Environmental Health

Featured Science Activities

Our science activities are 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.
Older featured science activities are on our old Web site.

Filter Total Items: 156
Date published: August 26, 2020
Status: Active

Conceptual Model Developed to Understand Contaminant Pathways between Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems

A conceptual model, based on contaminant properties and ecotoxicological principles, was developed to understand the transfer of contaminants from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems and the effects of various classes of contaminants on terrestrial insectivores living near contaminated freshwaters.

Date published: August 26, 2020
Status: Completed

Review of Cyanobacterial Neurotoxins—Information for Prioritizing Future Science Directions

The current state of knowledge on the modes of action, production, fate, and occurrence of the freshwater cyanobacterial neurotoxins, anatoxin-a and saxitoxin, was reviewed and synthesized to identify gaps and critical research needs to better understand the health effects of algal toxins.

Date published: August 18, 2020
Status: Completed

U.S. Geological Survey Research Scientist Recognized for Advancing Exposure Science

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Scientist Dana Kolpin was presented the International Environmental Award by Reciphram celebrating his research on the occurrence, sources, fate, and effects of environmental contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides.

Contacts: Dana W Kolpin
Date published: August 10, 2020
Status: Completed

Bioaccumulation of Mercury in Fish Varied by Species and Location in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed—Summary of Existing Data and a Roadmap for Integrated Monitoring

Fish mercury data from State monitoring programs and research studies within the Chesapeake Bay were compiled and summarized to provide a comprehensive overview of the variation in fish mercury concentrations among species and habitats within the watershed. These data are put into context with existing health benchmarks for humans, birds, and fish. Scientists also provide a roadmap for an...

Date published: July 27, 2020
Status: Active

Dragonfly Larvae are Effective Bioindicators of Mercury Exposure in Fish and Amphibians—Results of Citizen Science in 100 National Parks and Protected Places

Mercury concentrations were measured in dragonfly larvae across more than 450 sites in 100 national parks and protected places as part of a partnership among Federal agencies, academic researchers, and more than 4,000 citizen scientists.  Mercury concentrations in dragonfly larvae were positively correlated with mercury concentrations in fish and amphibians living in the same...

Contacts: Collin Eagles-Smith, Colleen Flanagan Pritz
Date published: July 17, 2020
Status: Active

Small Mammal Bioaccumulation of Contaminants and Radioactivity near a Mixed Low-level Radioactive and Hazardous Chemical Waste Site—Science to Understand Wildlife Exposure to Environmental Contaminants

Pilot-study results document the presence, concentrations, and distribution of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and tritium in small mammals, insects, plants, and soils adjacent to a mixed low-level radioactive and hazardous chemical waste site near Beatty, Nevada, and provide a better understanding of potential exposure pathways.

Contacts: Brian Andraski, Todd Anderson
Date published: June 26, 2020
Status: Active

Mixtures of Organic and Inorganic Chemicals Characterized in Water from the Taps of Residences in the Greater Chicago Area— Science to Understand Contaminant Exposures in Drinking Water

As a component of ongoing research with a coalition of partners, including the U.S. Geological Survey U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Colorado School of Mines, University of Illinois Chicago, and University of South Carolina, water was collected from the taps of 45 Chicago-area residences and analyzed for 540 organic and 35...

Date published: June 11, 2020
Status: Completed

U.S. Geological Survey Microbiologist Selected as an American Society for Microbiology Distinguished Lecturer

Dale Warren Griffin, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) environmental public-health microbiologist, was selected as a Waksman Foundation Distinguished Lecturer for the 2020–22 American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Lecture Series. 

Date published: June 4, 2020
Status: Completed

Framework for Examining Stream Ecosystem Health in Areas of Shale Gas Development—A Multi-Parameter Watershed-Based Case Study in Pennsylvania

In a case study of 25 headwater streams in Pennsylvania, no statistically significant associations were determined between shale gas development and geochemical tracers of produced waters or measures of microbial and macroinvertebrate community composition.  Although the results are specific to the region studied, the integrated biological and geochemical framework provides a tool for...

Date published: February 10, 2020
Status: Completed

Satellite Data Used to Estimate and Rank Cyanobacterial Bloom Magnitude in Florida and Ohio Lakes—Developing Tools to Protect Human and Wildlife Health from Cyanotoxin Exposure

Cyanobacterial bloom magnitude during 2003–11 was quantified and ranked in Florida and Ohio lakes with a newly developed modelling tool that allows for the use of multiple satellite data sources and user-defined thresholds. This tool was designed to identify the magnitude of algal blooms, but one metric alone cannot adequately represent the severity of a bloom of interest in terms of toxicity...

Contacts: Keith A Loftin, Ph.D., Sachi Mishra
Date published: January 15, 2020
Status: Completed

Mixtures of Algal Toxins Present Prior to and After Formation of Visible Algal Blooms—Science to Inform the Timing of Algal Toxin Exposure

Cyanobacteria with toxin-producing potential, genes indicating an ability for toxin synthesis, or cyanotoxins were present before and after formation of a visible algal bloom in Kabetogama Lake, a popular recreation area in Voyageurs National Park that lies along the border of Minnesota and Canada. The temporal patterns observed in this study indicate that sampling only when there is a visible...

Date published: November 20, 2019
Status: Completed

Refined Model Provides a Screening Tool to Understand Exposure to Contaminants from Incidental Wastewater Reuse

Refinement of the existing national-scale “de facto reuse incidence in our nation’s consumable supply” (DRINCS) model, complemented by field measurements, provides a screening tool to understand human and wildlife exposure to toxicants and pathogens associated with the incidental reuse of treated wastewater in the Shenandoah River watershed. The model results can be accessed in a companion...