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

Mission Areas

Environmental Health

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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
Filter Total Items: 91
Date published: August 30, 2018
Status: Active

Microbial Biogeochemistry Laboratory — Menlo Park, California

About the Laboratory

Microbiologists at the Microbial Biogeochemistry Laboratory develop and apply innovative methods to measure key microbial processes. These methods are used to better understand how major biogeochemical cycles (carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and iron) interact with and control the speciation and fate of metals like mercury and selenium which can impact...

Date published: August 30, 2018
Status: Active

High-Content Screening Laboratory — Columbia, Missouri

About the Laboratory

Toxicologists at the High-Content Screening Laboratory develop alternative toxicity testing to efficiently provide specific toxicity data to managers and regulators and prioritize compounds for further testing. Our high-content imaging capability provides a highly adaptable platform for early life stage fish toxicity testing at stages considered an...

Date published: August 30, 2018
Status: Active

Microbial-Contaminant Interactions Laboratory — Boulder, Colorado

About the Laboratory

The microbiologists at the Microbial-Contaminant Interactions Laboratory (MCIL) conduct research involving fate and transport of pathogens and interactions of microorganisms with chemical contaminants in aquatic systems that can impact the health of humans and other organisms. The research is applied to a wide variety of environmental media (e.g....

Date published: August 30, 2018
Status: Active

Geospatial Analyses and Applications — Salt Lake City, Utah

About the Laboratory

Scientists within the Geospatial Analyses and Applications Team develop and apply geospatial analytical methods to answer broad-scale questions about source-sink and cause-effect relationships between contaminants and vulnerable communities. Multivariate statistics are used to identify connections between landscape gradients and observational data....

Date published: August 29, 2018
Status: Active

Photomicroscopy and Flow Cytometry Laboratory — Lafayette, Louisiana

About the Laboratory

Microbiologists at the Photomicroscopy and Flow Cytometry Laboratory develop and apply biomarkers to evaluate the potential impacts of environmental contaminants at the cellular and molecular levels. Because molecular and biochemical responses of cells are preceded by chemical changes in nuclei, cytoplasm, membranes, and extracellular fluids, these...

Date published: August 29, 2018
Status: Active

Functional and Molecular Bioassay Laboratory — Kearneysville, West Virginia

About the Laboratory

The Functional and Molecular Bioassay Laboratory applies and modifies microbial and eukaryotic reporter bioassays to detect the presence of bioactive chemicals from environmental water samples. These analyses compliment analytical chemistry and biological datasets. The laboratory adapts and applies cell isolation and culture methods to measure...

Date published: August 29, 2018
Status: Active

Hydrogeophysics Laboratory — Storrs, Connecticut

About the Laboratory

The geophysicists and hydrologists at the Hydrogeophysics Laboratory develop, demonstrate, and support the application of geophysical methods to environmental-health investigations. They have expertise in a diverse suite of geophysical field methods including electrical, electromagnetic, seismic, radar, gravity, and thermal; these methods are run...

Date published: August 29, 2018
Status: Active

Michigan Bacteriological Research Laboratory — Lansing, Michigan

About the Laboratory

Microbiologists at the Michigan Bacteriological Research Laboratory (MI-BaRL) use a wide array of traditional and modern molecular approaches to evaluate microbial pathogens and antimicrobial resistance pathways in the environment. The MI-BaRL uses these approaches to advance the understanding of how environmental contaminants affect microbial...

Date published: August 29, 2018
Status: Active

Environmental and Public Health Microbiology Laboratory — St. Petersburg, Florida

About the Laboratory

The microbiologists at the Environmental and Public Health Microbiology Laboratory (EPHML) develop analytical methods for the identification and quantitation of pathogenic microorganisms that can impact the health of humans and other organisms. This laboratory also develops methods for accessing aquatic, terrestrial and atmospheric drivers of toxins...

