Contaminant Biology

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Dive into our publications and explore the science from the Environmental Health Program (Toxic Substances Hydrology and Contaminant Biology).

GeoHEALTH-USGS Newsletter

GeoHEALTH-USGS Newsletter

The GeoHEALTH–USGS Newsletter—published since 2004—provides information on USGS science activities pertinent to safeguarding the health of fish, wildlife, domesticated animals, and people from environmental exposures to contaminants and pathogens.

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Featured Science Activities

Featured Science Activities

Learn about our Featured Science Activities through our pages that highlight recent studies, publications, and results.

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Filter Total Items: 438
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Year Published: 2018

The aerosphere as a network connector of organisms and their diseases

Aeroecological processes, especially powered flight of animals, can rapidly connect biological communities across the globe. This can have profound consequences for evolutionary diversification, energy and nutrient transfers, and the spread of infectious diseases. The latter is of particular consequence for human populations, since migratory birds...

Ross, Jeremy D.; Bridge, Eli S.; Prosser, Diann J.; Takekawa, John Y.
Ross, J.D., Bridge, E.S., Prosser, D.J., and Takekawa, J.Y., 2017, The Aerosphere as a Network Connector of Organisms and Their Diseases, in Chilson, P., Frick, W.F., Kelly, J., and Liechti, F., editors, Aeroecology, Springer International Publishing, p. 427-464.

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Year Published: 2018

Antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli in migratory birds inhabiting remote Alaska

We explored the abundance of antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli among migratory birds at remote sites in Alaska and used a comparative approach to speculate on plausible explanations for differences in detection among species. At a remote island site, we detected antibiotic-resistant E. coli phenotypes in samples collected...

Ramey, Andrew M.; Hernandez, Jorge; Tyrlöv, Veronica; Uher-Koch, Brian D.; Schmutz, Joel A.; Atterby, Clara; Järhult, Josef D.; Bonnedahl, Jonas
Ramey, A.M., Hernandez, J., Tyrlöv, V., Uher-Koch, B.D., Schmutz, J.A., Atterby, C., Järhult, J.D., Bonnedahl, J., 2017, Antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli in migratory birds inhabiting remote Alaska: EcoHealth, doi: 10.1007/s10393-017-1302-5

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Year Published: 2018

Annual variation in polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure in tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) eggs and nestlings at Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) study sites

Tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) eggs and nestlings were collected from 16 sites across the Great Lakes to quantify normal annual variation in total polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure and to validate the sample size choice in earlier work. A sample size of five eggs or five nestlings per site was adequate to quantify exposure to PCBs in...

Custer, Christine M.; Custer, Thomas W.; Dummer, Paul; Goldberg, Diana R.; Franson, J. Christian
Custer, C.M., Custer, T.W., Dummer, P.M., Goldberg, D., Franson, J.C. 2018. Annual variation in polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure in tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) eggs and nestlings at Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) study sites. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 190:227. DOI: 10.1007/s10661-018-6617-3.

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Year Published: 2018

Importance of growth rate on mercury and polychlorinated biphenyl bioaccumulation in fish

To evaluate the effect of fish growth on mercury (Hg) and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) bioaccumulation, a non–steady‐state toxicokinetic model, combined with a Wisconsin bioenergetics model, was developed to simulate Hg and PCB bioaccumulation in bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus). The model was validated by comparing observed with predicted Hg and...

Li, Jiajia; Haffner, G. Douglas; Patterson, Gordon; Walters, David M.; Burtnyk, Michael D.; Drouillard, Ken G.

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Year Published: 2018

Tributyltin: Advancing the science on assessing endocrine disruption with an unconventional endocrine-disrupting compound

Tributyltin (TBT) has been recognized as an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) for several decades. However, only in the last decade, was its primary endocrine mechanism of action (MeOA) elucidated—interactions with the nuclear retinoid-X receptor (RXR), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ), and their heterodimers. This molecular...

Lagadic, Laurent; Katsiadaki, Ioanna; Biever, Ronald C.; Guiney, Patrick; Karouna-Renier, Natalie K.; Schwarz, Tamar; Meador, James P.
Lagadic, L., Katsiadaki, I., Biever, R. C., Guiney, P. D., Karouna-Renier, N., Schwarz, T., and Meador, J. P., 2017, Tributyltin: Advancing the science on assessing endocrine disruption with an unconventional endocrine-disrupting compound: Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, v. 245, p. 65-127. https://doi.org/10.1007/398_2017_8

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Year Published: 2018

Synthesis of tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) data for Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) assessment at Wisconsin Areas of Concern

Assessment of the “Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems” Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) can be accomplished by (1) comparing tissue concentrations to established background and Lowest Observable Effect Level (LOEL) for reproductive effects, or (2) directly measuring reproductive success at Areas of Concern (AOCs) and statistically...

