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The U.S. Geological Survey Environmental Health Mission Area works to safeguard the health of humans and other organisms, by leading research to understand and minimize exposures to chemical and microbial hazards in the environment.

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Science Feature Articles

Our Science Feature Articles highlight recent USGS environmental health science activities.

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USGS GeoHealth Newsletter

USGS GeoHealth Newsletter

The GeoHealth Newsletter provides information on new USGS environmental health science activities related to safeguarding the health of the environment, fish and wildlife, domesticated animals, and people.

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This picture was taken June 23, 2010 along the Louisiana shoreline in Barataria Bay and shows oil spilled from Deepwater Horizon
November 17, 2016

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.

Sampling for aquatic invasive species in the Greater Yellowstone Area.
November 8, 2016

Studies on the aquatic food web, tree swallows, and the spread of contaminants take center stage at SETAC 2016.

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.

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a specimen found on a rock in the river
December 19, 2016

Although there are ways of developing causal relationships between stressors and aquatic community responses without experimentation; some argue that experimental manipulation under controlled conditions is both critical and necessary to establish causation. Single species toxicity tests are the gold standard for developing toxicant biological response relationships however these tests are...

Glacier Bay National Park
October 26, 2016

Human dimensions in the context of natural resource management refers to the ways humans value natural resources, resource management preferences, and how humans affect or are affected by natural resource management decisions. Natural resource management and policy decisionmaking require incorporation of sound biological, social, and economic science. SEA scientists...

Osprey Fledglings still in the nest
September 19, 2016

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...

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
September 19, 2016

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...

Vultures unintentionally ingested diclofenac when scavenging livestock treated shortly before death.
September 19, 2016

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...

Whole Wildlife Toxicology Catalog
September 19, 2016

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...

Study of toxicity of PBDE flame retardants in various bird embryos
September 19, 2016

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...

Contaminant Exposure and Effects—Terrestrial Vertebrates (CEE-TV) Database Homepage
September 19, 2016

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,...

Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)
August 29, 2016

The Challange: Emerging contaminants may be in part responsible for recent endocrine disruption observed in fish in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Endocrine active compounds implicated in the decline of fish populations may affect other wildlife as well. There are 6 species of turtles and 5 of snakes living within the main-stem and tidal areas of the Bay. As...

A dragonfly in the wetlands in Southeast North Dakota.
August 16, 2016

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...

Poudre River looking upstream.
August 12, 2016

In this study we will conduct a series of mesocosm studies to examine the toxicity of cobalt, copper, nickle, and zinc to natural communities of invertebrates. ...

Monarch butterflies are in decline
April 26, 2016

Monarch butterfly populations have declined sufficiently to result in noticeably fewer overwintering at sites in central Mexico as in California.

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Screen capture of the The SCoRR Mapping Application
March 15, 2016

The Sediment-bound Contaminant Resiliency and Response (SCoRR) Mapping Application was developed to allow users to visualize and view information generated during this study. Additional datasets including Census data, the National Land Cover Database, and National Hydrography data are also provided for users to generate custom maps.

The USGS Environmental Health Mission Area publishes the results of its investigations in journal articles, fact sheets, USGS reports, and on the Web.

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Filter Total Items: 14
Seasonal sediment dynamics shape temperate bedrock reef communities
Year Published: 2016

Seasonal sediment dynamics shape temperate bedrock reef communities

Mobilized seafloor sediment can impact benthic reef communities through burial, scour, and turbidity. These processes are ubiquitous in coastal oceans and, through their influence on the survival, fitness, and interactions of species, can alter the structure and function of benthic communities. In northern Monterey Bay, California, USA, as much as...

Jared D. Figurski, Jan Freiwald, Steve I. Lonhart, and Curt D. Storlazzi
Figurski, J.D., Freiwald, J., Lonhart, S.I., and Storlazzi, C.D., 2016, Seasonal sediment dynamics shape temperate bedrock reef communities: Marine Ecology Progress Series, v. 552, pp. 19–29, doi: 10.3354/meps11763
Conversion to drip irrigated agriculture may offset historic anthropogenic and wildfire contributions to sediment production
Year Published: 2016

Conversion to drip irrigated agriculture may offset historic anthropogenic and wildfire contributions to sediment production

This study is an investigation into the roles of wildfire and changing agricultural practices in controlling the inter-decadal scale trends of suspended sediment production from semi-arid mountainous rivers. In the test case, a decreasing trend in suspended sediment concentrations was found in the lower Salinas River, California between 1967 and...

A.B. Gray, G.B. Pasternack, E.B. Watson, M.A. Goñi, J.A. Hatten, J.A. Warrick
Gray, A.B., Pasternack, G.B., Watson, E.B., Goñi, M.A., Hatten, J.A., and Warrick, J.A., 2016, Conversion to drip irrigated agriculture may offset historic anthropogenic and wildfire contributions to sediment production: Science of The Total Environment, v. 556, pp. 219–230, doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.018.
Trend analyses with river sediment rating curves
Year Published: 2015

Trend analyses with river sediment rating curves

Sediment rating curves, which are fitted relationships between river discharge (Q) and suspended-sediment concentration (C), are commonly used to assess patterns and trends in river water quality. In many of these studies, it is assumed that rating curves have a power-law form (i.e. C = aQb, where a and b are fitted parameters). Two fundamental...