Date published: August 29, 2018
Status: Active

National Wildlife Health Center — Madison, Wisconsin

About the Laboratory

The National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) provides the services of board-certified veterinary pathologists specializing in gross and microscopic assessment of animal tissues to help understand the impacts of contaminants on wildlife species. The NWHC also offers real-time reporting of wildlife mortality events and maintains an extensive database of...

Date published: August 29, 2018
Status: Active

Passive Sampling Research — Columbia, Missouri

About the Laboratory

The scientists at the Environmental Chemistry Laboratory at the Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC), Missouri, are pioneers in the development and application of passive sampling techniques for environmental monitoring. The goal of passive sampling is to provide a link between chemical occurrence and biological exposure.

Date published: August 29, 2018
Status: Active

Environmental Chemistry Laboratory — Columbia, Missouri

About the Laboratory

The Environmental Chemistry Laboratory at the Columbia Environmental Research Center, Missouri, develops and applies innovative methods of sampling and analysis to answer critical questions about the occurrence, distribution, fate and transport, and biological exposure of chemical in all environmental matrices (water, air, tissues, sediments, and...

Filter Total Items: 2,467
Year Published: 2017

Occurrence and in vitro bioactivity of estrogen, androgen, and glucocorticoid compounds in a nationwide screen of United States stream waters

In vitro bioassays are sensitive, effect-based tools used to quantitatively screen for chemicals with nuclear receptor activity in environmental samples. We measured in vitro estrogen (ER), androgen (AR), and glucocorticoid receptor (GR) activity, along with a broad suite of chemical analytes, in streamwater from 35 well-characterized sites (3...

Conley, Justin M.; Evans, Nicola; Cardon, Mary C.; Rosenblum, Laura; Iwanowicz, Luke R.; Hartig, Phillip C.; Schenck, Kathleen M.; Bradley, Paul M.; Wilson, Vickie S.
Justin M. Conley, Nicola Evans, Mary C. Cardon, Laura Rosenblum, Luke R. Iwanowicz, Phillip C. Hartig, Kathleen M. Schenck, Paul M. Bradley, Vickie S. Wilson. 2017. Occurrence and in vitro bioactivity of estrogen, androgen, and glucocorticoid compounds in a nationwide screen of United States stream waters. Environmental Science & Technology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.6b06515

Year Published: 2017

Geographic and temporal patterns of variation in total mercury concentrations in blood of harlequin ducks and blue mussels from Alaska

We compared total mercury (Hg) concentrations in whole blood of harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) sampled within and among two geographically distinct locations and across three years in southwest Alaska. Blue mussels were collected to assess correlation between Hg concentrations in locally available forage and birds. Mercury...

Savoy, Lucas; Flint, Paul L.; Zwiefelhofer, Denny; Brant, Heather; Perkins, Christopher R.; Taylor, Robert J.; Lane, Oksana P.; Hall, Jefferson S.; Evers, David C.; Schamber, Jason
Savoy, L., Flint, P., Zwiefelhofer, D., Brant, H., Perkins, C., Taylor, R., Lane, O., Hall, J., Evers, D., and Schamber, J., 2017, Geographic and temporal patterns of variation in total mercury concentrations in blood of harlequin ducks and blue mussels from Alaska, vol. 117, no. 1-2, p. 178-183. Doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.01.084

Year Published: 2017

Mercury and water level fluctuations in lakes of northern Minnesota

Large lake ecosystems support a variety of ecosystem services in surrounding communities, including recreational and commercial fishing. However, many northern temperate fisheries are contaminated by mercury. Annual variation in mercury accumulation in fish has previously been linked to water level (WL) fluctuations, opening the possibility of...

Larson, James H.; Maki, Ryan P.; Christensen, Victoria G.; Sandheinrich, Mark B.; LeDuc, Jaime F.; Kissane, Claire; Knights, Brent C.
Larson, J.H., Maki, R.P., Christensen, V.G., Sandheinrich, M.B., LeDuc, J.F., Kissane, C., Knights, B.C. 2017. Mercury and water level fluctuations in lakes of northern Minnesota. bioRxiv. DOI: 10.1101/118638.

