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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
The Challenge: The use of flame retardants (FRs) as additives in a variety of consumer use products, including plastics, textiles, and electronics, is projected to continue and increase for the foreseeable future. Because of unanticipated environmental problems, some FRs have either been banned, restricted, or are being phased-out and replaced by other new and presumably safer FRs. Regrettably...
The Challenge: Neonicotinoids are now the most widely applied class of insecticides in the United States, and are predominantly used in the form of seed treatments. Compared to invertebrates, neonicotinoids are less toxic to wildlife, although genotoxic, cytotoxic, immunological, behavioral and reproductive effects have been reported in studies with birds. At present, little is known about the...
The Challenge: As a rule, plants and animals contain lower concentrations of lead than are present in soils that support them. Lead does not biomagnify along trophic levels in ecosystems but instead remains relatively immobile in soil. The exposure of wildlife to soil lead depends mainly on the incidental ingestion of soil. The native earthworm, Eisenoides lonnbergi, is anomalous in its...
The Challenge: Black-tailed prairie dogs are considered a keystone species for the prairie habitat. Many avian species are associated with black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in winter. Raptors feed on prairie dogs and non-raptor avian species forage within prairie dog colonies. However prairie dogs are also considered agricultural pests. The first generation anticoagulant...
Human Dimensions in the context of natural resource management refers to understanding attitudes, preferences, and behaviors of American citizens in order to improve conservation and management of public lands and waters managed by the Department of the Interior (DOI). Human Dimensions at the FORT also includes understanding the users and applications of data and technology in the context of...
Contaminant Exposure, Food Web Transfer and Potential Health Effects on Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay Waterbirds
The Challenge: Agricultural, industrial and urban activities have had major effects on waterbirds in Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. Some legacy pollutants (PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, flame retardants, metals) pose a potential threat to wildlife in some locations. Pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and endocrine disrupting compounds have been detected in water and fish tissue, yet...
Hazard, Risk and Physiologically-based Pharmacokinetic Model for Anticoagulant Rodenticides in Kestrels and Owls
The Challenge: Anticoagulant rodenticides have been identified as being hazardous to predatory and scavenging birds on a global scale. Restrictions on the sale, distribution and packaging of some second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (e.g., brodifacoum, difethialone, bromadiolone and difenacoum) have been instituted by the US EPA, and will likely result in expanded use of first-...
The Challenge: Diclofenac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that has been used by veterinarians for the treatment of inflammation, fever and pain in domestic livestock. This drug appears to have been the principal cause of a severe population crash of vultures of the genus Gyps in India and Pakistan. Vultures unintentionally ingested diclofenac when scavenging livestock treated shortly...
The Challenge: The Department of the Interior has extensive responsibilities for management of fish and wildlife, and their supporting habitat. Stewardship activities include assessment of potentially adverse effects of natural and anthropogenic stressors on biota, including chemical contaminants. We assist by providing scientific information to support development of federal guidelines, ...
The Challenge: Polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants (PBDEs) are contaminants that bioaccumulate and biomagnify in aquatic and terrestrial food webs. Unlike many contemporary pollutants, these flame retardants have increased in the environment over the past 30 years. Studies in Chesapeake and Delaware Bays have documented concentrations of nearly 1 μg/g wet weight of PBDEs in osprey...
Contaminant Exposure and Effects—Terrestrial Vertebrates (CEE-TV) Database Summary Findings for Trust Resources in U.S. Coastal Habitats
The Challenge: The National Contaminant Biomonitoring Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been the only large-scale effort that has examined contaminant exposure in terrestrial vertebrates in the United States. Halogenated contaminants, metals, and new pollutants continue to pose hazards to wildlife at many geographic scales. To address this hazard, critical data gaps are being...
Wetlands of the northern Great Plains are crucial feeding grounds for migrating birds and waterfowl embedded in an agricultural landscape. Land use and hydrology can affect adult aquatic insects – crucial prey for critically declining populations of insectivorous birds. Current studies focus on effects of current-use pesticides on adult aquatic insects to inform decision making about...
Comparison of mercury mass loading in streams to atmospheric deposition in watersheds of Western North America: Evidence for non-atmospheric mercury sources
Annual stream loads of mercury (Hg) and inputs of wet and dry atmospheric Hg deposition to the landscape were investigated in watersheds of the Western United States and the Canadian-Alaskan Arctic. Mercury concentration and discharge data from flow gauging stations were used to compute annual mass loads with regression models. Measured wet and...Domagalski, Joseph L.; Majewski, Michael S.; Alpers, Charles N.; Eckley, Chris S.; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Schenk, Liam N.; Wherry, Susan
Mercury and methylmercury in aquatic sediment across western North America
Large-scale assessments are valuable in identifying primary factors controlling total mercury (THg) and monomethyl mercury (MeHg) concentrations, and distribution in aquatic ecosystems. Bed sediment THg and MeHg concentrations were compiled for > 16,000 samples collected from aquatic habitats throughout the West between 1965 and 2013. The...Fleck, Jacob; Marvin-DiPasquale, Mark C.; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Ackerman, Joshua T.; Lutz, Michelle A; Tate, Michael T.; Alpers, Charles N.; Hall, Britt D.; Krabbenhoft, David P.; Eckley, Chris S.
