May Science Picks—Leads, Feeds, and Story Seeds
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
In this edition of Science Picks, find out how much technically recoverable oil was
recently assessed in North Dakota and Montana's Bakken Formation, discover new
data that will help Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts, and view new maps
that show how the nation shakes with earthquakes. Learn about new efforts to
monitor sea otters, and watch for yourself what walruses are up to in and around
the Bering Sea. As the weather heats up and
you start planning your summer vacation, wouldn't you like to know if it is
safe to swim at the beach and what critters, such as ticks, you should look out
for? This edition of Science Picks answers these questions and much more! If you would like to receive Science Picks via e-mail, would like to
change the recipient, or no longer want to receive it, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 3 to 4.3 Billion
Barrels of Technically Recoverable Oil Assessed in North
Dakota and Montana's
- New Data to Help with Natural Resources and Hazards
Assessments of Afghanistan
- New Maps Show How the
Nation Shakes with Quakes
Walrus? Find Out Online
it Safe to Swim at the Beach?
Tick Ticks: Warm Weather is Tick Time
Water Starts With Monitoring
- Mussels on the Move: Google Mapping
the Buzz: West Nile Fever
Risks to Fish-Eating Birds in San
- Getting Better Grizzly Bear Numbers
Lives of Red Knots and Horseshoe Crabs
- The Shorebird Walk
- Seldom Seen But Often Heard
Pests: Blue Plate Special for Bats
- What's in the Sand?
Leads (top news in natural science)
3 to 4.3 Billion Barrels of Technically Recoverable Oil Assessed in North Dakota and Montana's Bakken Formation
New Data to Help with Natural Resources and Hazards Assessments of Afghanistan
Dakota and Montana
have an estimated 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically
recoverable oil in an area known as the Bakken Formation, according to a new
USGS assessment. This assessment shows a 25-fold increase in the amount of oil
that can be recovered compared to the USGS's 1995 estimate of 151 million
barrels. Technically recoverable oil resources are those producible using
currently available technology and industry practices. The USGS is the only
provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered, technically
recoverable oil and gas. Results of the assessment
can be found at the USGS Energy Resources Program Web site. For
more information, listen to Episode 38 of CoreCast, the USGS podcast, or contact
Clarice Ransom at 703-648-4429 or email@example.com
New Maps Show How the Nation Shakes with Quakes
Policymakers, potential private investors, and the public recently received valuable new information to help
identify fault lines and the potential location of undiscovered water, oil and
gas, and non-fuel mineral resources in Afghanistan. Data were collected by
USGS scientists, who flew over Afghanistan
to conduct an airborne geophysical and photographic survey of the country. To view
images, maps and data from this survey, visit the Afghanistan Airborne Geophysical and Remote Sensing Survey Web site.
Information on USGS projects in Afghanistan are also available. For
more information, contact Jessica Robertson at
703-648-6624 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The USGS recently revealed how shaky
the nation is by releasing an updated version of the USGS National Seismic
Hazard Maps. Earthquakes remain a serious threat in 46 of the United States.
For some areas, such as western Oregon and Washington, the new maps
contain higher estimates for how hard the ground will shake compared to
versions of the maps released in 1996 and 2002. But for most of the United States,
the ground shaking estimates are lower. This revision incorporates new seismic,
geologic and geodetic information on earthquake rates and the way energy
released in earthquakes dies off with distance from the rupture. The USGS encourages all citizens in earthquake-prone areas
to follow the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety.
The USGS National Seismic Hazard Maps are also available online.
For more information, contact Clarice Ransom at 703-648-4429 or email@example.com.
Feeds (science updates and happenings)
Where's Walrus? Find Out Online
Is that just a piece of brown seaweed out there
bobbing in the ocean, or could it be a sea otter? It can be tough to tell,
unless you're as experienced and skilled as the USGS-led teams that go out each
May, armed with binoculars and spotting scopes, to tally otters over 375 miles
of central California coast where southern sea otters range. Since 1982,
standardized surveys from land and aircraft, along with other studies, have
helped scientists assess changes in this threatened sea otter population, so
federal and state wildlife agencies can make informed decisions about its
management. Watch for this year's survey results at California Sea Otter Surveys Web site.
To test your otter spotter skills, take our quiz at http://www.werc.usgs.gov/otters/find-the-otters.htm.
For more information, contact Brian Hatfield at 805-927-3893 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is it Safe to Swim at the Beach?