Year Published: 2017

Importance of the 2014 Colorado River Delta pulse flow for migratory songbirds: Insights from foraging behavior

The Lower Colorado River provides critical riparian areas in an otherwise arid region and is an important stopover site for migrating landbirds. In order to reverse ongoing habitat degradation due to drought and human-altered hydrology, a pulse flow was released from Morelos Dam in spring of 2014, which brought surface flow to dry stretches of the...

Darrah, Abigail J.; Greeney, Harold F.; van Riper, Charles
Darrah, Abigail .J., Harold F. Greeney and Charles van Riper III. 2016. Importance of the 2014 Colorado River Delta pulse flow for migratory songbirds: Insights from foraging behavior. Ecological Engineering. early online. Full cite to follow.

Year Published: 2017

An evaluation of inorganic toxicity reference values for use in assessing hazards to American robins (Turdus migratorius)

When performing screening-level and baseline risk assessments, assessors usually compare estimated exposures of wildlife receptor species with toxicity reference values (TRVs). We modeled the exposure of American robins (Turdus migratorius) to 10 elements (As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Mn, Pb, Se, Zn, and V) in spring and early summer, a time when...

Beyer, W. Nelson; Sample, Bradley E.
Beyer, W. N. and Sample, B. E., 2016, An evaluation of inorganic toxicity reference values for use in assessing hazards to American robins (Turdus migratorius): Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management , v. 13, no. 2, p. 352-359.

Year Published: 2017

Cyanide poisoning of a Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

A Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) was found dead in a ditch leading from a heap leach pad at a gold mine in Nevada. Observations at autopsy included an absence of external lesions, traces of subcutaneous and coronary fat, no food in the upper gastrointestinal tract, and no lesions in the viscera. Cyanide concentrations (µg/g ww) were 5.04 in...

Franson, J. Christian

Year Published: 2017

Geochemistry and hydrology of perched groundwater springs: assessing elevated uranium concentrations at Pigeon Spring relative to nearby Pigeon Mine, Arizona (USA)

The processes that affect water chemistry as the water flows from recharge areas through breccia-pipe uranium deposits in the Grand Canyon region of the southwestern United States are not well understood. Pigeon Spring had elevated uranium in 1982 (44 μg/L), compared to other perched springs (2.7–18 μg/L), prior to mining operations at the nearby...

Beisner, Kimberly R.; Paretti, Nicholas V.; Tillman, Fred; Naftz, David L.; Bills, Donald; Walton-Day, Katie; Gallegos, Tanya J.
Beisner, K.R., Paretti, N.V., Tillman, F.D., Naftz, D.L., Bills, D.J., Walton-Day, K., and Gallegos, T.J., 2017, Geochemistry and hydrology of perched groundwater springs: assessing elevated uranium concentrations at Pigeon Spring relative to nearby Pigeon Mine, Arizona (USA), Hydrogeology Journal, vol. 25, issue 2, p. 539-556.

Year Published: 2017

Editor’s note

Heavy metal contamination at shooting ranges is well documented (e.g., Heier et al. 2009; Islam et al. 2016). Primarily lead, but also copper, zinc, and antimony often occur at high concentrations in shooting range soils; cadmium, nickel, silver, and arsenic may also be present (Cao et al. 2003; Islam et al. 2016). These metals represent a...

Schmitt, Christopher J.
Schmitt, C. J., 2016, Editor’s Note. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, Online First 28 December 2016: 1-1

Year Published: 2017

Improved vertical streambed flux estimation using multiple diurnal temperature methods in series

Analytical solutions that use diurnal temperature signals to estimate vertical fluxes between groundwater and surface water based on either amplitude ratios (Ar) or phase shifts (Δϕ) produce results that rarely agree. Analytical solutions that simultaneously utilize Ar and Δϕ within a single solution have more recently been derived, decreasing...

