other external signs may include fluid accumulation in the abdomen (ascites), trailing fecal casts, and small hemorrhages in the fins and body musculature.

Infectious haematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV) is a well known fish pathogen that has caused disease outbreaks with serious economic impacts in North American salmon and trout since the 1950's. The first discovery of IHNV in Eastern Russia was in 2001, when IHNV was identified in hatchery sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) from the Kamchatka Peninsula. This virus led to the first epidemic of IHNV in Russian hatchery salmon, and additional epidemics have occurred in subsequent years. IHN is an acute virus that causes epidemics with up to 90% mortality. Results of virological examinations of wild and cultured salmonid fish from Kamchatka during 1996-2005 revealed IHNV in several sockeye salmon populations. In an initial collaboration, Kamchatka Research Institute of Fishery and Oceanography, genetic typing of Russian IHNV isolates from one watershed revealed that they were nearly identical to North American IHNV isolates that occur throughout Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. Scientists are working together to expand field surveys for IHNV in all major stocks of wild and hatchery sockeye salmon in Kamchatka and plan to conduct genetic typing of Russian IHNV isolates and phylogenetic analyses for relatedness of North American and Russian IHNV. 

Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation on Cooperation in the Field of Protection of the Environment and Natural Resources
An intact sagebrush plot in eastern Oregon. Photo credit: Nicole M. DeCrappeo, USGS

Russian and American scientists coordinate efforts and share information to better understand and help prevent disease outbreaks among fish of high commercial value.

USGS is heavily involved in Area V, the agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation on Cooperation in the Field of Protection of the Environment and Natural Resources.  USGS periodically sends wildlife biologists and veterinarians to Russia for exchange of disease information, share predictions on emerging and reemerging diseases of wildlife, surveillance techniques and database sharing and rapid response.  The same is done for Aquatic Animal Health.  A symposium, hosted by the Leetown Science Center, brought together experts in aquatic animal health, aquaculture and fish and shellfish disease.  Issues from bacterial diseases of sea urchins to parasitic infections in king crabs were discussed as well as IHNV in salmonids and spring viremia of carp virus found in cultured carp from central Russia.

 

 

Research on Sea otters at the Commander Islands
A tagged sea otter feeds on a rock crab near Monterey, California.   Photo by Tania Larson, U.S. Geological Survey.
A tagged sea otter feeds on a rock crab near Monterey, California. By carefully studying the diet, movements, and health of radio-tagged sea otters like this one, researchers have found that individual food preferences and locations are good predictors of disease exposure. Photo by Tania Larson, U.S. Geological Survey.

The Western Ecological Research Center has been conducting research on sea otters at the Commander Islands, in collaboration with researchers from the Katchatka Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, University of California, Alaska SeaLife Center and Monterey Bay Aquarium.  The USGS role is to analyze the data and provide scientific expertise.  In 2010, tentative plans include hosting a second Russian student who wants to gain field experience in radio telemetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

back to top

Endangered Species
Adult Sandhill Crane,Grus canadensis
Adult Sandhill Crane
(Grus canadensis).
The Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, working with Russian Academy scientists at the Institute of Biological Problems of the Permafrost Zone has discovered an extended breeding range of the sandhill crane, further west in Russia than previously known.  This expansion may be related to climate change, as river banks are melting permafrost in some areas.  The research team is estimating reproductive success of the sandhill crane population, and is for the first time publishing an assessment of status of this endangered birds’ population.  Satellite telemetry will be used to enable more accurate prediction of populations in other areas, including deltas.

 

 

Pacific Walrus with Russia
Mother and juvenile pacific walrus. Photo: USGS.
Mother and juvenile pacific walrus. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey.
Female and pup walruses on an Ice FloeWalruses in the Chukchi Sea during a tagging survey onboard the Norseman II in June 2010.
Female and pup walruses on an Ice FloeWalruses in the Chukchi Sea during a tagging survey onboard the Norseman II in June 2010. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey.

USGS research on walrus is focused on how the shift in walrus to terrestrial haul-outs during the period of minimal sea ice in summer and fall is affecting walrus distribution in relation to their benthic prey, abundance, movements, energetics and population status.  Because far more walrus come ashore in Russia than Alaska, cooperative research with Russian scientists is essential.  But Russian researchers are stymied by lack of financial and technological resources.  
The USGS provides resources to Russian scientists primarily in the form of tracking devices and data processing, but occasionally financial resources to sustain their research. Delivery of these resources is very complex and has been aided by several non-governmental organizations. The USGS is also revitalizing an international data base on Pacific walrus that will enhance the ability of scientists in both countries to collect, share, analyze and archive data.

