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Science Picks

June 2, 2005
Denver Beaulieu-Hains 703-648-4732 Denver Beaulieu-Hains

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Looking for sizzling summer science stories?

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.

June Highlights:


What will Hurricane Season Bring?

June 1 marks the beginning of the 2005 Hurricane season. Last years hurricane season was a busy one for USGS researchers. One storm hit after another (four strikes to Florida in 6 weeks) and the USGS Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies (St. Petersburg, FL) collected and analyzed data as part of the USGS Hurricane and Extreme Storm Impact Studies. Find out what they learned and what’s in store this hurricane season. For more information, contact Abby Sallenger at (727) 803-8747, X3015, or at ( Sallenger will participate in an upcoming Congressional briefing, July 11, on the approaching hurricane season) Learn what’s in store this season and view the before and after 3D topography/bathymetry showing the breach through the barrier island, Pine Beach, AL at

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish...Snakehead Fish!

USGS scientists reported 20 Snakehead Fish (a.k.a. Frankenfish) caught or captured from the Potomac River last year. Last Thursday, two more were electrofished by John Odenkirk of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, numbers 14 and 15 for the year, giving scientists reason to believe that the "frankenfish" population continues to spread and may exceed last year’s count in the Washington, D.C. area. USGS biologist Walter Courtenay cautions wildlife officials across the country to expect to see more frankenfish in the nation’s waterways and to prepare now. The species eats nearly anything and few realize the toll of this invasive species on the environment. There are economic losses as well. Learn more about the high-profile fish. It is an opportunity to discuss the dangers of the public dumping of live plants and animals into the environment. See high-resolution snakehead images at:, and for fact sheets go to: To learn more about invasive species or to report a sighting, see:

For more information, contact Walter Courtenay at (352) 264-3519, or at, or contact Diane Noserale at (703) 648-4333, or at

Affairs of the Flock...A Father´s Day Tale

Here’s a Father’s Day story. Mom lays the eggs, helps with incubation, and then skedaddles off to court another male, leaving Dad to attend to the upbringing of up to 3 precocious offspring. During the height of the breeding seasons, fathers can even adopt a stray chick. In 2004, 13 Dads raised 27 chicks in the plover "nursery" at Coal Oil Point Reserve, a public beach in Santa Barbara, California. Learn what scientists did to contribute to the success of the endangered Snowy Plover. Contact Kevin Lafferty at (805) 893-8778, or at

Big Rock Candy Mountain Does Exist! Big Rock Candy Mountain Does Exist!

In the 1930s, Burl Ives popularized a hobo song written by Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock called "Big Rock Candy Mountain." Those in search of the legendary place "at the Lemonade Springs where the bluebird sings" will no doubt be delighted to learn that the Big Rock Candy Mountain does, in fact, exist – in a remote area of Utah. A recent study has shown that the striking, bright yellow hill is part of an extinct volcano that was altered by hot solutions 21 million years ago when the area looked much like Yellowstone does today. The altered rocks provide a natural laboratory for studying the weathering of minerals such as pyrite (fool’s gold) and gypsum. Modern weathering also created the Lemonade Springs, the low-pH, sulfate-rich liquid that, with a little imagination, tastes a bit like lemonade. To learn more about the study, contact Charles (Skip) Cunningham at (703) 648-6121, or at


USGS Maps the Spread of West Nile During 2005 Season

Summertime means the return of mosquitos and the spread of West Nile Virus (WNV). Bad news, but at least you can track confirmed cases of this scourge. Compare this year’s spread to that of previous years for mosquitos, birds, other animals, and humans. Anticipate writing stories on WNV this season; bookmark our site: Still need more info? Call Emi Saito at (608) 270-2456, or at for WNV surveillance information, or contact Stephen Guptill at (703) 648-4520, or at for WNV mapping.

Database Chronicles River Restoration Projects

Don’t discount the value of information technology when studying science, and don’t discount the importance of water to us all! Put them together, and you get work by a group of leading river scientists working with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) to address the importance of rivers and streams for fresh water, food, and recreation -- and the state of these waters in our nation. The 29 April edition of Science featured the article, "Synthesizing U.S. River Restoration Efforts," which discusses the development of the National River Restoration Science Synthesis (NRRSS) database to integrate access to thousands of disparate databases on river and stream restoration projects across the country. The NBII provided programming expertise to develop and host the database (, which will provide public access to data beginning in December 2005. NRRSS is a collaborative project among American Rivers, The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the NBII. To learn more about the database and its many uses, contact Ron Sepic at (703) 648-4218, or at

Need Directions for Summer Vacation... Isn´t That Spatial?

For those who might not know it—many cell phones are equipped with GPS, fire trucks are dispatched using mapping tools and the directions found on the Internet are provided via satellite technology. Learn how researchers, educators and decision makers are using the power of GPS, the topographic map and the Internet to address today’s challenges—finding directions, tracking a storm, restoring a habitat, catching a criminal. For more information, contact Denver Beaulieu-Hains at (703) 648-4732, or at

Story Seeds

Getting to the Core of the Issue: Drilling deep into the Nation’s Largest Known Impact Crater

In September of this year, an international team including USGS scientists will begin collecting core samples from a 7,000 ft hole drilled into the Chesapeake Bay impact crater. This buried crater formed 35 million years ago when an asteroid or comet slammed into the ocean near the present-day mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The object measured one to two miles in diameter and traveled at tens of thousands of miles per hour. Its impact created mega-tsunamis that quickly filled the crater with over 1000 ft of sediment. Last May, USGS scientists drilled the first scientific test hole into the center of the Chesapeake Bay crater near Cape Charles, Va. Find out what they discovered and what’s next. For more information, contact Greg Gohn at (703) 648-4382 or at

Finding Slippery Slopes in Alaska

A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study to find undiscovered oil and gas resources, in the central part of Alaska’s North Slope and the adjacent state offshore area, revealed an estimated 4.0 billion barrels of oil, 37.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 478 million barrels of natural gas liquids. Learn how scientists found the fossil fuels. See the fact sheet at:; View the Play Maps at:

For more information, contact Carolyn Bell at (703) 648-4463, 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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