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January Science Picks—Leads, Feeds and Story Seeds
Released: 1/11/2005

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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Reston, VA 20192
Denver Beaulieu-Hains 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4732 | FAX: 703-648-4466

It’s a new year, and we’ve got a story for you.

There are great science stories everywhere. This monthly collection can help you cover ongoing earth and natural science research and investigations – photos and web links are provided to enhance your story.

Leads (top news in natural science)

USGS Scientists gather data in Sri Lanka

We’ve seen the photographs and heard from survivors, but what does the earth tell us about what happened in Sri Lanka, during the Tsunami. USGS Scientists will attempt to find out. The Scientists will record water levels, inundation distances, tsunami deposit distribution and characteristics, while also conducting eyewitness interviews as part of an international team Jan. 7 – 16. For more information call Clarice Ransom at (703) 648-4299 or by email at

Space View Reveals Scale of Disaster

Within hours of the Asian Tsunami, the USGS National Center for Earth Resources Observation and Sciences (EROS) began providing pre-and post-tsunami satellite images and other vital information to help planners for disaster response from many agencies and organizations make well-informed decisions. In answer to the urgent needs of governments and service organizations, these images have been placed in an easily accessible website The images vividly illustrate the human, social, and environmental toll of the tsunami. For more information on the satellite images provided, contact Dennis Hood at (605) 594-6547 or by email at

Fault Study Offers Insight

California is no stranger to earthquakes and in 1868 a large earthquake estimated to have been about magnitude 7, occurred on the Hayward Fault. It was the "Great" earthquake of the San Francisco Bay area prior to 1906. USGS scientists have used the site to study the relationships between fault behavior and geology using a three-dimensional geologic model. The model, derived from geologic, geophysical, and seismicity data, has provided the necessary information to construct the relationships between geologic units on both sides of the surface trace of the fault, providing maps of geologic units that truncate against the fault surface. For more information on the study or the Hayward Fault, which extends from San Jose 120 km or about 74 miles northward along the base of the East Bay Hills to San Pablo Bay, contact David Ponce at (650) 329-5314 or by email at

New Discovery

A team of scientists has determined that a coral reef discovered in 1999 is the deepest reef ever found off the continental United States. The reef lies in approximately 200-250 feet of water off the coast of southwest Florida on a submerged barrier-island, Pulley Ridge. These corals found on Pulley Ridge are believed to be considerably healthier than the corals from shallow-water reefs worldwide, including those found at the Florida Keys. Scientists and graduate students from the USGS and the University of South Florida (USF) are using many new types of technologies to gather data, including one-person submarines and the USGS SeaBOSS (Sea Bottom Observation and Sampling System) submersible camera system. For more information contact Robert Halley, a USGS marine geologist at 727-803-8747 ext. 3020 or by email at

Who Put the "Prairie" in the Prairie Falcon?

It’s no accident; prairie falcons really do need prairies. Although this swift and specialized predator nests on canyon cliffs and tall buttes throughout western North America, the flat grassland prairies of the Midwest provide the habitat this remarkable bird of prey needs during most of the year. John DeLong and USGS scientist Karen Steenhof recently co-authored a literature synthesis that provides resource managers with an overview of current knowledge of the habitat needs of prairie falcons, and how management practices affect their habitats in the Northern Great Plains. DeLong and Steenhof reported that the grasslands of the Great Plains provide important migration corridors and post-breeding habitat for prairie falcons that nest in other parts of the continent. Their research reveals that maintaining appropriate habitat for the birds is essential, especially the open landscapes that support the prairie falcon’s most important prey species: ground squirrels, horned larks and meadowlarks. Programs to preserve and maintain grassland habitats on private lands throughout western North America may be crucial in safeguarding prairie falcon habitat in years to come. The report is part of a series of reviews on North American grassland birds produced by the Grasslands Ecosystem Initiative, USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. It is available online at: For more information contact Karen Steenhof at (208) 426-5206 or by email at

Feeds (science updates and happenings)

Tsunami lessons learned available in print

Actions that saved lives, and actions that cost lives, as recounted by eyewitnesses to the -- the magnatidue 9.5 earthquake in Chile on May 22, 1960. This book contains true stories that illustrate how to survive -- and how not to survive -- a Tsunami. It is meant for people who live, work, or play along the coasts that tsunamis may strike. This book was compiled by the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. The USGS publication can be obtained by contacting Denver Beaulieu-Hains at (703) 648-4732.

A View of the Erupting Volcano Mount St. Helens

The continuing eruption of Mount St. Helens since it woke in late September has produced some amazing video, which is now available to the public. Some highlights include: "Eruption of Mount St. Helens – Instrumentation and Continuing Dome Growth II, November 20, 29 and December 16, 2004" which is 45 minutes long and includes general fly around video of the volcano on various dates in November and December, sling deployment of seismic instruments onto the 1986 and 2004 domes, Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) and video of the 2004 dome and surrounding areas of deformation and still images of the crater rim; "Eruption of Mount St. Helens 2004 – Steam and Ash Emissions and Dome Growth on October 1,5,11 and 27, 2004" which is 48 minutes long and includes steam emissions, dome photography, and FLIR data; and "Mount St. Helens Volcano Crisis Response" which is 58 minutes long and includes interviews with USGS scientists, video footage of steam emissions, and monitoring efforts. The recent video may be requested by contacting Don Becker at (605) 594-6175 or by e-mail at The USGS footage of the deadly 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens can be obtained by contacting Allied Vaughn, 1434 NW 17th Ave., Portland, Oregon 97209 or phone at 1-800-722-2251 or 503-224-3855 or via the Web at

Story Seeds (points to ponder or investigate)

Analyzing Wolves Behavoir

Ten years ago, January 12, wolves were transplanted to Yellowstone National Park. Since that time The U.S. Geological Survey has analyzed their behavior. Readers may be curious about their leadership behaviors? Or they may want to learn more about findings. For more information contact Heidi Koontz at 303-202-4763 (voice) or

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