“Whatcha gonna do when they come for you”-thinks this week’s EarthWord...
USGS EarthWord of the Week
EarthWords is an on-going series in which we shed some light on the complicated, often difficult-to-pronounce language of science. Think of us as your terminology tour-guides, and meet us back here every week for a new word!
The EarthWord: Fugitive
Although it’s unlikely to call the Law down upon it, fugitive in the scientific sense is pretty close to the legal sense--it means something that has escaped or migrated outside of where it was meant to be.
It’s most often applied to chemicals that escape a container of some kind.
Fugitive comes from the Latin fugitivus, which meant “runaway” or “missing.”
Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:
Fugitive contaminants are a serious issue in the world of toxicology and environmental health science. Chemical spills from pipelines or other transportation methods, catchment ponds, wells, or other types of infrastructure are a major pathway for contaminants to enter the environment.
USGS studies many different types of fugitive contaminants as part of its Environmental Health science.
Studies have included using remote sensing to detect fugitive contaminants at a Superfund site; evaluating potential risks and hazards from fugitive dust from an Alaskan mine; and studying stray gas migrating into groundwater.
Next EarthWord: Although it sounds like a Batman punch, this #EarthWord is closer to the Bat than you’d think...
Hungry for some science, but you don’t have time for a full-course research plate? Then check out USGS Science Snippets, our snack-sized science series that focuses on the fun, weird, and fascinating stories of USGS science.