Contaminant Biology Program

Featured Science Activities

Our science is summarized in a series of feature articles that highlight recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) environmental health science activities. They are short summaries of peer-reviewed journal articles and USGS reports co-authored by our specialized teams of scientists. The feature articles can also be found here.

Filter Total Items: 64
Date published: October 18, 2017
Status: Completed

Body Symmetry in Forster's Terns Related to Mercury Exposure

Body symmetry of Forster's terns (Sterna forsteri) in San Francisco Bay was related to blood and feather mercury concentrations. Body asymmetry can affect a bird's fitness by reducing flight efficiency, thus increasing energetic costs (especially during migration) and interrupting normal feeding and breeding behaviors.

Date published: October 18, 2017
Status: Completed

Optimized Approaches Coupled with Interactive Mapping Application Provide a Tool to Visualize the Occurrence of Soil Pathogens

Scientists optimized existing methods to collect and identify microorganisms including Bacillus anthracis, a pathogenic microorganism, in 4,800 soil samples across the United States, and developed a geographic information system (GIS)-based application to visualize microorganism occurrence throughout the United States.

Contacts: Dale Griffin
Date published: August 14, 2017
Status: Completed

Efficacy of Eggshell Analyses as a Nonlethal Method to Estimate Mercury Exposure in Bird Embryos

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists evaluated a nonlethal method to estimate mercury in the embryos of 23 bird species using mercury content in eggshells. This method was effective for a wide range of ages and species.

Contacts: Josh T Ackerman
Date published: July 14, 2017
Status: Completed

Program Scientist Receives Award for Research on the Effects of Road Dust Control Chemicals

Dr. Bethany Kunz received the 2017 Environmental Excellence Award from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for her exemplary research to advance knowledge of the effects of transportation on the natural environment.

Date published: April 7, 2017
Status: Completed

New Method Improves Measurement of Bullet Fragments in Culled Varmints

A creative combination of radiography and techniques borrowed from meat processing and gold prospecting led to a better method for determining the lead content in ground squirrels shot by hunters to evaluate potential exposure risk to avian scavengers such as golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos).

Date published: March 30, 2017
Status: Completed

Low Levels of Contaminants Found in Great Lakes Tree Swallow Nestlings

Tree swallow nestlings at most study sites in the Great Lakes basin were minimally exposed to organic contaminants.

Date published: March 6, 2017
Status: Completed

Frequent Fliers—Web-Based Tool Aids in Understanding the Role of Wild Birds in Transmission of Avian Influenza

This visualization tool helps researchers and public health officials see how relations between poultry density and waterfowl migration routes affect the threat of avian influenza to people and the poultry industry.

Date published: February 17, 2017
Status: Completed

Assessing Contaminant Hazards Without a Critter—Advancements in Alternatives to Animal Toxicity Testing

During the past two decades, great strides have been made toward the development and use of ecotoxicity testing methods that reduce animal use or replace animals altogether with in vitro tests or in silico models.

Date published: February 15, 2017
Status: Completed

Fish Diets Switch From Aquatic to Terrestrial Insects in Streams Effected By Metal Contamination

A riparian zone rich in terrestrial insects can provide an alternate food source for fish in metal-impacted watersheds.

Date published: January 4, 2017
Status: Completed

Is White Sucker Tumor Prevalence in some Wisconsin Rivers Related to Environmental Contaminant Exposures or Other Factors?

The incidence of particular skin and liver tumors on white suckers collected from some Wisconsin rivers corresponded to the degree of urban development within the watershed. Further research is needed to understand the relationship between exposure to urban-sourced contaminants and the initiation, promotion, and potential for population-level effects of these tumors.

Contacts: Vicki S Blazer
Date published: October 21, 2016
Status: Completed

Damage Assessment and Restoration Tracking System (DARTS)—A new tool to support the Department of Interior's Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program

A new, web-based interactive tool has been developed to increase access to the Department of Interior (DOI) Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) Program information.

Contacts: Jo Ellen Hinck