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Science Picks—Leads, Feeds and Story Seeds
Released: 11/4/2005

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Denver Makle 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4732

November Highlights:

Time change got you down? Fall back on a few good stories. Science Picks bring the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) science to you. Cover ongoing earth and natural science research, investigations, and technology — Photos and Web links are provided to enhance your story. If you would like to receive Science Picks via email, would like to change the recipient, or no longer want to receive it, please email dmakle@usgs.gov.

  • Low-Down on Avian Flu
  • USGS Reports Preliminary Hurricane Wetland Losses in Southeastern Louisiana
  • Bear Markets, Bull Markets...Wetland Markets?
  • Veteran’s Day Feature — The Civil War and Geology
  • Let’s Talk Turkey?
  • Off the Press and of Roads Less Traveled, Cooperative Study Puts Smoky Mountains on the Map
  • San Francisco Bay Area Earthquakes Featured in 3-D
  • Online Demonstration Brings Alaska Wildlife to Viewers
  • Wanna be a Weather Reporter?

Leads (top news in natural science)

Low-Down on Avian Flu:

Because the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus could enter North America through migratory birds and waterfowl, USGS scientists are monitoring bird mortalities to detect the virus and provide an early warning to the agricultural, public health, and wildlife communities. Working in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Alaska, USGS has assisted by strategically sampling migrating birds in the Pacific Flyway. To date, disease and mortality from the virus has been reported in nearly 60 wild bird species worldwide, including free-ranging, captive, and experimentally infected wild species. To learn more about avian influenza research or the comprehensive surveillance and detection program for 2006, contact Catherine Puckett at (352) 264-3532 or cpuckett@usgs.gov. Information is also available at www.nwhc.usgs.gov.

USGS Reports Preliminary Hurricane Wetland Losses in Southeastern Louisiana:
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita transformed some 100 square miles of marsh to open water in southeastern Louisiana, according to preliminary estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Marsh not only provides habitat for native species, it also absorbs flood waters and provides storm surge protection. Find out what scientists have learned based on an analysis of Landsat satellite data retrieved during September and October. Learn how losses may effect the coastal regions in the future. For imagery related to this story, go to www.nwrc.usgs.gov/hurricane/breton_poststkatrina_letter.pdf. For more information, contact Gaye Farris at (337) 266-8550 or gaye_farris@usgs.gov.
Bear Markets, Bull Markets...Wetland Markets?
Curbing emissions alone will not restore the natural balance and reduce the greenhouse affect associated with global climate change. Take stock and explore the Carbon dioxide emissions commodities. It’s a novel idea and a new market sector. In the Prairie Pothole Region of the Great Plains, restored agricultural wetlands may play an important role in the world carbon market. USGS researchers are investigating how much carbon restored wetlands hold, and how this "natural resource" can be used to help mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases. For more information see http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/info/factsheet/carbon.htm, or contact Denver Makle at (703) 648-4732 or at dmakle@usgs.gov.
Veteran´s Day Feature The Civil War and Geology:

Depending on the perspective, Mississippi geology either aided the ally or was a formidable foe as Union troops tried to take control of the Mighty Mississippi more than 140 years ago. Consider the geology of the area — it almost proved too much for Union forces, despite the Confederate’s 31,000 soldiers and some 170 artillery pieces, 60,000 muskets, and ammunition. The land around Vicksburg, Miss. is dominated by high bluffs and cut by perennial streams and rivers. The geologic surface of the area, made of quartz silt, has unique engineering properties, which made for superb fortifications. When infiltrators moved to tunnel beneath in order to detonate dynamite charges under Confederate fortifications, much of the intended damage was confined by the natural properties of the cliff walls. Despite months of land and river bombardment from the some of the largest guns in the federal arsenal, this high-strength, naturally absorbent material withstood. For more information on this topic or on geology research, contact Karen Wood at (703) 648-4460, or at kwood@usgs.gov.