Custer, Christine M.; Custer, Thomas W.; Dummer, Paul
Custer, C.M., Custer, T.W., and Dummer, P.M., 2018, Synthesis of tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) data for Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) assessment at Wisconsin Areas of Concern: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018–1032, 8 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20181032.

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Year Published: 2018

Winter feeding of elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and its effects on disease dynamics

Providing food to wildlife during periods when natural food is limited results in aggregations that may facilitate disease transmission. This is exemplified in western Wyoming where institutional feeding over the past century has aimed to mitigate wildlife–livestock conflict and minimize winter mortality of elk (Cervus canadensis). Here we review...

Cotterill, Gavin G.; Cross, Paul C.; Cole, Eric; Fuda, Rebecca K.; Rogerson, Jared D.; Scurlock, Brandon M.; du Toit, Johan T.
GG Cotterill, PC Cross, EK Cole, RK Fuda, JD Rogerson, BM Scurlock, JT du Toit. 2018 Winter feeding of elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and its effects on disease dynamics. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B. 00:000-000

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Year Published: 2018

Information to prevent human exposure to disease agents associated with wildlife—U.S. Geological Survey circulars on zoonotic disease

The U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others have published reports with information about geographic distribution, specific pathogens, disease ecology, and strategies to avoid exposure and infection for a selection of zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be passed from...

Meteyer, Carol U.; Moede Rogall, Gail
Meteyer, C.U., and Rogall, G.M., 2018, Information to prevent human exposure to disease agents associated with wildlife—U.S. Geological Survey circulars on zoonotic disease: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2017–3077, 4 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/fs20173077.

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Year Published: 2018

Anomalous bioaccumulation of lead in the earthworm Eisenoides lonnbergi (Michaelsen)

Lead concentrations in soil organisms are usually well below those in the associated soil and tend to decrease with each higher trophic level in a food chain. Earthworms of the species Eisenoides lonnbergi provide an exception to this observation, accumulating very high concentrations of lead from acidic soils. Earthworms belonging to...

Beyer, W. Nelson; Codling, Eton E.; Rutzke, Michael A.
Beyer, W. N., Codling, E. E., and Rutzke, M. A., 2018, Anomalous bioaccumulation of lead in the earthworm Eisenoides lonnbergi (Michaelsen): Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, v. 37, no. 3, p. 914-919. https://doi.org/10.1002/etc.4031

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Year Published: 2018

Foraging and fasting can influence contaminant concentrations in animals: an example with mercury contamination in a free-ranging marine mammal

Large fluctuations in animal body mass in relation to life-history events can influence contaminant concentrations and toxicological risk. We quantified mercury concentrations in adult northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) before and after lengthy at sea foraging trips (n = 89) or fasting periods on land (n = 27), and showed that...

Peterson, Sarah H.; Ackerman, Joshua T.; Crocker, Daniel E.; Costa, Daniel P.
Peterson, SH, JT Ackerman, DE Crocker, DP Costa. 2018. Foraging and fasting can influence contaminant concentrations in animals: an example with mercury contamination in a free-ranging marine mammal. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285: 20172782. doi:10.1098/rspb.2017.2782

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Year Published: 2018

Egg turning behavior and incubation temperature in Forster’s terns in relation to mercury contamination

Egg turning behavior is an important determinant of egg hatchability, but it remains relatively understudied. Here, we examined egg turning rates and egg temperatures in Forster’s terns (Sterna forsteri). We used artificial eggs containing a data logger with a 3-D accelerometer, a magnetometer, and a temperature thermistor to monitor parental...

Taylor, Gregory T.; Ackerman, Joshua T.; Shaffer, Scott A.
Taylor, GT, JT Ackerman, and SA Shaffer. 2018. Egg turning behavior and incubation temperature in Forster’s terns in relation to mercury contamination. PLoS ONE 13(2):e0191390. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191390

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Year Published: 2018

Mercury concentrations in multiple tissues of Kittlitz's murrelets (Brachyramphus brevirostris)

Mercury (Hg) is a non-essential, toxic metal that is distributed worldwide. Mercury biomagnifies in food webs and can threaten the health of top predators such as seabirds. The Kittlitz's murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris) is a seabird endemic to Alaska and the Russian Far East and is a species of conservation concern in the region. We...

Kenney, Leah A.; Kaler, Robb S.; Kissling, Michelle L.; Bond, Alexander L.; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.
Kenney, L.A., Kaler, R.S., Kissling, M.L., Bond, A.L., Eagles-Smith, C.A., 2017, Mercury concentrations in multiple tissues of Kittlitz's murrelets (Brachyramphus brevirostris): Marine Pollution Bulletin, p. online, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.10.055.