Using an interlaboratory study to revise methods for conducting 10-d to 42-d water or sediment toxicity tests with Hyalella azteca
Studies have been conducted to refine US Environmental Protection Agency, ASTM International, and Environment Canada standard methods for conducting 42-d reproduction tests with Hyalella azteca in water or in sediment. Modifications to the H. azteca method include better-defined ionic composition requirements for exposure water (i.e., >15 mg/L...Ivey, Chris D.; Ingersoll, Christopher G.; Brumbaugh, William G.; Hammer, Edward J.; Mount, David R.; Hockett, J. Russell; Norberg-King, Teresa J.; Soucek, Dave; Taylor, Lisa
Influence of bromide on the performance of the amphipod Hyalella azteca in reconstituted waters
Poor performance of the amphipod Hyalella azteca has been observed in exposures using reconstituted waters. Previous studies have reported success in H. azteca water-only exposures with the addition of relatively high concentrations of bromide. The present study evaluated the influence of lower environmentally representative concentrations of...Ivey, Chris D.; Ingersoll, Christopher G.
A synthesis of terrestrial mercury in the western United States: Spatial distribution defined by land cover and plant productivity
A synthesis of published vegetation mercury (Hg) data across 11 contiguous states in the western United States showed that aboveground biomass concentrations followed the order: leaves (26 μg kg− 1) ~ branches (26 μg kg− 1) > bark (16 μg kg− 1) > bole wood (1 μg...Obrist, Daniel; Pearson, Christopher; Webster, Jackson; Kane, Tyler J.; Lin, Che-Jen; Aiken, George R.; Alpers, Charles N.
Estimating mercury emissions resulting from wildfire in forests of the Western United States
Understanding the emissions of mercury (Hg) from wildfires is important for quantifying the global atmospheric Hg sources. Emissions of Hg from soils resulting from wildfires in the Western United States was estimated for the 2000 to 2013 period, and the potential emission of Hg from forest soils was assessed as a function of forest type and soil-...Webster, Jackson; Kane, Tyler J.; Obrist, Daniel; Ryan, Joseph N.; Aiken, George R.
Linking field-based metabolomics and chemical analyses to prioritize contaminants of emerging concern in the Great Lakes basin
The ability to focus on the most biologically relevant contaminants affecting aquatic ecosystems can be challenging because toxicity-assessment programs have not kept pace with the growing number of contaminants requiring testing. Because it has proven effective at assessing the biological impacts of potentially toxic contaminants, profiling of...Davis, John M.; Ekman, Drew R.; Teng, Quincy; Ankley, Gerald T.; Berninger, Jason P.; Cavallin, Jenna E.; Jensen, Kathleen M.; Kahl, Michael D.; Schroeder, Anthony L.; Villeneuve, Daniel L.; Jorgenson, Zachary G.; Lee, Kathy E.; Collette, Timothy W.
Potential interactions among disease, pesticides, water quality and adjacent land cover in amphibian habitats in the United States
To investigate interactions among disease, pesticides, water quality, and adjacent land cover, we collected samples of water, sediment, and frog tissue from 21 sites in 7 States in the United States (US) representing a variety of amphibian habitats. All samples were analyzed for > 90 pesticides and pesticide degradates, and water and frogs...Battaglin, William A.; Smalling, Kelly L. ; Anderson, Chauncey W.; Calhoun, Daniel L.; Chestnut, Tara E.; Muths, Erin L.
Use of mineral/solution equilibrium calculations to assess the potential for carnotite precipitation from groundwater in the Texas Panhandle, USA
This study investigated the potential for the uranium mineral carnotite (K2(UO2)2(VO4)2·3H2O) to precipitate from evaporating groundwater in the Texas Panhandle region of the United States. The evolution of groundwater chemistry during evaporation was modeled with the USGS geochemical code PHREEQC using water-quality data from 100 groundwater...Ranalli, Anthony J.; Yager, Douglas B.
Disease introduction is associated with a phase transition in bighorn sheep demographics
Ecological theory suggests that pathogens are capable of regulating or limiting host population dynamics, and this relationship has been empirically established in several settings. However, although studies of childhood diseases were integral to the development of disease ecology, few studies show population limitation by a disease affecting...Manlove, Kezia; Cassirer, E. Frances; Cross, Paul C.; Plowright, Raina K.; Hudson, Peter J.
Sex differences in contaminant concentrations of fish: a synthesis
Comparison of whole-fish polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and total mercury (Hg) concentrations in mature males with those in mature females may provide insights into sex differences in behavior, metabolism, and other physiological processes. In eight species of fish, we observed that males exceeded females in whole-fish PCB concentration by 17 to...Madenjian, Charles P.; Rediske, Richard R.; Krabbenhoft, David P.; Stapanian, Martin A.; Chernyak, Sergei M.; O'Keefe, James P.
