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February Science Picks—Leads, Feeds and Story Seeds
Released: 2/16/2005

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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Phone: 703-648-4732 | FAX: 703-648-4466

February may be a short month -- but what it’s not short on is good Science stories.

This month’s Science Picks can help you cover ongoing earth and natural science research and investigations, and technology at USGS—Photos and Web links are provided to enhance your story. If you are not receiving this and would like to, would like to change the recipient, or no longer want to receive it, please email

  • 2004 deadliest year
  • Illustrate with us -- New Geologic Map of North America
  • A real-time treat -- USGS Water Data Served
  • Getting to the Heart of Geography
  • "Duck" the winter

Leads (top news in natural science)

Earthquakes Make 2004 Deadliest Year in Nearly 500 Years

Have you ever wondered how Science and technology work together to attempt to monitor, and study earthquakes? The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) locates about 50 earthquakes each day or almost 25,000 a year. Science can save lives -- Learn more about the technology developed by USGS and its partners, who operate a nationwide earthquake monitoring system which provides warnings, assesses seismic hazards, records earthquake activity, and information essential in the design of building codes for more earthquake resistant, future buildings and structures. The full press release is available at For more information contact Heidi Koontz at 303-202-4763 or at

New Geologic Map of North America Illustrates Discoveries and Advances in Geosciences

The last definitive geologic map of North America was published 40 years ago -- before the theory of plate tectonics was widely accepted, impact craters were known simply as "anomalies" and knowledge of ocean floor geology was in its infancy. A new map created by USGS scientists and published by the Geological Society of America (GSA), captures the detail of North America’s geologic features in stunning color and spans an area from the North Pole to Venezuela and from Ireland to Siberia. View or use the maps, which are available at Map of North America For more information, contact Heidi Koontz at 303-202-4763 or

How Sweet It Was

Most people like to remember their sweethearts with flowers or candy on Valentines Day, but at the USGS we’re remembering how sweet it was ten years ago on Feb. 14, 1995, when real-time water data became available to the public over the internet for the first time ever. Internet access to real-time water data was originally developed for folks in Montana but the value of the information was quickly realized. Now this popular, seamless nation-wide system currently services up to 19 million requests per month! Internet access to the real-time USGS water data has added a new class of users like fishermen, boaters, and landowners to the traditional users such as engineers, scientists, water managers, and emergency responders. The data is used to forecast floods and droughts, evaluate current and future water supplies, operate reservoirs for hydropower, flood control, or water supplies, navigate rivers and streams, enjoy recreational boating and fishing activities, and study how water resources are changing over time. The real-time streamflow data is part of the USGS National Water Information System which provides the public with access to more than 100 years of water data. It’s at For more information contact Wendy McPherson at 410-238-4255 or

Getting to the Heart of Geography Everywhere

Just how many place names begin with heart? As it turns out there are 316, ranging from Heart Mountain in Alaska to Heartstrong in Colorado to Hearts Content in Pennsylvania; there are 95 place names alone that have "Heart Lake" in them. As for "Valentine," it appears in 129 place names. Although it may seem frivolous, the USGS Geographic names Information system ( provides a searchable database of about 2 million physical and cultural geographic features in the United States and its territories. For more information on the Nation’s official repository of domestic geographic coordinates and uses of the database contact Karen Wood at (703) 648-4447 or at

"Duck" the winter

USGS scientists in San Francisco are studying the winter activities of medium-sized diving sea ducks, such as where they feed, how deep they dive for food, what they eat. Readers can learn how floatplane crews have observed radio-marked birds on the breeding grounds, where future work will include determining if pollutants affect scoter reproduction. Information about this study is available at or for more information contact Susan Wainwright-De La Cruz at 707-562-2004 or; or John Takekawa at 707-562-2000 or

Feeds (science updates and happenings)

Birds and Fire -- What a Year

Find out what birds, forests and fires all have in common in The 2004 Annual Report of the Cooperative Forest Ecosystem Research (CFER) program, which is now available. The new publication contains highlights and summaries of CFER research and information exchange activities during 2004. Examples of topics discussed in the report include research on the response of birds to fire and accomplishments to date of the Bureau of Land Management’s Density Management Study. The report can be accessed on the Web at: or by contacting the CFER program office at 541-737-7612 or by e-mail at (Janet Erickson, Corvallis, OR, 541-737-6593)

Spotting the Difference Between Owls

USGS scientists are examining the genetic structure in three subspecies of the spotted owl. The research attempts to determine if the northern spotted owl is a distinct subspecies relates to the California and Mexican Spotted Owl. The scientists also demonstrated hybridization among the subspecies. This comprehensive assessment of the genetic distinctions between subspecies of spotted owls provides important information for developing management actions to benefit the species. For more information contact Susan Haig at 541-750-7482 or

Story Seeds (points to ponder or investigate)

Still Smoking After All These Years

At 8:32 Sunday morning, May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted. That was 25 years ago – The volcano is active again. USGS continues to monitor the volcanic activity at Mount St. Helens view current status at:

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