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
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USGS specializes in science at the environment-health interface, by characterizing the processes that affect the interaction among the physical environment, the living environment, and people, and the resulting factors that affect ecological and human exposure to disease agents.Our Science Strategy
Are Spills Associated with Deep Well Injection of Wastewater from Oil and Gas Operations a Health Hazard?
We have specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, biologists, and geologists working together in the New River Gorge National River watershed to answer this question.
Wastewater generated in association with oil and gas operations at this site is managed by injection in deep wells designed to safely dispose and contain contaminants in deep geologic formations.
Access to an adequate, safe, and sustainable food supply is one of the highest priorities for our society. Agricultural crop and livestock production often occur within the same landscapes. Their yields as well as pests, diseases, and other threats are effectively managed by using a variety of tools such as synthetic nutrients, pesticides, and veterinary pharmaceuticals. Best management...
Algal blooms frequently occur in our Nation's water resources and can cause economic, ecologic and human health concerns. Natural toxins produced by cyanobacteria and other microorganisms are commonly associated with algal blooms. Yet, the actual health threats posed to the public, pets, livestock, and wildlife by these toxins in water resources used for recreation and drinking water remain...
Managers of federal lands (national parks and monuments, refuges, wildlands, etc.) need to use chemicals to deal with difficult issues such as stopping wildfires, controlling wildlife disease, and removing non-native plants and animals. Sometimes, using chemicals to deal with these issues has the potential to cause unintended consequences and unforeseen health impacts to both humans and other...
Mineral mining is an essential part of a healthy economy. U.S. mines produced an estimated $75.2 billion in nonfuel minerals during 2017 including industrial minerals, aggregates, and metals. The mining industry and government regulators work to prevent the release of contaminants such as metals into the environment from mining activities. With interdisciplinary scientists in our laboratories...
Treatment and distribution systems for safe water supply and wastewater recycling and reuse are essential for public health and the environment. Approximately 80 percent of the U.S. population resides in urban areas where public water and wastewater systems are monitored and made safe under state and federal regulations. The remainder of the population depends on self-monitored and maintained...
About the Capability Team
Natural (coastal storms, wildfires, floods) and human-induced (structural failures, building collapse, oil, and/or chemical spills) disasters occur every year in the United States. Minimizing loss of human life and damages to personal property and infrastructure is the focus of most disaster response and preparedness activities by federal,...
Exposure of wildlife, fish, and humans to environmental contaminants is known to cause changes in immune function, which can affect fitness, reproduction and disease resistance. This process, known as immunomodulation, is a major research topic by public health, veterinary, and other medical professionals outside the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). However it is outside the mission of those...
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and provides critical resources to fish, wildlife and people. For more than a decade, recreational fish species have been plagued with skin lesions and intersex conditions (the presence of male and female sex characteristics in the same fish) that biologists attributed to exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs)....
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.
About the Laboratory
The Bioactive Chemicals Research Laboratory applies a collaborative transdisciplinary approach to conduct research to minimize the risk to human and aquatic organism health from exposure to contaminants in water supplies. This laboratory integrates analytical chemistry, modeling, laboratory-, and field-based experiments to identify and quantify key...
About the Laboratory
Scientists at the Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory (OGRL) in Lawrence, Kansas, develop and employ targeted and non-targeted analytical methods for identification and quantitation of known and understudied algal/cyanobacterial toxins that can impact the health of humans and other organisms. Newly acquired (2018) instrumentation will expand...
Cobalt—Styles of deposits and the search for primary deposits
Cobalt (Co) is a potentially critical mineral. The vast majority of cobalt is a byproduct of copper and (or) nickel production. Cobalt is increasingly used in magnets and rechargeable batteries. More than 50 percent of primary cobalt production is from the Central African Copperbelt. The Central African Copperbelt is the only sedimentary rock-...Hitzman, Murray W.; Bookstrom, Arthur A.; Slack, John F.; Zientek, Michael L.
