Mission Areas

Environmental Health

Mission Areas L2 Landing Page Tabs

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: 36
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...

Lead shot as it appears when removed from a shotgun shell and as it appears once ingested, ground and eroded
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 Challenge: 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

Water quality and aquatic life standards that are set by Federal and state regulatory agencies are used to evaluate the quality of our nation’s water and the health of aquatic ecosystems. These standards currently are based on hardness of the water and are determined for single metals, not for mixtures of metals that are typically found in natural systems. Metal mixtures can...

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.

View of Cement Creek, Colorado
April 19, 2016

The goal of this investigation is to provide improved information and tools to support decisions related to management, risk assessment, remediation planning, and mitigation of the effects of hard-rock metal mining and uranium mining on watersheds and ecosystems.

USGS scientist lifting a sample bottle from ice hole
April 19, 2016

This study is assessing the environmental health risks associated with wastes from unconventional oil and gas development by characterizing waste materials, identifying potential environmental pathways, and evaluating the potential effects on organisms from exposure to unintended waste releases.

White tanks used to hold the tracer injection solutions with tubing going to injection wells
April 19, 2016

The USGS is investigating a wastewater plume in a shallow aquifer near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to increase the understanding of the physical, chemical, and microbiological processes that affect the fate and transport of contaminants in groundwater.

Filter Total Items: 43
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: 2016

Geologic materials and human health: Chapter 5.14

No abstract available.

Plumlee, Geoffrey S.; Morman, Suzette A.
IP-072283 Plumlee, G.S., and Morman, S.A., 2016, Geologic materials and human health: The Geoscience Handbook 2016—AGI Data Sheets, Fifth Edition, American Geosciences Institute, p. 78-80.

Year Published: 2014

Family inspiration for my career(s) in transdisciplinary science

I have been fortunate to spend the last 31 years working for an organization that has allowed me to make multiple career shifts across earth science disciplines and to collaborate with people in fields well beyond the earth sciences. Many inspirational colleagues have guided me along this transdisciplinary science path, but perhaps my biggest...

Plumlee, Geoffrey S.
Plumlee, G.S., 2014, Family inspiration for my career(s) in transdisciplinary science. Earth Magazine, December, p. 38-39.

Year Published: 2013

Energy and Minerals Science at the U.S. Geological Survey

The economy, national security, and standard of living of the United States depend on adequate and reliable supplies of energy and mineral resources. Based on population and consumption trends, the Nation’s and World’s use of energy and minerals is expected to grow, driving the demand for scientific understanding of resource formation, location,...

Ferrero, Richard C.; Kolak, Jonathan J.; Bills, Donald J.; Bowen, Zachary H.; Cordier, Daniel J.; Gallegos, Tanya J.; Hein, James R.; Kelley, Karen D.; Nelson, Philip H.; Nuccio, Vito F.; Schmidt, Jeanine M.; Seal, Robert R.
Energy and Minerals Science at the U.S. Geological Survey; 2013; FS; 2013-3111; Ferrero, Richard C.; Kolak, Jonathan J.; Bills, Donald J.; Bowen, Zachary H.; Cordier, Daniel J.; Gallegos, Tanya J.; Hein, James R.; Kelley, Karen D.; Nelson, Philip H.; Nuccio, Vito F.; Schmidt, Jeanine M.; Seal, Robert R.

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. The study was conducted to describe the conditions of the Clinch River and to...

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.

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

n late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy came ashore during a spring high tide on the New Jersey coastline, delivering hurricane-force winds, storm tides exceeding 19 feet, driving rain, and plummeting temperatures. Hurricane Sandy resulted in 72 direct fatalities in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States, and widespread and substantial...

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.

Year Published: 2013

Environmental health science at the U.S. Geological Survey

USGS environmental health science focuses on the environment-health interface. Research characterizes the processes that affect the interaction among the physical environment, the living environment, and people, as well as the factors that affect ecological and human exposure to disease agents and the resulting toxicologic or infectious disease....

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.

Year Published: 2013

The role of airborne mineral dusts in human disease

Exposure to fine particulate matter (PM) is generally acknowledged to increase risk for human morbidity and mortality. However, particulate matter (PM) research has generally examined anthropogenic (industry and combustion by-products) sources with few studies considering contributions from geogenic PM (produced from the Earth by natural processes...

Morman, Suzette A.; Plumlee, Geoffrey S.
Suzette A. Morman, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, The role of airborne mineral dusts in human disease, Aeolian Research, Volume 9, 2013, Pages 203-212.

