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: 37
Date published: April 19, 2016

Pesticide Contamination and Environmental Exposure

The USGS is developing methods to measure new pesticides and their byproducts in environmental media, conducting studies on the fate of these chemicals, and assessing exposure and potential effects on fish, wildlife, and human health.

Date published: April 19, 2016

Mercury in Aquatic Ecosystems

This investigation focuses on understanding mercury sources, pathways and key processes in the environment, with particular emphasis on mercury methylation and accumulation in aquatic ecosystems.

Date published: April 19, 2016

Low-Level Radioactive and Mixed- Hazardous Wastes

The objective of research at the Amargosa Desert Research Site, Nevada, is to improve understanding of processes controlling the migration and fate of contaminants in arid environments, and the environmental-health implications of disposed radioactive and industrial waste.

Date published: April 19, 2016

Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Environment

The USGS is conducting source-to-receptor research on a broad range of chemical and microbial contaminants including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, pathogens, antibiotic resistant genes, and natural toxins that are not commonly considered in environmental research but have the potential to impact environmental health.

Date published: April 19, 2016

Chemical Mixtures and Environmental Effects

The USGS is investigating the occurrence and environmental effects of complex mixtures of both natural and man-made chemicals in environmental waters.

Date published: April 19, 2016

Crude Oil Contamination in the Shallow Subsurface

This investigation focuses on the long-term persistence in soils and groundwater of petroleum hydrocarbon spills, including crude oil and refined petroleum fuels. The study site near Bemidji, MN, is a laboratory for developing site assessment tools and understanding chemical changes affecting human and environmental health that occur during natural attenuation of petroleum hydrocarbons.

Date published: April 19, 2016

Chlorinated Solvents in Fractured-Rock Aquifers

The USGS is investigating the hydrological, geochemical, and microbiological processes controlling contaminant fate in fractured-rock aquifers. Long-term field experiments are currently conducted at a former aircraft engine test facility in West Trenton, New Jersey, where high concentrations of trichloroethene persist in sedimentary rocks despite two decades of groundwater pumping and...

Date published: April 18, 2016
Status: Completed

Baseline Aquatic Contamination and Endocrine Status in Resident Fish Populations of Biscayne National Park and in the Adjacent Coastal Environment

As part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, water managers are planning to use treated wastewater from the South District Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) to supplement the canal waters that will be used to rehydrate wetlands adjacent to the Biscayne National Park (Park).

Date published: March 10, 2016
Status: Active

Contaminants Assessments in the Coral Reefs of the Virgin Islands National Park and Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument

Coral reefs around the world are exposed to a number of environmental contaminants. USGS researchers investigate the issue of contamination on the reefs around the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Date published: February 25, 2016
Status: Completed

Mosquito Control Pesticide Impacts to Butterflies: Implications for Imperiled Butterfly Conservation on a National Wildlife Refuge

USGS researchers evaluate the impact of a pesticide on two imperiled butterfly species in the Florida Keys.

Date published: February 25, 2016

Methylmercury Impacts to Reproduction in the Eastern Mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki)

USGS researchers investigate the effects of methylmercury contamination on reproduction of the Eastern mosquitofish, a common fish in South Florida.

Date published: May 22, 2015
Status: Completed

Monitoring Mercury's Risk to Wildlife in California Lakes

USGS scientists sampled grebes in California lakes to compare mercury levels in these predators versus the small fish they prey on—developing a new tool for water quality monitoring.

Filter Total Items: 56
Year Published: 2011

Proceedings of the third USGS modeling conference, June 7-11, 2010, Broomfield, Colorado-Understanding and predicting for a changing world

The Third USGS Modeling Conference was held June 7th-11, 2010, in Broomfield, Colorado. The conference focused on the development and application of analytical and theoretical models and data availability that support managing the Nation's resources and help protect lives and property. Participants at the conference included scientists and...

Brady, Shailaja R.
Proceedings of the third USGS modeling conference, June 7-11, 2010, Broomfield, Colorado-Understanding and predicting for a changing world; 2011; SIR; 2011-5147; Edited by: Brady, Shailaja R.

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: 2011

Mines and mineral processing facilities in the vicinity of the March 11, 2011, earthquake in northern Honshu, Japan

U.S. Geological Survey data indicate that the area affected by the March 11, 2011, magnitude 9.0 earthquake and associated tsunami is home to nine cement plants, eight iodine plants, four iron and steel plants, four limestone mines, three copper refineries, two gold refineries, two lead refineries, two zinc refineries, one titanium dioxide plant,...

Menzie, W. David; Baker, Michael S.; Bleiwas, Donald I.; Kuo, Chin
Mines and mineral processing facilities in the vicinity of the March 11, 2011, earthquake in northern Honshu, Japan; 2011; OFR; 2011-1069; Menzie, W. David; Baker, Michael S.; Bleiwas, Donald I.; Kuo, Chin

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.

Year Published: 2010

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

The Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer of south-central Oklahoma encompasses more than 850 square kilometers and is the principal water resource for south-central Oklahoma. Rock units comprising the aquifer are characterized by limestone, dolomite, and sandstones assigned to two lower Paleozoic units: the Arbuckle and Simpson Groups. Also considered to be...

