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In an innovative approach to addressing uranium mining's impact in the Grand Canyon region, the U.S. Geological Survey has released a visually stunning fact sheet that combines the power of art and science.

This artistic brochure represents the culmination of more than 25 reports conducted between 2012 and 2022, offering a creative and engaging way to explore a subject that has long been a source of concern for many in the local community. 

Illustration of the Grand Canyon region

The USGS recognizes the importance of presenting findings in a manner that is not only informative but also accessible and compelling to a wide audience. The new product, featuring captivating illustrations by USGS water data specialist Ben Siebers, uses clear and concise language to invite readers to explore the intricacies of the Grand Canyon's ecosystem and the role of uranium mining within it.

USGS scientist and lead author Katie Walton-Day says,

"As scientists, it's our responsibility to communicate findings in a way that resonates with the people whose lives and livelihoods are connected to the Grand Canyon. The artistic elements in the fact sheet serve as a bridge, connecting readers to the science and helping them understand why this research is important."

Diagram of breccia pipe uranium mine

Some of the key findings highlighted in the brochure include:

The rock that contains uranium, known as uranium ore, also contains other elements like uranium, copper, arsenic, cobalt, nickel, lead, zinc, molybdenum, selenium and silver. These elements could pose a threat to certain insects and the animals that feed on nearby plants. However, scientists found the amount of radiation in plants and animals in the area is generally low. 

Uranium found in the region’s water doesn't only come from mining activities. Scientists reported that uranium is also found naturally in groundwater and springs. Findings show different insects living in the water absorb different amounts of this uranium. This result tells scientists that more studies are needed to really understand how uranium impacts the Grand Canyon's environment.

USGS scientist collects water sample in the Grand Canyon
Scientist collects water sample in the Grand Canyon
Collecting water quality samples in the Grand Canyon
Collecting water quality samples in the Grand Canyon
Scientists travel by raft to collect samples on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon
Scientists travel by raft to collect samples in the Grand Canyon
USGS scientist collects water-quality samples at the Pinyon Plain mine
Collecting water-quality samples at Pinyon Plain mine

Through this creative approach, the USGS has made a complex and sensitive topic more understandable encouraging the broader community to engage in an informed conversation about the future of uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region.

Questions still remain regarding the full extent of uranium mining's impact on the environment. As research continues to uncover answers, the USGS remains dedicated to sharing their findings in a way that resonates with all. 

Drawings illustrating aspects of uranium mining that are not well understood
Illustration of USGS science at breccia pipe mines in the Grand Canyon region
Illustration of the Grand Canyon region in northwestern Arizona

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