 

back to top

Asia and the Pacific

Surveillance for H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Migratory Birds in the United States and its Territories and Freely-Associated States
A common teal fitted with a GPS satellite transmitter takes flight.
A common teal fitted with a GPS satellite transmitter takes flight.

The Department of Interior (DOI) surveillance program for early detection of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus in wild birds includes surveillance conducted in collaboration with the Fish and Wildlife Service and resource agency personnel in U.S. Pacific Territories and Feely-Associated States.  For Palau, the collaborator is the Palau Dept. of Public Health.

 

 

 

back to top

The Great Rivers Partnership Initiative
Terraced fields along the Mississippi River in Harper's Ferry, Iowa. Photo by Robert J. Hurt, from The Nature Conservancy website.
Terraced fields along the Mississippi River in Harper's Ferry, Iowa. Photo by Robert J. Hurt, from The Nature Conservancy website.

The twenty-first century presents unprecedented challenges to the long-term viability of the world’s great river systems.  Great rivers are generally defined as large floodplain rivers that have long lasting, predictable, and extensive seasonal floods. 

Plants, animals, and people have adapted to depend on the flood cycle of large floodplain rivers for survival.  Furthermore, these rivers are vital to the cultural heritage and economic prosperity of their regions.  The world’s great rivers, unfortunately, face challenges from overuse and unsustainable resource use practices. Adding to their degradation are questionable flood management practices and harmful water flow restrictions.  While nearly all water systems have been stressed by growing human populations, the world’s great rivers present a distinct set of challenges due to their size, complexity, and profound human connections.

The future of world’s great rivers requires a response that addresses the economic, cultural, and ecological forces associated with large-scale/interdependent ecosystems. 

The coordinating body for the GRP is The Nature Conservancy. The GRP has embarked on an ambitious effort to guide protection of the world's imperiled freshwater systems and transform the way large working river systems are preserved and protected.  Problems of parallel interest are being solved by the Partnership, as what’s being learned in Brazil on the Parana River and in China on the Yangtze River applies to challenges faced by our own Mississippi River.

The purpose of the partnership is to create a new model for sustaining the world's great river systems and the plants, animals and people that depend on them, based on sound, unbiased, integrative science. “Great Rivers” generally are defined as floodplain rivers with seasonal floods that are sufficiently long-lasting, predictable and extensive.

  • Plants, animals and people adapted to depend on the flood cycle of floodplain rivers for survival. These rivers are vital to the cultural heritage and economic prosperity of their regions. Unfortunately, the great rivers of the world face challenges from unsustainable agricultural practices, degrading flood management practices and harmful water flow restrictions. Other mutual benefits of the Great Rivers Partnership include:

  • large-scale floodplain restoration
  • assist farmers in conservation efforts to improve water quality
  • inform re. hydropower development
  • best management practices for cropland and cattle ranches
  • reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff

back to top

DRAGON/Forecast Mekong
Forecast Mekong: modelling global change impacts on development projects

Forecast Mekong: modelling global change impacts on development projects

DRAGON includes information on 15 deltas of international importance: the Amazon, Chao Phraya,Danube, Ganges, Huang He, Irrawaddy, Lena, Mekong, 

DRAGON includes information on 15 deltas of international importance: the Amazon, Chao Phraya, Danube, Ganges, Huang He, Irrawaddy, Lena, Mekong, Mississippi, Nile, Okavango, Rhine,Selenga, Volga, and Yangtze.

The USGS has spearheaded the Data Research and Global Observation Network (DRAGON) partnership, an international community of practice dedicated to sharing data on the great deltas and rivers of the world, and to develop comparative models and visualization tools in order to facilitate ecological forecasting regarding climate change and development that ultimately helps in guiding decision making. The great deltas of the world are among our most heavily populated and agriculturally productive landscapes, yet these low-lying coastal areas are extremely vulnerable to climate change and development impacts.

“Forecast Mekong,” a component of the DRAGON partnership, is using its experience with the Mississippi River and its expertise in earth science modeling to help the Mekong countries assess how climate change and human activities could impact the ecology and food security of the Mekong basin. Despite a geographic difference of twelve time zones, there are many cultural, economic and ecological similarities between the Mississippi and Mekong River Deltas.  In 2009, USGS scientists met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and representatives of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to discuss with foreign ministers the Secretary’s Lower Mekong Initiative, which includes the DRAGON, the USGS Forecast Mekong visualization tools, and the Sister-River initiative.  This ongoing collaboration is a successful example of science diplomacy in action.

