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: 96
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 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: 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 opposed 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 T Ackerman, Lisa Tell, Robert Poppenga- DVM, PhD, DABVT
Date published: January 2, 2018
Status: Completed

Estimated Toxicity to Aquatic Organisms in Midwestern Streams Driven by Relatively Few of the 227 Pesticides Analyzed

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists measured and estimated potential acute and chronic toxicity for 227 pesticides in agricultural and urban streams in Midwestern United States. Numerous pesticides were detected at low levels. Atrazine, acetochlor, metolachlor, imidacloprid, fipronil, selected organophosphate insecticides, and carbendazim were determined to be major contributors to...

Contacts: Lisa Nowell
Date published: October 18, 2017
Status: Completed

Body Symmetry in Forster's Terns Related to Mercury Exposure

Body symmetry of Forster's terns (Sterna forsteri) in San Francisco Bay was related to blood and feather mercury concentrations. Body asymmetry can affect a bird's fitness by reducing flight efficiency, thus increasing energetic costs (especially during migration) and interrupting normal feeding and breeding behaviors.