Mission Areas

Environmental Health

Mission Areas L2 Landing Page Tabs

The U.S. Geological Survey Environmental Health Mission Area works to safeguard the Nation’s health, economy, and resources by leading science to understand and minimize exposures to toxicological and infectious disease agents in the environment.

View Full Web Site

Science Feature Articles

Science Feature Articles

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

Get Articles

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.

Get Newsletter

News

Dr. Christian Zimmerman, USGS Alaska Science Center Director
February 1, 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Christian Zimmerman as the new director of their Alaska Science Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Zimmerman succeeds Dr. Mark Shasby who held the position for the past six years.

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.

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
Neonicotinoid pesticides act as agonists of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
March 21, 2017

The Challenge: Neonicotinoid pesticides act as agonists of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and are designed to be lethal to insects while theoretically posing little to no threat to vertebrates. The perceived safety of neonicotinoids has led to a sharp increase in their use in the United States and globally, since they were first introduced in 1994. The use of the neonicotinoid...

Dye deposition in yolk over time
March 17, 2017

The Challenge: Endocrine active chemicals (EAC) are known to interfere with hormonally regulated physiological processes, thereby affecting signaling in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal-liver (HPGL) axis and commonly resulting in reproductive dysfunction. Computational models that relate hormonal and genomic biomarkers within the HPGL axis to the reproductive cycle and ecologically relevant...

Subadult Japanese quail
March 16, 2017

The Challenge: Wild birds are exposed throughout their lives to natural and synthetic chemicals that are present in the environment, many of which interfere with the animal’s physiological and developmental systems. Relative concentrations, routes, frequency, and the environment in which chemical exposure occurs will determine to a large extent the bird’s response. Well-...

Laughing gull (Larus atricilla)
March 15, 2017

The Challenge: Mercury is a highly toxic element found throughout our environment. Although it occurs naturally in some environments, human industrial pollution has greatly increased the amount of mercury and the range of environments in which mercury is found. Recent studies have confirmed clear differences in the sensitivity of various bird species to methylmercury. Because the causes of...

Short-Chain Chlorinated Paraffins (SCCPs)
March 14, 2017

The Challenge: Short-Chain Chlorinated Paraffins (SCCPs) are complex technical mixtures of polychlorinated n-alkanes used in lubricants and coolants in metalworking, as flame retardants, and in paints, adhesives, sealants, textiles and polymeric materials, plastics and rubber. SCCPs are of concern because they are globally transported, bioaccumulate in wildlife and humans, and are...

Avian egg injection
March 13, 2017

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...

Radiograph illustrating soy bean seeds in crop and gastrointestinal tract
January 25, 2017

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...

Eisenoides lonnbergi, a native earthworm, found to contain extremely high concentrations of lead
January 25, 2017

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...

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...

Black-tailed prairie dog mortality
December 19, 2016

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...

Researchers Processing Samples
December 15, 2016

The Challenge: The Upper Conasauga River is critical habitat for numerous rare, endangered, and threatened species of freshwater fish and mussels. However, their populations have significantly declined over the past decade. Previous research found elevated levels of nitrate in surface waters and hormones in sediments. Sexual development was significantly altered in western mosquitofish (...

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...

Filter Total Items: 2
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.

View All Publications
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
Filter Total Items: 38
Screen shot of the USGS avian influenza interactive web application
2016 (approx.)
Avian Influenza Transmission Risk Model Web Application -- Screen shot of an interactive web application that provides visualizations of avian influenza virus risk factors and models at the interface of wild and domestic birds . - A virtual tour was produced to familiarize users with the capabilities of the application.
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...
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...
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.

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: 55
Dr. Christian Zimmerman, USGS Alaska Science Center Director
February 1, 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Christian Zimmerman as the new director of their Alaska Science Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Zimmerman succeeds Dr. Mark Shasby who held the position for the past six years.

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...

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

Get the Newsletter
Filter Total Items: 1