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.

Due to a lapse in appropriations, the majority of USGS websites may not be up to date and may not reflect current conditions. Websites displaying real-time data, such as Earthquake and Water and information needed for public health and safety will be updated with limited support. Additionally, USGS will not be able to respond to inquiries until appropriations are enacted.  For more information, please see www.doi.gov/shutdown

Filter Total Items: 10
Date published: December 18, 2018
Status: Completed

Long-term Studies Examine Contaminant Exposure and Reproduction of Ospreys Nesting in Two Large United States Estuaries

In a series of studies from 2010 to 2018, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists detected low levels of legacy contaminants and pharmaceuticals in osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and their food chain within the Chesapeake and Delaware River estuaries. Osprey reproductive success increased during the same period and was determined to be adequate to sustain a stable population in both...

Date published: November 27, 2018
Status: Completed

Understanding Drivers of Cyanotoxin Production in the Lake Okeechobee Waterway

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other researchers combined field and laboratory approaches in two studies to understand the factors that drive cyanobacterial bloom development and associated cyanotoxin production in Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie River and Estuary, and the Indian River Lagoon in response to the large-scale Lake Okeechobee cyanobacteria bloom in 2016.

Date published: September 7, 2018
Status: Completed

Unique Methods Used to Understand Frog Exposure to Pesticides in Agricultural Settings

Adult frog exposure to pesticides in aquatic and terrestrial habitats was quantified using a novel combination of radio telemetry and passive sampling techniques to better understand factors affecting frog health and survival in agricultural landscapes.

Contacts: Kelly Smalling
Date published: August 24, 2018
Status: Completed

Exploring the Suitability of a Modeling Approach to Estimate Contaminant Occurrence in Drinking Water Sources

Scientists explored the suitability of the DeFacto Reuse in our Nation's Consumable Supply (DRINCS) model to estimate the likelihood of contaminants from upstream wastewater discharges to enter drinking water facility intakes.

Contacts: Edward Furlong, Dana W Kolpin, Susan T. Glassmeyer
Date published: August 23, 2018
Status: Completed

Systematic Approach to Understanding Tree Swallow Health in the Great Lakes Region—Science to Inform Restoration

Four papers by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists document tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) chemical exposure, physiological responses, and reproductive success in the Great Lakes region. These studies were designed to understand if there are health threats to swallows from contaminant exposure, and to provide resource managers with information about the actual as apposed to...

Date published: June 6, 2018
Status: Completed

Scientists Identify Processes that Affect Fish Mercury Concentrations in Estuarine Wetlands

In a study designed to help resource managers when considering mercury exposure risk, scientists determined that sulfur cycling—a process closely related to mercury methylation rates—and ecological conditions that influence exposure are important factors affecting fish mercury concentrations in estuarine wetlands.

Date published: May 30, 2018
Status: Completed

Selected Pharmaceuticals Not Likely to Persist in Wild Fish: Results of Uptake and Elimination Testing

Laboratory study shows that both uptake and elimination of selected pharmaceuticals within bluegill tissues is rapid indicating that persistence in bluegills in the environment is likely to be low except in those fish that reside downstream from a consistent, substantial, contaminant source.

Date published: May 29, 2018
Status: Completed

Endocrine Active Chemical Screening Tests Optimized to Improve Precision, Accuracy, and Timeliness

Scientists optimized existing endocrine active chemical screening tests to improve their precision, accuracy, and ability to screen more samples in a shorter time-frame. The optimization was done to more rapidly obtain results from the bioassays so that research on the risks of endocrine active chemical exposure can proceed more rapidly.

Date published: May 18, 2018
Status: Completed

New Method Can Measure Naturally Occurring Element Exposure in Hummingbirds Without Harm

Seventeen naturally occurring trace elements, including those associated with adverse health impacts when birds are exposed to toxic levels (iron, lead, mercury, selenium, zinc, cadmium, and arsenic) were measured in small birds without harm. The nonlethal method was developed for hummingbirds, with Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna) as a test species and can be more broadly applied...

Contacts: Josh Ackerman, Lisa Tell, Robert Poppenga- DVM, PhD, DABVT
Date published: December 19, 2017
Status: Completed

Understanding Associations between Mussel Productivity and Cyanotoxins in Lake Erie

Study findings indicate that cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins were not associated with mussel mortality at the concentrations present in Lake Erie during a recent study (2013-15), but mussel growth was lower at sites with greater microcystin concentrations.