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

Year Published: 2010

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

This report contains digital data and image files of aeromagnetic anomalies in the Sawatch Range of central Colorado. The primary product is a data layer of polygons with linked data records that summarize previous interpretations of aeromagnetic anomalies in this region. None of these data files and images are new; rather, they are presented in...

Bankey, Viki
A Review of Aeromagnetic Anomalies in the Sawatch Range, Central Colorado; 2010; OFR; 2010-1095; Bankey, Viki

Year Published: 2010

USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, 2010

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program adapts research priorities to address the most important contamination issues facing the Nation and to identify new threats to environmental health. The Program investigates two major types of contamination problems: * Subsurface Point-Source Contamination, and * Watershed...

Buxton, Herbert T.
USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, 2010; 2010; FS; 2010-3011; Buxton, Herbert T.

Year Published: 2010

Modeling Climate Change and Sturgeon Populations in the Missouri River

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC), in collaboration with researchers from the University of Missouri and Iowa State University, is conducting research to address effects of climate change on sturgeon populations (Scaphirhynchus spp.) in the Missouri River. The CERC is conducting laboratory, field,...

Wildhaber, Mark L.
Modeling Climate Change and Sturgeon Populations in the Missouri River; 2010; FS; 2010-3019; Wildhaber, Mark L.

Year Published: 2010

Agricultural wetlands as potential hotspots for mercury bioaccumulation: Experimental evidence using caged fish

Wetlands provide numerous ecosystem services, but also can be sources of methylmercury (MeHg) production and export. Rice agricultural wetlands in particular may be important sites for MeHg bioaccumulation due to their worldwide ubiquity, periodic flooding schedules, and high use by wildlife. We assessed MeHg bioaccumulation within agricultural...

Ackerman, Joshua T.; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.
Agricultural wetlands as potential hotspots for mercury bioaccumulation: Experimental evidence using caged fish; 2010; Article; Journal; Environmental Science and Technology; Ackerman, J. T.; Eagles-Smith, C. A.

Year Published: 2010

In vitro studies evaluating leaching of mercury from mine waste calcine using simulated human body fluids

In vitro bioaccessibility (IVBA) studies were carried out on samples of mercury (Hg) mine-waste calcine (roasted Hg ore) by leaching with simulated human body fluids. The objective was to estimate potential human exposure to Hg due to inhalation of airborne calcine particulates and hand-to-mouth ingestion of Hg-bearing calcines. Mine waste...

Gray, John E.; Plumlee, Geoffrey S.; Morman, Suzette A.; Higueras, Pablo L.; Crock, James G.; Lowers, Heather A.; Witten, Mark L.

Filter Total Items: 60
USGS Scientist collecting water samples in a stream
December 31, 2014

USGS Scientist collecting water samples in North Sylamore Creek, Arkansas

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
December 31, 2014

USGS Mobile Atmospheric Mercury Laboratory

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

Cliffs near Sudley Springs along Bull Run, Manassas Battlefield, VA

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

Cliff along Bull Run in Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia

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

USGS Scientists Collecting a Water Sample from a Well at the USGS Bemidji Research Site

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

USGS Scientists Collecting Water-Quality Samples from Shallow Groundwater under Ashumet Pond

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

Scientist Collecting Water Samples at a Wastewater Disposal Facility

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...

larval mussels
October 26, 2013

Larval Mussels

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...

Scientist Uses a Syringe to Withdraw Water from a Core
July 19, 2013

Scientist Uses a Syringe to Withdraw Water from a Core

To help understand the geochemical conditions that control arsenic mobilization in the subsurface a U.S. Geological Survey scientist uses a syringe to withdraw water from a core for analysis. The core sample was collected using the freezing drive shoe technology developed by USGS...

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: 63
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.

Date published: February 8, 2016

USGS Increases Public Access to Scientific Research

The U.S. Geological Survey is implementing new measures that will improve public access to USGS-funded science as detailed in its new public access plan.

Date published: January 13, 2016

Manmade Mercury Emissions Decline 30 Percent from 1990-2010

Between 1990 and 2010, global mercury emissions from manmade sources declined 30 percent, according to a new analysis by Harvard University, Peking University, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, and the University of Alberta. These results challenge long-standing assumptions about mercury emission trends.

Date published: December 18, 2015

EarthWord – Medical Geology

Medical Geology is an earth science specialty that concerns how geologic materials and earth processes affect human health. 

Date published: December 18, 2015

EarthWord – Leachate

No, it’s not a sports drink for leeches, although that’s what it sounds like. Leachate is the solution (or suspension) that forms when liquid travels through a solid and removes some components of that solid with it. Those components may be dissolved or suspended within the liquid.

Date published: December 10, 2015

New Tool Can Determine the Sources of Mercury Found in the Great Lakes

For the first time, land and resource managers in the Great Lakes will be able to distinguish between the various sources of mercury in the environment, a toxic chemical of significant concern in the region. This is thanks to a new tool that “fingerprints” the mercury, developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Date published: November 13, 2015

Understanding how Pharmaceuticals in the Environment Affect Fish

Fish health may be affected by pharmaceuticals in treated wastewater released into streams and other water bodies, according to a recent laboratory and field study by the Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory at St. Cloud State University and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

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