Irvine, Dylan J.; Briggs, Martin A.; Cartwright, Ian; Scruggs, Courtney R.; Lautz, Laura K.
Irvine, D.J., M.A. Briggs, I. Cartwright, C. Scruggs, and L.K. Lautz (2016), Improved vertical streambed flux estimation using multiple diurnal temperature methods in series, Groundwater, 55(1), doi:10.1111/gwat.12436

Year Published: 2017

Mercury bioaccumulation in estuarine fishes: Novel insights from sulfur stable isotopes

Estuaries are transitional habitats characterized by complex biogeochemical and ecological gradients that result in substantial variation in fish total mercury concentrations (THg). We leveraged these gradients and used carbon (δ13C), nitrogen (δ15N), and sulfur (δ34S) stable isotopes to examine the ecological and biogeochemical processes...

Willacker, James J.; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Ackerman, Joshua T.

Year Published: 2017

Organic contamination in tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) nestlings at United States and binational great Lakes Areas of Concern

Contaminant exposure of tree swallows, Tachycineta bicolor, nesting in 27 Areas of Concern (AOCs) in the Great Lakes basin was assessed from 2010 to 2014 to assist managers and regulators in their assessments of Great Lakes AOCs. Contaminant concentrations in nestlings from AOCs were compared with those in nestlings from nearby non-AOC sites....

Custer, Thomas W.; Custer, Christine M.; Dummer, Paul; Goldberg, Diana R.; Franson, J. Christian; Erickson, Richard A.
Custer, T.W., Cuser, C., Dummer, P., Goldberg, D.R., Franson, J.C., Erickson, R.A. 2016. Organic contamination in tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) nestlings at United States and binational great Lakes Areas of Concern. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. DOI: 10.1002/etc.3598.

Year Published: 2017

A modeling approach to compare ΣPCB concentrations between congener-specific analyses

Changes in analytical methods over time pose problems for assessing long-term trends in environmental contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Congener-specific analyses vary widely in the number and identity of the 209 distinct PCB chemical configurations (congeners) that are quantified, leading to inconsistencies among summed PCB...

Gibson, Polly P.; Mills, Marc A.; Kraus, Johanna M.; Walters, David M.

Filter Total Items: 153
Attribution of storm-weighted potential contaminant hazard ranks to sampling locations
April 12, 2018

Attribution of storm-weighted potential contaminant hazard ranks

Geospatial Analyses and Applications — Salt Lake City, Utah. Attribution of storm-weighted potential contaminant hazard ranks to sampling locations in the Sediment-Bound Contaminant Resiliency and Response (SCoRR) network.

Screen capture of primary hepatocytes isolated from experimental smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) visualized
April 12, 2018

Primary hepatocytes isolated from experimental smallmouth bass

Screen capture of primary hepatocytes isolated from experimental smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) visualized following image-based flow cytometric analysis

USGS scientist examining human breast cancer cells under a microscope
April 4, 2018

USGS scientist examining human breast cancer cells under a microscope

USGS scientist examining human breast cancer cells under a microscope in the cell bioassay laboratory at Columbia Environmental Research Center. Behind the scientist is an automated liquid handling system for dispensing reagents into multi-well micropates for bioassay experiments.

Gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GCMS) used for pesticide analysis
April 4, 2018

Gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GCMS) used for pesticide analysis

Organic Chemistry Research Laboratory — Sacramento, California. Gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer - GCMS

Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) swimming in an experimental aquarium
April 3, 2018

Fathead minnows swimming in an experimental aquarium

Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) swimming in an expermental aquaium. The aquarium is part of an experiment to assess endocrine disruption in fish.