 

Fire Science in Australia
Fires Near Canberra, Australia
Fires Near Canberra, Australia

When a forest burns, carbon and greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. This research aims to determine the amount of greenhouse gases that are released in a bushfire, and how this affects the environment and the amounts of stored carbon in a forest.

 

 

 

back to top

North America

Surveillance of North Atlantic avian species for avian influenza virus
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
The USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) is collaborating with several scientists in Canada (coordinated by the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre), the United States, and potentially Iceland to conduct surveillance for avian influenza viruses in Eastern Canada, Greenland, and possibly Iceland.  The major purpose of this research is to determine the extent of viral genetic interchange in migratory birds between Eastern North America and Europe.  The Erasmus Medical School in The Netherlands will also be doing counterpart surveillance in northern Europe.

 

 

Cooperative Study Examines the Implications of Mining in the Transboundary Flathead Basin Aquatic Ecosystem
Transboundary Flathead Basin Aquatic Ecosystem. Photo credit: Garth Lenz, USGS.
Transboundary Flathead Basin Aquatic Ecosystem. Photo credit: Garth Lenz, U.S. Geological Survey.

Research conducted by the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center (NOROCK) and several partnering agencies demonstrates that the Transboundary Flathead Basin in Montana (U.S.) and British Columbia (Canada) hosts one of the most diverse and unique native aquatic ecosystems throughout North America. Headwaters of the basin feed into Waterton‐Glacier International Peace Park (U.S. and Canada) and Flathead Lake in the U.S.
Despite the tremendous historical and ecological value of the region, the Canadian headwaters are targeted for coalbed methane drilling and open‐pit coal mining. This can threaten water and habitat quality, migratory fish populations, and all aquatic life downstream. In 2008 NOROCK is leading an international aquatics research project to help the U.S. prepare to meet this challenge and protect the ecosystems of one of the Crown Jewels of our National Park System and the irreplaceable and extraordinary international value of the Transboundary Flathead Basin Ecosystem.

For more information contact: Clint Muhlfeld, Aquatic Ecologist, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center (NOROCK).

back to top

Development and implementation of surveillance in feral swine, other porcine species, and peridomestic mammals for influenza exposure and infection
Bar-headed goose. Many bar-headed geese died in an H5N1 outbreak in Qinghai Lake Nature Reserve in China.
Bar-headed goose. Many bar-headed geese died in an H5N1 outbreak in Qinghai Lake Nature Reserve in China.
This study is being conducted by the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) and entails avian influenza surveillance in mammalian species to learn of their potential role in both avian and swine influenza (H1N1 and H3N2) epidemiology.  This study is being conducted in Mexico.

 

 

 

 

 

back to top

Europe

Surveillance of North Atlantic avian species for avian influenza virus
Canada goose (Branta canadensis). Photo by Gregory Gough.
Canada goose (Branta canadensis). Photo by Gregory Gough.
The USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) is collaborating with several scientists in Canada (coordinated by the Canadian Wildlife Health Centre), the United States, and potentially Iceland to conduct surveillance for avian influenza viruses in Eastern Canada, Greenland, and possibly Iceland.  The major purpose of this research is to determine the extent of viral genetic interchange in migratory birds between Eastern North America and Europe.  The Erasmus Medical School in The Netherlands will also be doing counterpart surveillance in northern Europe.

 

 

White-nose syndrome and Geomyces destructans in Europe
Photo of a bat with white-nose syndrome.
Photo of a bat with white-nose syndrome.

The USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) is collaborating with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany on bat white-nose syndrome (WNS) research and surveillance in Europe. WNS is a newly-emerged disease of hibernating bats in North America, and the recently-discovered fungus, Geomyces destructans, is causative of the skin infection that is hallmark of this disease. There have been recent of reports of European bats presenting with gross clinical signs consistent with WNS but without associated mortality in several European countries. A collaborative G. destructans phylogeographic study is being planned to explore the hypothesis that WNS in North America may have a European origin.

 

 

 

 

back to top

South America

The Great Rivers Partnership Initiative
The Jinsha River and Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan Province, China
Water reservoir in Chingaza National Park. Photo: The Nature Conservancy website

The twenty-first century presents unprecedented challenges to the long-term viability of the world’s great river systems.  Great rivers are generally defined as large floodplain rivers that have long lasting, predictable, and extensive seasonal floods. 

Plants, animals, and people have adapted to depend on the flood cycle of large floodplain rivers for survival.  Furthermore, these rivers are vital to the cultural heritage and economic prosperity of their regions.  The world’s great rivers, unfortunately, face challenges from overuse and unsustainable resource use practices. Adding to their degradation are questionable flood management practices and harmful water flow restrictions.  While nearly all water systems have been stressed by growing human populations, the world’s great rivers present a distinct set of challenges due to their size, complexity, and profound human connections.