Feeds (science updates and happenings)

Let´s Talk Turkey?
In Alabama, Arkansas and Texas — are national holidays like Thanksgiving a time or a place? For many, the holidays represent family gatherings with delicious edibles, but for people who live in Thanksgiving, Md., and Christmas, Miss., it is also a place called home. Learn about holiday place names by using the USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). It is a fun and exciting research tool with over two million place names in the U.S. The GNIS was developed with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to establish uniform name usage in the federal government and provide an index of names on federal maps. Visit http://geonames.usgs.gov to search for unique names of streams, lakes, mountains, or populated places. For more information contact Karen Wood at (703) 648-4460 or at kwood@usgs.gov.
Off the Press and of Roads Less Traveled, Cooperative Study Puts Smoky Mountains on the Map:
Take a look at the USGS’ new Geologic Map of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Region in Tennessee and North Carolina. At the request of the National Park Service, USGS scientists have mapped areas previously not visited, revised the geology where stratigraphic and structural problems existed, and developed a map database for use in interdisciplinary research, land management, and interpretive programs for park visitors. Access available map products at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2005/1225/, or for more information contact C. Scott Southworth at (703) 648-6385 or at ssouthwo@usgs.gov.
San Francisco Bay Area Earthquakes Featured in 3-D:
Sixteen years ago on Oct. 17, the magnitude-6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake created $10 billion in damage and caused 63 fatalities in the San Francisco Bay area. USGS scientists recently introduced a new computer model of the upper 20 miles of the Earth’s crust in the greater San Francisco Bay area. This model may assist scientists in forecasting the vulnerable areas where intense ground shaking will most likely occur. The model was designed in collaboration with the California Geological Survey. See the 3-D Bay Area model online at http://quake.wr.usgs.gov/research/3Dgeologic or contact Stephanie Hanna at (206) 331-0335, or at shanna@usgs.gov.
Charting the Course Alaska Wildlife Travels Revealed:
Using satellite and radio telemetry data, a new USGS Web-based and stand-alone kiosk application, "Wandering Wildlife," demonstrates the movement of polar bears relative to annual sea ice changes in the arctic and the movements of migratory birds — such as common eiders, red-throated and yellow-billed loons and long-tailed ducks — to and from their breeding grounds in Alaska and wintering/migration areas in Russia, China, Korea and northern Japan. Data on the migration of birds may be valuable in discussions of early warning monitoring protocols for avian flu virus. Check out the USGS animation at http://alaska.usgs.gov/. For more information contact Denver Makle at (703) 648-4732 or at dmakle@usgs.gov.
Wanna be a Weather Reporter?
Lake Champlain is looking for someone just like you! The USGS in partnership with ECHO at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, a lake aquarium and science center, and television station NewsChannel 5 in Burlington, VT, opened a new "Waterfront Weather Station" exhibit. At the ECHO outdoor exhibit, visitors become weather reporters and see how water level and temperature of the lake and wind speed data are collected. The Weather Station not only records air temperature and wind speed, but includes the USGS lake gauge that has continuously collected water level data on the shore of Lake Champlain since 1907. These water data are transmitted in real time every 4 hours from the gauge to a satellite orbiting in space and then back to Earth. For more fun with weather, visitors can also head inside ECHO to create their own on-air TV weather report in the Be a Watershed Weather Reporter exhibit. Check out the Web sites http://vt.water.usgs.gov/echo_gage and www.echovermont.org to see the outdoor Waterfront Weather Station exhibit and find out more about the history of the gauge in Burlington, how real-time streamflow data are collected in Vermont and ECHO’s indoor exhibit. For more information about the exhibits, contact Debra Foster at (603) 226-7837 or dhfoster@usgs.gov.

Story Seeds (points to ponder or investigate)

Monitoring Water from a Single Location!
Federal agencies have partnered to create the U.S. Water Monitor. The Water Monitor, also referred to by its Web address watermonitor.gov, makes it easy to access current federal streamflow, reservoir, groundwater, snow, and river forecast products from a single website. This new site is a work in progress that will continue to evolve as more data sources become available. The site is a companion site to the U.S. Drought Monitor. For more information contact Harry Lins at (703) 648-5712 or hlins@usgs.gov.
Out With the Old and In With the New Scientists Collect Slippery Sample:
During 2006, in time for the 2007 - 2008 International Polar Year campaign of polar observations, research, and analysis, climate change and atmospheric scientists are collecting a new ice core from the two-mile-thick ice sheet that covers Antarctica. For more information on the ice core studies contact Heidi Koontz at (303) 202-4763 or at hkoontz@usgs.gov.
Earthquake Wrap-Up for 2005:
Coming soon! USGS will tally 2005 earthquake statistics. Can you guess the largest magnitude be for the year? If you’re looking for a year-end story that may shake up your readers, watch for the USGS "earthquake wrap-up" at the start of the New Year. For more information on the USGS Earthquake Program contact Clarice Ransom at (703) 648-4399 or at cransom@usgs.gov.


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