Bioactive Chemicals Research Laboratory -- Boulder, Colorado
April 3, 2018

Bioactive Chemicals Research Laboratory -- Boulder, Colorado

Bioactive Chemicals Research Laboratory -- Boulder, Colorado. Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) swimming in an expermental aquaium

USGS scientist preparing to measure cyanotoxins in water samples using an automated enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
March 26, 2018

USGS scientist preparing to measure cyanotoxins in water samples

USGS) scientist preparing to measure cyanotoxins in water samples using an automated enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) instrument

View of the new (2018) instrument laboratory at the Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory (OGRL), Lawrence, Kansas
March 23, 2018

New (2018) instrument laboratory at the OGRL

View of the new (2018) instrument laboratory at the Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory (OGRL), Lawrence, Kansas. View of a row of instruments in the laboratory.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists working on a time-of-flight mass spectrometer used for the analysis of pesticides
March 23, 2018

Time-of-flight mass spectrometer used for the analysis of pesticides

Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory — Lawrence, Kansas. Scientists working on at time-of-flight mass spectrometer

View of the new (2018) sample processing laboratory at the Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory (OGRL), Lawrence, Kansas
March 23, 2018

New (2018) sample processing laboratory at the OGRL

Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory — Lawrence, Kansas. Sample processing laboratory.

Pressurized fluid extractor used to extract organic compounds from solid samples
March 23, 2018

Pressurized fluid extractor used to extract organic compounds

Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory — Lawrence, Kansas. Pressurized Fluid Extractor

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
Filter Total Items: 69
Date published: July 18, 2016

EarthWord–Fugitive

“Whatcha gonna do when they come for you”-thinks this week’s EarthWord...

Date published: July 11, 2016

EarthWord–Morbidity

When you’re not dead yet, but aren’t feeling well either, there’s an EarthWord for that...

Date published: June 7, 2016

This hurricane season, scientists bring wave action into the picture

New USGS models help predict storm effects on beaches

Date published: May 31, 2016

New Science Challenges Old Assumptions about Harmful Algal Blooms

First-of-its-kind survey shows that algal toxins are found nationwide

Date published: May 10, 2016

New study reveals state of Juniata River watershed headwaters

A new study from the USGS assesses water quality data for the Juniata River Basin in Western Blair County, Pennsylvania.

Date published: May 9, 2016

Evidence of Unconventional Oil and Gas Wastewater Found in Surface Waters near Underground Injection Site

These are the first published studies to demonstrate water-quality impacts to a surface stream due to activities at an unconventional oil and gas wastewater deep well injection disposal site.

Date published: April 20, 2016

Mystery Solved: Traits Identified for Why Certain Chemicals Reach Toxic Levels in Aquatic Food Webs

Researchers have figured out what makes certain chemicals  accumulate to toxic levels in aquatic food webs. And, scientists have developed a screening technique to determine which chemicals pose the greatest risk to the environment.

 

Date published: April 4, 2016

Despite Long-Lasting Pollutants, Ospreys Thrive in US’ Largest Estuary

The world's largest breeding population of ospreys is coping well with the long-lasting residues of toxic chemicals that were banned decades ago but remain in the Chesapeake Bay food chain at varying levels, such as the pesticide DDT and insulating chemicals known as PCBs.

Date published: March 3, 2016

USGS Assesses Baseline Conditions Prior to Uranium Mining near Grand Canyon National Park

Scientists have collected and analyzed 84 environmental samples to establish baseline data prior to any active uranium mining activities at the Canyon Uranium Mine, located south of Grand Canyon National Park.

Date published: February 17, 2016

Algal Toxins Detected in One-Third of Streams Assessed in Southeastern United States

USGS scientists have detected toxins known as microcystins produced by various forms of algae in 39 percent of the small streams assessed throughout the southeastern United States. Their recent study looked at 75 streams in portions of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

Date published: February 9, 2016

President’s 2017 Budget Proposes $1.2 Billion for the USGS

WASHINGTON—The President’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey reflects the USGS's vital role in addressing some of the most pressing challenges of the 21st Century by advancing scientific discovery and innovation.

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