Contact and contagion: Probability of transmission given contact varies with demographic state in bighorn sheep
Understanding both contact and probability of transmission given contact are key to managing wildlife disease. However, wildlife disease research tends to focus on contact heterogeneity, in part because the probability of transmission given contact is notoriously difficult to measure. Here, we present a first step towards empirically investigating...Manlove, Kezia R.; Cassirer, E. Frances; Plowright, Raina K.; Cross, Paul C.; Hudson, Peter J.
Gene transcription patterns in response to low level petroleum contaminants in Mytilus trossulus from field sites and harbors in southcentral Alaska
The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill damaged a wide range of natural resources, including intertidal communities, and post-spill studies demonstrated acute and chronic exposure and injury to an array of species. Standard toxicological methods to evaluate petroleum contaminants have assessed tissue burdens, with fewer assays providing...Bowen, Lizabeth; Miles, A. Keith; Ballachey, Brenda E.; Waters, Shannon C.; Bodkin, James L.; Lindeberg, Mandy; Esler, Daniel N.
Mass mortality attributed to acanthocephaliasis at a Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) colony in coastal California
From 12 May 2013 to 29 May 2013, the Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) colony at the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, California, experienced a mass die-off of at least 92 adults, representing 71–92% of the breeding population on the US west coast. Cause of death was determined to be peritonitis due to perforations of the intestine...Patton, Robert T.; Goodenough, Katharine S.; De La Cruz, Susan; Nevins, HannahRose M.; Cole, Rebecca A.; Bodenstein, Barbara; Shearn-Bochsler, Valerie I.; Collins, Brian; Beck, Jessie; Sadowski, Matthew; Takekawa, John Y.
Efficacy and residual toxicity of a sodium hydroxide based ballast water treatment system for freshwater bulk freighters
The efficacy and residual toxicity of a sodium hydroxide (NaOH) based ballast water treatment system (BWTS) were tested aboard the Great Lakes carrier M/V American Spiritin 1000 L mesocosms containing water from the ship's ballast tanks. NaOH was added to elevate the pH to 11.5 or 11.7 for 48 h, after which pH...Elskus, Adria; Mitchelmore, Carys L.; Wright, David; Henquinet, Jeffrey W.; Welschmeyer, Nicholas; Flynn, Colin; Watten, Barnaby J.
Future research needs involving pathogens in groundwater
Contamination of groundwater by enteric pathogens has commonly been associated with disease outbreaks. Proper management and treatment of pathogen sources are important prerequisites for preventing groundwater contamination. However, non-point sources of pathogen contamination are frequently difficult to identify, and existing approaches for...Bradford, Scott A.; Harvey, Ronald W.
Seroprevalence of Baylisascaris procyonis infection among humans, Santa Barbara County, California, USA, 2014–2016
Baylisascaris procyonis (raccoon roundworm) infection is common in raccoons and can cause devastating pathology in other animals, including humans. Limited information is available on the frequency of asymptomatic human infection. We tested 150 adults from California, USA, for B. procyonis antibodies; 11 were seropositive,...Weinstein, Sara B.; Lake, Camille M.; Chastain, Holly M.; Fisk, David; Handali, Sukwan; Kahn, Philip L.; Montgomery, Susan P.; Wilkins, Patricia P.; Kuris, Armand M.; Lafferty, Kevin D.
Maternal transfer of mercury to songbird eggs
We evaluated the maternal transfer of mercury to eggs in songbirds, determined whether this relationship differed between songbird species, and developed equations for predicting mercury concentrations in eggs from maternal blood. We sampled blood and feathers from 44 house wren (Troglodytes aedon) and 34 tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) mothers...Ackerman, Joshua T.; Hartman, C. Alex; Herzog, Mark P.
Selenium: Mercury molar ratios in freshwater fish in the Columbia River Basin: Potential applications for specific fish consumption advisories
Fish provide a valuable source of beneficial nutrients and are an excellent source of low fat protein. However, fish are also the primary source of methylmercury exposure in humans. Selenium often co-occurs with mercury and there is some evidence that selenium can protect against mercury toxicity yet States issue fish consumption advisories based...Cusack, Leanne K.; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Harding, Anna K.; Kile, Molly; Stone, Dave
Trace element contamination in feather and tissue samples from Anna’s hummingbirds
Trace element contamination (17 elements; Be, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Mo, Cd, Ba, Hg, Tl, and Pb) of live (feather samples only) and deceased (feather and tissue samples) Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna) was evaluated. Samples were analyzed using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS; 17 elements) and atomic...Mikoni, Nicole A.; Poppenga, Robert H.; Ackerman, Joshua T.; Foley, Janet E.; Hazlehurst, Jenny; Purdin, Güthrum; Aston, Linda; Hargrave, Sabine; Jelks, Karen; Tell, Lisa A.