USGS scientists recently attached satellite radio tags to
adult walruses to map foraging locations around the St. Lawrence Island polynya
in the Northern Bering Sea. This is part of a
larger ecosystem study to improve understanding of how the Bering
Sea may respond to climate change, particularly from changes in
seasonal sea ice cover. The tags characterize hourly walrus foraging status and
estimate animal location. Collected data will be combined with information on prey
locations to describe walrus foraging efforts relative to their prey
distribution. In this effort to monitor walrus movements, the USGS was supported
by the North Pacific Research Board and National Science Foundation. The
movements of instrumented walrus can be viewed at http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/biology/walrus/2008animation.html.
For more information, contact Tony Fischbach at 907-786-7145.
Tick Tick Ticks: Warm Weather is Tick Time
can you be sure it's safe to swim at the beach? By using the Nowcast Web site.
Nowcast uses predictive models at two Lake Erie
beaches to determine if Escherichia coli (E. coli) concentrations
are likely to exceed safety standards. USGS scientists are testing
rapid-detection methods to measure certain bacteria and pathogenic organisms in
two hours, rather than the 18 hours needed for traditional methods. For more
information, visit Beach Monitoring Research Web site or contact Donna Francy at 614-430-7769 or email@example.com.
Clean Water Starts With Monitoring
you're out enjoying warm weather,
remember that spring and summer are good for ticks, too. Ticks have the dubious
distinction of being a "vector" that transmits harmful diseases to humans. You
name it-viruses, bacteria, parasites-ticks transmit them all to people,
occasionally at the same time. Lyme disease is the most commonly reported
vector-borne disease in the United
States. USGS scientist Howard Ginsberg
studies how Lyme disease is transmitted in nature by studying ticks and their
vertebrate hosts, such as white-footed mice, birds and voles, a small rodent.
For more information, visit the USGS vector-borne disease Web site, or for more information about Howard's research, visit Lyme Disease and Vector-Borne Pathogen Studies Web site.
Howard Ginsberg can also be reached at 401-874-4537 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mussels on the Move: Google Mapping Invasive Species
USGS is cosponsoring the Sixth National Water Quality Monitoring Conference,
May 18-22, in Atlantic City,
N.J. The conference will be
jammed packed with over 300 presentations, a wealth of technical posters and
workshops, and numerous regional tours. For information, visit 2008 National Water Quality Monitoring Conference Web site or contact Jennifer LaVista at 703-648-4432 or email@example.com.
Avoiding the Buzz: West Nile Fever
In January 2007, invasive quagga mussels were
discovered in Lake Mead, Nev — these were the first discovered west
of the Continental Divide. Since then, these noxious mussels have been on the
move — they've now invaded the
Colorado River downstream of Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam and are in a dozen Southern California reservoirs. Reservoirs seem to be an
ideal delivery system for an invasive aquatic organism like the quagga mussel. Since
the Colorado River provides much of Southern California's
drinking water, water users are dismayed that their water now includes
microscopic quagga mussel eggs and larvae that, when adult, will clog pipes.
Now, resource managers and the public can see just where the quagga mussels are
on a Google map updated daily. For more information, visit Quagga Mussel Sightings Distribution Web site or contact Amy Benson at 352-264-3477 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mercury Risks to Fish-Eating Birds in San Francisco Bay
already mosquito season in many parts of the country, arousing concerns about West Nile virus. This virus, carried by a few kinds of
mosquitoes, was not reported in the Western Hemisphere
until an outbreak in the fall 1999. Since then, the virus has spread across the
United States and Canada and south into Central America and the Caribbean. As West Nile
virus becomes established in wildlife, they in turn serve as a reservoir for
mosquitoes to spread the virus to people. The USGS, in collaboration with state
and federal agencies, is keeping an eye on the virus by testing dead birds and
mapping findings and is investigating which bird species are the primary reservoirs
for this virus. Collected information is used to help determine the disease's
spread, to learn what species are most susceptible to the disease, and to help
forecast future outbreaks in wildlife and people. For more information, visit Vector-borne Diseases and Zoonotic Diseases Web site or the USGS West Nile Virus Studies Web site.
You can also contact Paul Slota at 608-270-2420 or email@example.com, or Gail Moede Rogall at 608-270-2438
Getting Better Grizzly Bear Numbers
birds are good indicators of mercury contamination and risk to wildlife in
aquatic food webs. USGS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists estimate13
percent of the waterbirds in San
are at high risk for harmful effects due to mercury concentrations in blood and
22 percent at high risk from blood in feathers. Breeding terns are likely to be
even more at risk because blood mercury concentrations more than tripled during
the pre-breeding time period of this study. Results were recently published in Environmental
Toxicology and Chemistry. For more information, contact Josh Ackerman at
530-752-0485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
USGS scientist Katherine Kendall and colleagues recently
developed a way to more precisely estimate grizzly bear populations. Their
method incorporates data from both bear hair traps and bear rubs. This approach
is not restricted to DNA sampling methods or grizzly bear population estimates,
and can incorporate data received from multiple sources. Their methodology was
recently published in Ecological Applications. For more information,
contact Katherine Kendall at 406-888-7994 or email@example.com.
