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August Science Picks—Leads, Feeds and Story Seeds
Released: 8/3/2005

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

Looking for timely news?

This month’s Science Picks can help you cover ongoing earth and natural science research and investigations, as well as, technology at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) — photos and Web links are provided to enhance your story.

August Highlights:

  • Up in Flames —There Goes the Neighborhood
  • From Dust to Environmental Decline
  • The Flap about Avian Flu
  • Manatees in a Hurri – cane
  • Exploring the Depths of the Gulf of Mexico
  • Too Hot: It’s not Cole Porter or Broadway, but Northern California
  • There’s No Place Like Home
  • USGS Scientist has Common Bond with Edison
  • Ground Water: Where, Why, and How Much

Leads (top news in natural science)

Up in Flames —There Goes the Neighborhood

Many people think wildfires destroy everything in their path and that nothing can live in the blackened landscapes left behind. However, Northern Three-toed Woodpeckers would disagree. This bird and other avian species depend on forest burn areas for setting up housekeeping. USGS ecologists are studying what happens to bird life, who moves in, and who moves out, before and after wildfires in ponderosa pine forests in the West. This information can help public land managers evaluate the trade-offs of different fuels management practices and their effects on burn severity and post-fire recovery. To learn more about fire effects on forest, feathers, and fauna, contact Michele Banowetz at (970) 226-9301, or at See also Integrated Fire Science in the Rocky Mountains at

From Dust to Environmental Decline

Does dust-filled air from the Sahara Desert carry nutrients, pollutants or microbes across the Atlantic to the Caribbean? If so, is this dust contributing to the decline of coral reefs? USGS scientists are working with scientists at universities in the U.S., U.S. Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and Mali (West Africa), and with government agencies in Trinidad and Tobago, Mali, and Cape Verde, to identify the contaminants that are transported with the dust. Analysis of air samples from dust-source areas of Northern Africa, from the Atlantic and from the Caribbean is the first step toward understanding whether this large-scale dust system may be adversely affecting coral reefs or human health. For more information, contact Denver Makle at (703) 648-4732, or at

The Flap about Avian Flu

Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 has emerged as a major cause of morbidity and mortality in poultry in Southeast Asia and has caused the deaths of more than 50 people, primarily those who have had direct contact with infected poultry. Since first detected in 1997, the H5N1 virus has spread to ten countries. Over 200 million domestic poultry have died or been culled in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. Recent mortality of wild birds in China has raised the concern about the potential for spread of the disease during migration to other parts of the World. For more information see or or contact Carolyn Bell at (703) 648-4463, or at

Manatees in a Hurri - cane

Hurricane Charley came ashore with sustained wind speeds of 145 mph at Charlotte Harbor, a summer site for a large number of manatees. Past USGS manatee research after strong hurricanes and winter storms indicates that such storms affect the adult survival rates of the endangered Florida manatee. Learn what USGS scientists have found by assessing the impacts of 2004 hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. For additional information, visit the USGS Manatee Sirenia Project Web sites at and For more information, contact Catherine Puckett at (352) 264-3532, or at

Exploring the Depths of the Gulf of Mexico

We’re all familiar with the mysteries surrounding the Black Hole, but what do we know about blue holes? Explore at least a dozen blue holes on Florida’s continental shelf with USGS scientists Gene Shinn and Ann Tihansky, who were featured in a recent documentary program, In Focus on the Environment, a monthly public broadcast program in South Florida. The In Focus episode explored plant and animal life that thrive at the extreme depths of blue holes, which sometimes plunge hundreds of feet deeper than the hard limestone floor of the Gulf of Mexico. For more information, contact Diane Noserale at (703) 648-4333, or at

Too Hot: It´s not Cole Porter or Broadway, but Northern California

Juvenile Coho Salmon spend at least one year in streams before migrating to the ocean; adults return to natal streams to spawn and die. Discover what USGS scientists in Redwood Creek have learned about the threatened salmon when the creek gets too hot in July and August. Find out why creek temperatures are warmer than they were historically in these areas. For more information on this seven-year study, contact Gloria Maender at (520) 670-5596, or at

There´s No Place Like Home

They’re back in southern California and even in the Central Valley—those small riparian songbirds, the endangered least Bell’s vireos. After two decades of cowbird control and habitat protection in southern California, least Bell’s vireo numbers have grown tenfold since the species was federally listed as endangered in 1986; then, only 300 pairs were reported statewide. This summer marks the return of the first nesting pair in the Central Valley in newly restored habitat. To learn more about the return of the vireo, contact Gloria Maender at (520) 670-5596, or at

USGS Scientist has Common Bond with Edison

It may not be the light bulb, but USGS scientist Dr. Allen M. Shapiro has designed, constructed and patented a Multifunction Bedrock-Aquifer Transportable Tool (BAT3). Shapiro’s BAT3 is designed to conduct tests that measure the permeability of fractures, and collect water samples for geochemical analyses from short intervals of boreholes in fractured-rock aquifers. BAT3 is unique because it has the ability to conduct multiple types of hydraulic tests, geochemical sampling and tracer tests. It also has the ability to monitor the operational integrity of tests and to conduct real-time data analysis and visualization. BAT3 has already been used by USGS scientists throughout the eastern United States. For more information on Dr. Shapiro’s testing tool, go to, or contact A.B. Wade at (703) 648-4483, or at

Feeds (science updates and happenings)

Earth Changes Seen from Space

USGS satellite images of the Earth are featured in a new atlas, One Planet, Many People, released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The satellite images are before-and-after pairs for 80 sites around the world. The atlas is designed to document visual evidence of global environmental changes resulting from natural processes and human-induced activities. The publication is intended for environmental policy makers, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, academics, teachers, and citizens. For more information about the atlas, visit For more information, contact Karen Wood at (703) 648-4447, or at

Satellite Stop Along the Lewis and Clark Route

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition from 1803-1806, the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS) has assembled a collection of satellite images that provides a contemporary view of the route that Lewis and Clark took from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Pacific Coast. The twenty-two individual images in the collection are satellite scenes that provide a modern view of historically significant stops along the expedition route. See signature Lewis and Clark events, dates, and descriptions at, or see the USGS Lewis and Clark Web site at To learn more about how this historic expedition has influenced modern-day scientific advancements, contact Jon Campbell at (703) 648-4180, or at

Story Seeds (points to ponder or investigate)

Ground Water: Where, Why, and How Much?

The USGS found that more than 90 percent of ground-water withdrawals are used for irrigation, public supply (deliveries to homes, businesses, and industry), and self-supplied industrial uses. On a daily basis, 76.5 billion gallons are used for these three purposes with irrigation accounting for nearly three-quarters of this amount. California and Nebraska use more ground water for irrigation than any other states. To learn more from the recently published report, Estimated Withdrawals from Principal Aquifers in the United States, 2000, contact A.B. Wade at 703-648-4483 or by email at

An Open Door to Info

The Geospatial One-Stop (GOS) Portal, an online tool that provides access to more than 72,000 federal, state and local government geospatial resources related to human health and disease, natural hazards and biology, has just released an upgraded portal. It’s faster and easier, with new communities to facilitate topic discussions, data-sharing, and much more. For more information on the new Geospatial One-Stop Portal, contact Denver Makle at (703) 648-4732, or at

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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