Year Published: 2011

Bird mercury concentrations change rapidly as chicks age: toxicological risk is highest at hatching and fledging.

Toxicological risk of methylmercury exposure to juvenile birds is complex due to the highly transient nature of mercury concentrations as chicks age. We examined total mercury and methylmercury concentrations in blood, liver, kidney, muscle, and feathers of 111 Forster's tern (Sterna forsteri), 69 black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), and 43...

Ackerman, Joshua T.; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Herzog, Mark P.
Bird mercury concentrations change rapidly as chicks age: toxicological risk is highest at hatching and fledging.; 2011; Article; Journal; Environmental Science and Technology; Ackerman, Joshua T.; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Herzog, Mark P.

Year Published: 2011

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

Background and Objectives The Little Bonanza mercury (Hg) mine, located in San Luis Obispo County, California, is a relatively small mine with, a historical total Hg production of about 1,000 flasks. The mine workings and tailings are located in the headwaters of the previously unnamed west fork of Las Tablas Creek (WF Las Tablas Creek), which...

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.

Year Published: 2010

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

New geologic mapping within the Sand Creek Pass 7.5 minute quadrangle defines geologic relationships within the northern Front Range of Colorado along the Wyoming border approximately 35 km south of Laramie, Wyo. Previous mapping within the quadrangle was limited to regional reconnaissance mapping; Eaton Reservoir 7.5 minute quadrangle to the east...

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.

Year Published: 2010

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

Stratigraphic information from 694 oil and gas exploration wells from the onshore Santa Maria basin and surrounding areas are herein compiled in digital form from reports that were released originally in paper form. The Santa Maria basin is located within the southwesternmost part of the Coast Ranges and north of the western Transverse Ranges on...

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.

Filter Total Items: 44
View of Old Mans Creek near Iowa City, Iowa
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 .
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.
cliff along Bull Run near Sudley Springs in Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia
August 24, 2014
Vegetation grows on an east-facing cliff along Bull Run near Sudley Springs in Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia. The cliffs are islands of specialized habitat; they support plant species found nowhere else in the park, including locally uncommon or rare species.
Cliff along Bull Run, Virginia
August 22, 2014
East-facing cliff approximately 30 meters downstream from Farm Ford along Bull Run in Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia.
USGS scientists collecting a water sample from a well at the USGS Bemidji Research Site
July 22, 2014
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists collecting a groundwater sample from a well at the USGS Bemidji Crude-Oil Spill Research Site, Minnesota. The scientists monitored in real time the dissolved oxygen, pH, specific conductance, and temperature of the water as the well is pumped so they can know when to collect representative sample.
USGS scientists collecting water-quality samples from shallow groundwater under Ashumet Pond
July 3, 2014
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists collecting water-quality samples from shallow groundwater under Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The scientists collected the samples to understand importance of lake sediments in removal of cyanobacteria, viruses, and dissolved organic carbon.
USGS scientist collecting water samples on a wastewater disposal facility
June 18, 2014
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist collecting water samples on a wastewater disposal facility in West Virginia to assess potential environmental impacts due to activities at the site. Shifts in the overall microbial community structure were present in stream sediments that contained chemicals associated with unconventional oil and gas wastewaters .
USGS scientist collecting a water-quality sample from Zollner Creek, Oregon
May 19, 2014
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hydrologic technician Dan Polette collecting a water-quality sample from Zollner Creek, Oregon for a national-scale investigation of the environmental occurrence of neonicotinoid insecticides in agricultural and urban settings . USGS Site ID 14201300 - Oblique downstream view from right bank showing location of cross section and Monitor-McKee Road bridge.
larval mussels
October 26, 2013
Recent advancements in assessments using early life stages of test organisms (like the larval mussels shown) provide robust alternatives to full life-cycle chronic ecotoxicity tests . For more information on aquatic toxicology test organisms refer to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Columbia Environmental Research Center's Fish and Invertebrate Toxicology Branch .

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: 60
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...

Map of the 48 contiguous states showing Microcystin concentrations
May 31, 2016

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

USGS logo
May 10, 2016

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

Image shows a map with an aerial image of the study site beneath it
May 9, 2016

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.

Bald eagle flying over water
April 20, 2016

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.

 

Image: Chesapeake Bay osprey chicks mostly healthy despite toxic exposure
April 4, 2016

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.

Keep up with our science by subscribing to the GeoHealth Newsletter.

Get the Newsletter