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: 155
Date published: September 11, 2014
Status: Completed

Winter Eagle Deaths at Great Salt Lake due to West Nile Virus

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) diagnosed West Nile Virus (WNV) in numerous eared grebes and bald eagles that died in a 2013 mortality event in the Great Salt Lake (GSL). Diagnoses were based on findings during pathological analysis to determine cause of death, including molecular detection of WNV genetic material in tissues, and isolation of WNV from multiple tissues from...

Date published: September 11, 2014
Status: Completed

Black-Light Detects White-Nose Syndrome in Bats

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists and collaborators discovered that long-wave ultraviolet (UV) light directed at the wings of bats with white-nose syndrome (WNS) produced points of distinctive orange-yellow fluorescence. The orange-yellow glow corresponds directly with microscopic skin lesions that define the current "gold standard" for diagnosing WNS. White-nose syndrome, a fungal...

Contacts: Mike Focazio
Date published: September 10, 2014
Status: Completed

Human Influenza Virus Infects Sea Otters

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have discovered evidence of the same influenza virus (H1N1) in sea otters living off the coast of Washington State that caused the 2009 "swine flu" pandemic in humans. During a sea otter health monitoring projectconducted in 2011, researchers discovered antibodies for the pandemic...

Date published: September 10, 2014
Status: Completed

Sea Urchin Mortality in the Hawaiian Islands

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), University of Hawaii, the State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, and The Nature Conservancy are investigating unusual mortality of collector urchins (Tripneustes gratilla) that has been ongoing since February 2014. As grazers, urchins play a critical role in preventing overgrowth of algae on tropical coral reefs. Awareness of...

Contacts: Thierry M Work
Date published: September 8, 2014
Status: Completed

Newly Discovered Picornavirus Spread by Baitfish

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) contributed to a publication that reports the complete gene sequence of a novel picornavirus isolated from minnows and baitfish in several areas of the United States. The scientists used the molecular sequence and characterization of this virus to determine the evolutionary (phylogenetic) placement in the "family tree" of known fish viruses....

Date published: September 2, 2014
Status: Completed

Mercury in Fish from 21 National Parks in the West

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and National Park Service (NPS) scientists collaborated in the first study to measure mercury in fish from remote places in 21 National Parks spanning 10 Western States, including Alaska.  Mercury levels in fish generally were low, but were elevated in some local areas, including two parks in Utah and Alaska where...

Date published: August 29, 2014
Status: Completed

Satellite Tracking of Birds in Alaska Points to Distant Sources of Lead and Mercury Exposure

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists measured lead in blood from tundra swans that nest in Alaska and then followed the migration of these birds using satellite telemetry. Levels of lead in blood were higher in adults than young swans,suggesting exposure to lead occurs on wintering areas and/or during migration, rather than on the summer breeding grounds in Alaska. The lowest blood levels...

Date published: August 28, 2014
Status: Completed

Metals in Acid Mine Drainage Affect Aquatic Insects

Studies conducted in subalpine streams in Colorado by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists found that aqueous metals resulting from acid mine drainage and natural weathering can almost eliminate adult insect emergence from streams, even at metal levels too low to reduce aquatic larval densities. This pattern suggests that adult insects might be a more sensitive indicator of metals than...

Contacts: Mike Focazio
Date published: August 14, 2012
Status: Completed

Improvements in Wastewater Treatment Reduces Endocrine Disruption in Fish

A team of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the University of Colorado, and the City of Boulder, Colorado, demonstrated that improvements to the treatment process at a wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) reduced the level of ...

Contacts: Mike Focazio
Date published: December 22, 2011
Status: Completed

Evidence of Endocrine Disruption Unexpectedly Found in Minnesota Lakes

Endocrine disrupting chemicals and indicators of endocrine disruption were found in several Minnesota lakes with surrounding urban, residential, agricultural, and forested land uses. The lakes do not directly receive discharges from industries or wastewater-treatment plants; however, they are used for recreation, and they receive water from widely scattered sources. ...

Contacts: Mike Focazio
Date published: August 3, 2010
Status: Completed

Hormones Degrade in the Environment!

In two separate studies, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists demonstrated that hormones such as estrogen can biodegrade in stream and groundwater environments. This is an important finding because the science, regulatory, and environmental communities have concerns about the environmental fate of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as hormones, in the human wastewaters discharged to the...