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: 150
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...

Date published: November 18, 2019
Status: Completed

Prevalence of Malignant Melanoma in Brown Bullhead from Lake Memphremagog Greater than Expected—Linkages to Contaminant Exposure and Implications for Fish Population Health are Currently Unknown

Raised black lesions observed in 30 percent of the brown bullhead collected from two sites in Lake Memphremagog from 2014 through 2017 were identified microscopically as malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma in freshwater fishes has been reported before, but this cancer occurrence cluster is raising questions about the cause of the tumors and the implications for the long-term health of fish...

Contacts: Vicki Blazer
Date published: November 13, 2019
Status: Completed

Food Web Changes Dampen Expected Reductions in Lake Trout Mercury Levels in Lake Michigan—Invasive Species Play Major Role

Combined analyses of mercury, nitrogen, and carbon isotopes in archived lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) tissues and sediment cores in Lake Michigan from 1978 to 2012 indicated that lake trout mercury concentrations mirrored declines in mercury sources prior to the arrival of invasive species that changed mercury transfer through the food and dampened the expected decreases in mercury...

Date published: November 8, 2019
Status: Completed

Ongoing Research to Characterize the Complexity of Chemical Mixtures in Water Resources—Urban Stormwater

A multiagency reconnaissance study of chemicals in urban stormwater, sampled from pipes or ditches during 50 runoff events at 21 sites in 17 states across the United States, demonstrated that stormwater runoff contains complex mixtures of chemicals including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals that are indicative of multiple sources in the watershed.

Date published: October 11, 2019
Status: Completed

Mercury Isotope Ratios used to Determine Sources of Mercury to Fish in Northeast U.S. Streams

Mercury isotope analyses were used to distinguish different sources of mercury to fish in 23 streams along a forested-rural to urban-industrial land-use gradient in the Northeastern United States. The use of mercury isotope measurements in fish tissue allow for distinguishing different sources of mercury that are bioaccumulating into the food web. Mercury isotope signatures in fish in forested...