Widespread occurrence and potential for biodegradation of bioactive contaminants in Congaree National Park, USA
Organic contaminants with designed molecular bioactivity, such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals, originate from human and agricultural sources, occur frequently in surface waters, and threaten the structure and function of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Congaree National Park in South Carolina (USA) is a vulnerable park unit due to its...Bradley, Paul M.; Battaglin, William A.; Clark, Jimmy M.; Henning, Frank; Hladik, Michelle L.; Iwanowicz, Luke R.; Journey, Celeste A.; Riley, Jeffrey W.; Romanok, Kristin M.
Density-driven free-convection model for isotopically fractionated geogenic nitrate in sabkha brine
Subsurface brines with high nitrate (NO3−) concentration are common in desert environments as atmospheric nitrogen is concentrated by the evaporation of precipitation and little nitrogen uptake. However, in addition to having an elevated mean concentration of ∼525 mg/L (as N), NO3− in the coastal sabkhas of Abu Dhabi is enriched in 15N (mean δ15N...Wood, Warren W.; Böhlke, John K.
After 100 years of restricted tidal activity to support agricultural use and salt harvesting, the tidal marshes around San Francisco Bay, like this one at Bair Island, are steadily rebuilding, returning to a stunning mosaic of marsh, mudflat, and channels.
Fog along the Yukon River showing a Black Spruce dominated forest in the foreground, which is prone to wildfire. Photo by Bruce Wylie, USGS
A U.S. Geological Survey scientist sits next to a biological safety cabinet in the cell bioassay laboratory at Columbia Environmental Research Center. Scientists optimized existing endocrine active chemical screening tests to improve their precision, accuracy, and...
This is an example of a 72 hour post fertilization fli1:egfp zebrafish (3 millimeters long) imaged under transmitted light. The same imaging system with was used.
High-Content Screening Laboratory -- Columbia, Missouri
Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory — Columbia, Missouri. Swimming paths of control (left) and copper (right) exposed fish demonstrate changes in swimming behavior detected following exposure to metals. Such changes can impact ability of fish to survive.
Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory -- Columbia, Missouri. Swimming paths of control (left) and copper (right) exposed fish
High-Content Screening Laboratory — Columbia, Missouri. Molecular Devices ImageXpress† High-Content Imaging System
The zebrafish developmental cardiovascular toxicity high-content screening assay uses a 384-well plate format to maximize number of treatments and replicates possible on each plate.
Multimode, microplate reader
In addition to news releases on our latest papers, we provide Science Feature Articles that highlight results from environmental health science activities across the U.S. Geological Survey.See Our Science Feature Articles
U.S. Geological Survey scientists and partners are taking technology to the next level, using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly called drones, to acquire both fire intensity and emissions data during prescribed burns.
The U.S. Geological Survey is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Christian Zimmerman as the new director of their Alaska Science Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Zimmerman succeeds Dr. Mark Shasby who held the position for the past six years.
A new USGS-NASA study found widespread shoreline loss along heavily oiled areas of Louisiana's coast after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and compared the erosion from the spill with coastal changes Hurricane Isaac caused in 2012.
Studies on the aquatic food web, tree swallows, and the spread of contaminants take center stage at SETAC 2016.
Environmental Ratios of Cadmium and Zinc are less Toxic to Aquatic Insects than Expected
As coastal development along the Gulf Coast continues to expand, tidal saline wetlands could have difficulty adjusting to rising sea levels.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Some gulls in southcentral Alaska are carriers of antibiotic resistant strains of E. coli, according to a new study co-authored by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Mercury contamination is widespread, at various levels across western North America in air, soil, sediment, plants, fish and wildlife.
A recent study looks at the impact of climate change on certain fish in Wisconsin lakes.