Jonathan A. Warrick
Warrick, J.A., 2015, Trend analyses with river sediment rating curves: Hydrological Processes, v. 29 no. 6, pp. 936–949, doi: 10.1002/hyp.10198
Water quality, sediment characteristics, aquatic habitat, geomorphology, and mussel population status of the Clinch River, Virginia and Tennessee, 2009-2011
Year Published: 2013

Water quality, sediment characteristics, aquatic habitat, geomorphology, and mussel population status of the Clinch River, Virginia and Tennessee, 2009-2011

Chemical, physical, and biological data were collected during 2009-2011 as part of a study of the Clinch River in Virginia and Tennessee. The data from this study, data-collection methods, and laboratory analytical methods used in the study are documented in this report.

Krstolic, Jennifer L.; Johnson, Gregory C.; Ostby, Brett J.K.
Water quality, sediment characteristics, aquatic habitat, geomorphology, and mussel population status of the Clinch River, Virginia and Tennessee, 2009-2011; 2013; DS; 802; Krstolic, Jennifer L; Johnson, Gregory C; Ostby, Brett J. K.
Meeting the Science Needs of the Nation in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy-- A U.S. Geological Survey Science Plan for Support of Restoration and Recovery
Year Published: 2013

Meeting the Science Needs of the Nation in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy-- A U.S. Geological Survey Science Plan for Support of Restoration and Recovery

Buxton, Herbert T.; Andersen, Matthew E.; Focazio, Michael J.; Haines, John W.; Hainly, Robert A.; Hippe, Daniel J.; Sugarbaker, Larry J.
Meeting the Science Needs of the Nation in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy-- A U.S. Geological Survey Science Plan for Support of Restoration and Recovery; 2013; CIR; 1390; Buxton, Herbert T.; Andersen, Matthew E.; Focazio, Michael J.; Haines, John W.; Hainly, Hippe, Daniel J.; Sugarbaker, Larry J.
Environmental health science at the U.S. Geological Survey
Year Published: 2013

Environmental health science at the U.S. Geological Survey

Buxton, Herbert T.; Bright, Patricia R.
Environmental health science at the U.S. Geological Survey; 2013; FS; 2012-3142; Buxton, Herbert T.; Bright, Patricia R.
Beach Nourishment Impacts on Bacteriological Water Quality and Phytoplankton Bloom Dynamics
Year Published: 2013

Beach Nourishment Impacts on Bacteriological Water Quality and Phytoplankton Bloom Dynamics

A beach nourishment with approximately 1/3 fine-grained sediment (fines; particle diameter

M. A. Rippy, P. J. S. Franks, F. Feddersen, R. T. Guza, and J. A. Warrick
Rippy, M.A., Franks, P.J.S., Feddersen, F., Guza, R.T., and Warrick, J.A., 2013, Beach Nourishment Impacts on Bacteriological Water Quality and Phytoplankton Bloom Dynamics: Environmental Science & Technology, v. 47 no. 12, doi: 10.1021/es400572k.
Review of samples of water, sediment, tailings, and biota at the Little Bonanza mercury mine, San Luis Obispo County, California
Year Published: 2011

Review of samples of water, sediment, tailings, and biota at the Little Bonanza mercury mine, San Luis Obispo County, California

Rytuba, James J.; Hothem, Roger L.; Goldstein, Daniel N.; Brussee, Brianne E.; May, Jason T.
Review of samples of water, sediment, tailings, and biota at the Little Bonanza mercury mine, San Luis Obispo County, California; 2011; OFR; 2011-1122; Rytuba, James J.; Hothem, Roger L,; Goldstein, Daniel N.; Brussee, Brianne E.; May, Jason T.
Geologic map of the Sand Creek Pass quadrangle, Larimer County, Colorado, and Albany County, Wyoming
Year Published: 2010

Geologic map of the Sand Creek Pass quadrangle, Larimer County, Colorado, and Albany County, Wyoming

Workman, Jeremiah B.; Braddock, William A.
Geologic map of the Sand Creek Pass quadrangle, Larimer County, Colorado, and Albany County, Wyoming; 2010; SIM; 3133; Workman, Jeremiah B.; Braddock, William A.
Digital tabulation of stratigraphic data from oil and gas wells in the Santa Maria Basin and surrounding areas, central California coast
Year Published: 2010

Digital tabulation of stratigraphic data from oil and gas wells in the Santa Maria Basin and surrounding areas, central California coast