Story Seeds (points to ponder or investigate)
Intertwined Lives of Red Knots and Horseshoe Crabs
The Shorebird Walk
Populations of red knots-small, colorful shorebirds-have
declined in recent years due to declines in horseshoe crabs, whose eggs provide
nourishment for red knots. Each
spring these birds begin their migration of some 10,000 miles
from their wintering homes in Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South
America, to their Arctic nesting grounds.
Their most important refueling stop is the Delaware Bay,
where these and other shorebirds feast on billions of high-energy eggs spawned
by odd-looking horseshoe crabs. These crabs' existence pre-dates most other
species on Earth today. Until 2000, harvest of these crabs for use in
pharmaceuticals and as bait was unregulated. USGS researchers and partners will
determine harvest levels that will help the red knot recover. For more
information, visit http://www.lsc.usgs.gov/aeb/2065/ or http://www.fws.gov/northeast/redknot/.
You can also contact Dave Smith at 304-724-4467 or firstname.lastname@example.org for horseshoe crab
information; Michael Haramis at 301-497-5651 or email@example.com for red knot
information; and Jim Nichols at 301-497-5660 or firstname.lastname@example.org for adaptive
Seldom Seen But Often Heard
walk on the beach can result in unusual discoveries. Trained observers,
including USGS scientists, are taking many long, systematic beach walks from
April through June looking for the elusive snowy plover shorebird. The surveys
are part of an international inventory of snowy plovers to assess the
distribution and conservation status of this shorebird in the interior of the United States, along the Gulf
Coast of the United States and Mexico, and along the Pacific Coast
of Mexico. The Pacific coastal snowy plover population is listed under the
Endangered Species Act as threatened. For more information, visit http://fresc.usgs.gov/research/StudyDetail.asp?Study_ID=565 or contact Susan Haig at 541-750-7482 or email@example.com.
Insect Pests: Blue Plate Special for Bats
On rocky shores, you'll often hear them before you see them, but how many are
there and where are they going? These are questions USGS scientists and
volunteers are answering about the black oystercatcher, a large shorebird with
a bright orange bill that is found in rocky coastal areas and near-shore
islands along the Pacific coast of North America.
The USGS is coordinating Oregon's
annual survey for this species in May, which will be implemented with the help
of over 50 volunteers. In addition to the survey, volunteers help monitor the
well being of Oregon's oystercatchers by making regular visits to check on
nests and chicks. This year, USGS scientists will also study how oystercatchers
move along the Oregon
coast by fitting birds with small backpacks that contain a radio transmitter.
For more information, contact Matthew Johnson at 541-758-7797 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What's in the Sand?
spring brings to life an abundance of insects, the bats that eat them also
begin to appear. The diets for 40 of the 43 species of bats that occur in the United States chiefly
consist of insects.
Overall, little is known about their food habits, especially how their diet can
vary over location, time of night and season. However, ongoing USGS studies
indicate that though bats don't eat the great quantities of mosquitoes as is commonly
believed, they do have an impact on destructive agricultural and forest pests
like click and bark beetles. Also, in a recent study on food habits of the
migratory hoary bat, USGS researchers found evidence that these bats might time
their spring and fall migration movements to coincide with the rapid seasonal increase
of crop-damaging cutworm moths and their relatives. For more information, visit
http://www.fort.usgs.gov/Research/research_tasks.asp?TaskID=2148 or contact Ernie Valdez at 505-346-2870, ext 10 or email@example.com.
exhibit open at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, Calif.,
features a patented underwater microscope system developed by USGS scientists
to collect and analyze electronic images of sediment grains on riverbeds or
seafloors. Using a high-definition video camera housed in a custom-built case,
both provided by the USGS, the museum has produced an interactive exhibit in
which visitors lower the camera onto trays of different sand samples that
include quartz, coral and volcanic sands. Through a projector, the images are
then displayed on a nearby wall, where a docent explains the exhibit and the
underwater microscope's scientific uses. For more information, contact Henry
Chezar at 650-329-5331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
USGS provides science for a changing world. For more information, visit www.usgs.gov.
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