Evaluation of potential mechanisms of atrazine-induced reproductive impairment in fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) and Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes)
Atrazine has been implicated in reproductive dysfunction of exposed organisms, and previous studies documented decreased egg production in Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) and fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) during 30-d to 38-d exposures to 0.5 µg/L, 5 µg/L, and 50 µg/L atrazine. The authors evaluated possible mechanisms underlying the...Richter, Catherine A.; Papoulias, Diana M.; Whyte, Jeffrey J.; Tillitt, Donald E.
USGS NMWSC Hydrologists Johanna Blake and Jeb Brown attended the 2nd Annual Conference on Environmental Conditions of the Animas and San Juan Watersheds with Emphasis on Gold King Mine and other Mine Waste Issues in Farmington, NM from June 20-21. Johanna and Jeb presented on the USGS long-term monitoring work of continuous monitoring sondes, water quality, and sediment...
- Corrosive groundwater, if untreated, can dissolve lead and other metals from pipes.
- National maps have been prepared to identify the occurrence of potentially corrosive groundwater in the U.S.
- These findings have the greatest implication for the 44 million people dependent on domestic wells for drinking water.
Willow Spring in Hack Canyon in Arizona north of the Grand Canyon. A sign next to the spring says Water Not Suitable for Drinking. The spring has elevated levels of uranium and selenium. The elevated uranium level is most likely not associated with breccia-pipe uranium mining in the area.
Drone footage of a prescribed fire at Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, Florida (April 19, 2017).
See the actual drone footage at: https://www.usgs.gov/media/videos/prescribed-burn-tall-timbers-research-...
Footage of drone during a prescribed fire at Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, Florida (April 19, 2017).
New Orleans, La., July 29, 2008 -- Buras has become famous as the location where, on August 29, 2005, at 6:10 AM CDT, the eye of Hurricane Katrina, made its strongest landfall. The town's freshing painted water tower stands as a symbol of recovery for the state and the community. Jacinta Quesada/FEMA
A team of scientists studied changes in nitrapyrin — a nitrification inhibitor applied with fertilizers as a bactericide to kill natural soil bacteria for the purpose of increasing crop yields — occurrence associated with land use changes from March to June 2016. The above photographs document the following conditions: recent anhydrous ammonia application (upper left),...
Diatom mat used during a feeding experiment to study the dietary uptake of uranium by mayflies
For more information on the movement of wild birds in Asia and how this relates to avian influenza viruses, see http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/ai. The autumn migration routes of bar-headed geese captured before the 2008 breeding season at Qinghai Lake, China, were documented using satellite tracking data. Our results showed that there...
The Avian Influenza Transmission Risk Model web application depicts the intricate connections between 16 layers of administrative, environmental, and economic data in an application that runs inside a web browser. To view and manipulate the full web application, please visit http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/ai. The full web application...
For more information on avian influenza, see http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/ai. Two currently circulating avian influenza viruses, highly pathogenic A(H5N1) and low pathogenic A(H7N9) (hereafter H5N1 and H7N9) are of particular concern due to their high case-fatality rates (approximately 60 and 30% currently), and economic impact to the...
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
A new report published by the U.S. Geological Survey shows that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-led efforts to clean up historical mining contamination in the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane River basins are improving water quality.
Successfully resolving California’s long-standing water supply and ecosystem restoration conflicts in the Delta depends on sound policy based on the best available science.
20-Year Study Shows Levels of Pesticides Still a Concern for Aquatic Life in U.S. Rivers and Streams
Levels of pesticides continue to be a concern for aquatic life in many of the Nation’s rivers and streams in agricultural and urban areas, according to a new USGS study spanning two decades (1992-2011). Pesticide levels seldom exceeded human health benchmarks.
NOAA, Partners Predict an Average ’Dead Zone’ for Gulf of Mexico; Slightly Above-average Hypoxia in Chesapeake Bay
Scientists are expecting an average, but still large, hypoxic or "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico this year, and slightly above-average hypoxia in the Chesapeake Bay.
Concentrations of dissolved solids, a measure of the salt content in water, are elevated in many of the Nations streams as a result of human activities, according to a new USGS study.
Scientists working to understand the devastating bat disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) now have a new, non-lethal tool to identify bats with WNS lesions —ultraviolet, or UV, light.
Media Advisory: Congressional Briefing on Nutrients and Pesticides in the Nation’s Rivers and Streams
The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the Northeast Midwest Institute invite you to a briefing by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) on findings of trends in nutrients and pesticides in the Nation's streams and rivers.
Low concentrations of chemicals commonly used at airports for de-icing planes were detected in samples of groundwater collected from the Snake River alluvial aquifer beneath the Jackson Hole Airport.
The use of salt to deice pavement can leave urban streams toxic to aquatic life, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study on the influence of winter runoff in northern U.S. cities, with a special focus on eastern Wisconsin and Milwaukee.