Sweetkind, Donald S.; Tennyson, Marilyn E.; Langenheim, V.E.; Shumaker, Lauren E.
Digital tabulation of stratigraphic data from oil and gas wells in the Santa Maria Basin and surrounding areas, central California coast; 2010; OFR; 2010-1129; Sweetkind, Donald S.; Tennyson, Marilyn E.; Langenheim, Victoria E.; Shumaker, Lauren E.
Three-dimensional geologic model of the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer, south-central Oklahoma
Year Published: 2010

Three-dimensional geologic model of the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer, south-central Oklahoma

Faith, Jason R.; Blome, Charles D.; Pantea, Michael P.; Puckette, James O.; Halihan, Todd; Osborn, Noel; Christenson, Scott; Pack, Skip
Three-dimensional geologic model of the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer, south-central Oklahoma; 2010; OFR; 2010-1123; Faith, Jason R.; Blome, Charles D.; Pantea, Michael P.; Puckette, James O.; Halihan, Todd; Osborn, Noel; Christenson, Scott; Pack, Skip
A Review of Aeromagnetic Anomalies in the Sawatch Range, Central Colorado
Year Published: 2010

A Review of Aeromagnetic Anomalies in the Sawatch Range, Central Colorado

Bankey, Viki
A Review of Aeromagnetic Anomalies in the Sawatch Range, Central Colorado; 2010; OFR; 2010-1095; Bankey, Viki
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August 2016 (approx.)
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 were four typical migration routes in autumn with variation in...
August 2016 (approx.)
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 livestock industry and public health system. H5N1 first emerged...
August 2016 (approx.)
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 requires a web browser with a large amount of memory available. This...
Scientists Andrew Ramey, Bjorn Olsen, and Jonas Bonnedahl (L to R) setting a trap for gulls at the Soldotna landfill in 2016.
June 2016 (approx.)
Scientists Andrew Ramey, Bjorn Olsen, and Jonas Bonnedahl (L to R) setting a trap for gulls at the Soldotna landfill in June 2016.
Gulls using beach at the mouth of Kenai River during the personal use dipnet fishery for sockeye salmon.
June 2016 (approx.)
Gulls using beach at the mouth of Kenai River during the personal use dipnet fishery for sockeye salmon; photo taken during sampling trip in July 2016.
John Reed (USGS scientist) holding a gull marked with a satellite transmitter at the Soldotna landfill in June 2016
June 2016 (approx.)
John Reed (USGS scientist) holding a gull marked with a satellite transmitter at the Soldotna landfill in June 2016.
June 15, 2016
What inspired a USGS geologist to study how dam removal changes rivers. Profile of Amy East.
View of Old Mans Creek near Iowa City, Iowa
April 2016 (approx.)
View of Old Mans Creek near Iowa City, Iowa upstream from a bridge used for collecting water-quality samples (USGS Site ID: 05455100 ). This site was part of the sampling network for the first reconnaissance study to assess potential off-field transport of nitrapyrin (a bactericide) to streams .
March 2015 (approx.)
The Hawaiian Islands’ beautiful ocean and beaches attract more than 8.5 million tourists each year. The USGS aims to help Hawaii preserve its underwater natural resources by tracing how oceanography may influence coral disease outbreaks. Looking into contaminants in the freshwater, or how quickly a bay may or may not flush, will help enrich future and past studies about the disease itself.
USGS scientist lifting a sample bottle from ice hole
February 11, 2015
USGS scientist lifting a grab sample from ice hole on a stream in North Dakota. The scientist is part of a science team that assessing the potential impacts of a brine spill from unconventional oil and gas activities (UOG) on environmental health .
USGS Scientist collecting water samples in a stream
2014 (approx.)
USGS scientist collecting water samples and measuring water field properties at North Sylamore Creek, Arkansas, on January 7, 2014. Water samples were analyzed for over 700 chemicals and a wide range of biological activity and toxicity.
USGS Mobile Atmospheric Mercury Laboratory
2014 (approx.)
The USGS Mobile Atmospheric Mercury Laboratory has onboard instrumentation to measure aerosol concentrations and to continuously monitor mercury speciation and concentrations, air quality, automated wet deposition collection, and meteorological conditions.

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
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This picture was taken June 23, 2010 along the Louisiana shoreline in Barataria Bay and shows oil spilled from Deepwater Horizon
November 17, 2016

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.

Cyanobacterial bloom in Lake Okeechobee, FL (July 2016)
October 24, 2016

Building knowledge to protect ecological and human health

USGS logo
October 3, 2016

As coastal development along the Gulf Coast continues to expand, tidal saline wetlands could have difficulty adjusting to rising sea levels.

Scientists Andrew Ramey, Bjorn Olsen, and Jonas Bonnedahl (L to R) setting a trap for gulls at the Soldotna landfill in 2016.
September 26, 2016

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.

Image shows a man standing ankle-deep in a stream with an orange sampler
July 18, 2016

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

Image shows a fish in a tank beneath a half-circle shelter
July 11, 2016

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

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