The future of world’s great rivers requires a response that addresses the economic, cultural, and ecological forces associated with large-scale/interdependent ecosystems. 

The coordinating body for the GRP is The Nature Conservancy. The GRP has embarked on an ambitious effort to guide protection of the world's imperiled freshwater systems and transform the way large working river systems are preserved and protected.  Problems of parallel interest are being solved by the Partnership, as what’s being learned in Brazil on the Parana River and in China on the Yangtze River applies to challenges faced by our own Mississippi River.

The purpose of the partnership is to create a new model for sustaining the world's great river systems and the plants, animals and people that depend on them, based on sound, unbiased, integrative science. “Great Rivers” generally are defined as floodplain rivers with seasonal floods that are sufficiently long-lasting, predictable and extensive.

  • Plants, animals and people adapted to depend on the flood cycle of floodplain rivers for survival. These rivers are vital to the cultural heritage and economic prosperity of their regions. Unfortunately, the great rivers of the world face challenges from unsustainable agricultural practices, degrading flood management practices and harmful water flow restrictions. Other mutual benefits of the Great Rivers Partnership include:

  • large-scale floodplain restoration
  • assist farmers in conservation efforts to improve water quality
  • inform re. hydropower development
  • best management practices for cropland and cattle ranches
  • reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff

back to top

U.S. DOI Collaborates with Brazil
An intact sagebrush plot in eastern Oregon. Photo credit: Nicole M. DeCrappeo, USGS
The John Day dam fish ladder. Photo courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers.

A project that also happens to involve collaboration with our professional Brazilian counterparts along the Parana River, among other partners, is looking at ways to improve the ability of fish to migrate and travel through rivers that have had anthropogenic barriers introduced to their natural habitat.  Such barriers include dams, of course, but also culverts, roads and bridges.  Because there is a much greater diversity of fish body types and swimming ability in the Parana, lessons learned in Brazil are providing US resource managers valuable information at greatly reduced expenditure of time and money here.  The recently developed Passive Integrated Transponder technology is being applied to better monitor fish movement through such aids to their freedom of movement as fish ladders, in order to help engineer more effective structures.

Barriers to movement of aquatic organisms has strong detrimental effects on fisheries and on aquatic ecosystems as a whole.  Fishway designs in common use in the US and around the world were developed primarily to pass salmon, and have been shown to perform poorly for most species.  These designs are now being built worldwide at great cost, but little is known about their effectiveness. 

One example of this is the fish passage structures on the Paraná River in Brazil.  Following the construction of dams on the Paraná River fish populations collapsed, with serious economic, social, and ecological consequences.  In response, the world’s longest fishway was constructed at the Itaipu dam; other fishways have also been built at other dams along the river and throughout Brazil.  Hundreds of species have been found in these structures, but almost nothing is known about their effectiveness at passing these species.  We have recently begun collaborations with researchers at the Universities of Maringá and Toledo to address this problem.  Using technology and statistical methods developed at the S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center we evaluate passage performance of a broad range of species in the Canal de Piracema (Itaipu fishway) and at the fishway at Porto Primavera (the next dam upstream, now named General Sergio Motta Dam).  Future studies may extend further up- and downstream.  This will provide valuable information for Brazilian power companies and management agencies seeking to protect and restore their migratory fish populations.  It will also benefit USGS and North American power companies and management agencies because we will learn about passage performance of a range of species and structures that will have broad relevance in both North and South America.

Central America and the Caribbean

Development and implementation of surveillance in feral swine, other porcine species, and peridomestic mammals for influenza exposure and infection
(Photo credit: N. Batbayar, Mongolia WSC
The USGS works with international partners to mark and track whooper swans with GPS transmitters. Photo credit: N. Batbayar, Mongolia Wildlife Science and Conservation Center
This study is being conducted by the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) and entails avian influenza surveillance in mammalian species to learn of their potential role in both avian and swine influenza (H1N1 and H3N2) epidemiology.  This study is being conducted in Mexico.

 

 

 

 

 

 

back to top

For more information about International Ecosystems activities, contact:

Joseph E. Bunnell
Phone: 703-648-6497
E-mail: jbunnell@usgs.gov

 

 

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://www.usgs.gov/ecosystems/international/\\afs\usgs.gov\www\www\htdocs\ecosystems\international\research_activities.html
Page Contact Information: Ask USGS
Page Last Modified: Monday January 14 2013