Web-Based Tool Aids in Understanding the Movement of Avian Influenza
Visualization tool helps scientists see how relations between poultry density and waterfowl migration routes affect avian influenza riskScience Feature
USGS Scientist Receives Award for Assistance with Wetlands Assessment
Dr. Keith A. Loftin received the EPA's Achievement in Science and Technology Award for his contributions to the National Wetlands AssessmentScience Feature
Studying Shifts in Stream Microbial Communities Exposed to Wastewaters
Shifts in microbial community structure were present in stream sediments that had chemicals associated with unconventional oil and gas wastewatersScience Feature
Nitrate Addition Enhances Arsenic Immobilization in Groundwater
The addition of nitrate in a low oxygen groundwater resulted in the immobilization of naturally occurring dissolved arsenicScience Feature
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
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
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...
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...
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-designed avian field...
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...
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...
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...
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 about the...
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...
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 anticoagulant...
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 use tools, research methods...
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 water and fish tissue, yet...
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 expanded use of first-...
The Environmental Health Mission Area develops methods and tools to measure and assess the environmental health of watersheds and the organisms living in them. Our investigations generate and interpret environmental contaminant, biological activity, and effects data. All of which is provided to the public in our publications.
Exposure of wildlife to Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) is likely to occur but evidence of hazard and risk is limited. One exposure pathway that has received attention is trophic transfer of APIs in a water-fish-osprey food chain.
Toxicity Assessment of Sediments Collected Upstream and Downstream of the White Dam in Clarke County, Georgia
A breach in the White Dam has been proposed to facilitate fish passage. As a Technical Assistance project, the U.S. Geological Survey provided toxicity assessments of sediment samples collected by USEPA personnel.
The exposure of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) to lead and cadmium and the potential associated toxic effects were examined at three sites contaminated with lead in the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District and at a reference site.
Nutrient levels in surface waters of the Conasauga River and other tributaries within the Coosa River Watershed
Data Release for Report describes surface-water nutrient concentrations from multiple sites on the Conasauga River in northern Georgia in comparison with rivers in adjacent watersheds
The Clinch-Powell River Basins Spanning Virginia and Tennessee
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.
Contact and contagion: Probability of transmission given contact varies with demographic state in bighorn sheep
Understanding both contact and probability of transmission given contact are key to managing wildlife disease. However, wildlife disease research tends to focus on contact heterogeneity, in part because the probability of transmission given contact is notoriously difficult to measure. Here, we present a first step towards empirically investigating...Manlove, Kezia R.; Cassirer, E. Frances; Plowright, Raina K.; Cross, Paul C.; Hudson, Peter J.
Gene transcription patterns in response to low level petroleum contaminants in Mytilus trossulus from field sites and harbors in southcentral Alaska
The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill damaged a wide range of natural resources, including intertidal communities, and post-spill studies demonstrated acute and chronic exposure and injury to an array of species. Standard toxicological methods to evaluate petroleum contaminants have assessed tissue burdens, with fewer assays providing...Bowen, Lizabeth; Miles, A. Keith; Ballachey, Brenda E.; Waters, Shannon C.; Bodkin, James L.; Lindeberg, Mandy; Esler, Daniel N.
Mass mortality attributed to acanthocephaliasis at a Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) colony in coastal California
From 12 May 2013 to 29 May 2013, the Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) colony at the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, California, experienced a mass die-off of at least 92 adults, representing 71–92% of the breeding population on the US west coast. Cause of death was determined to be peritonitis due to perforations of the intestine...Patton, Robert T.; Goodenough, Katharine S.; De La Cruz, Susan; Nevins, HannahRose M.; Cole, Rebecca A.; Bodenstein, Barbara; Shearn-Bochsler, Valerie I.; Collins, Brian; Beck, Jessie; Sadowski, Matthew; Takekawa, John Y.
Seroprevalence of Baylisascaris procyonis infection among humans, Santa Barbara County, California, USA, 2014–2016
Baylisascaris procyonis (raccoon roundworm) infection is common in raccoons and can cause devastating pathology in other animals, including humans. Limited information is available on the frequency of asymptomatic human infection. We tested 150 adults from California, USA, for B. procyonis antibodies; 11 were seropositive,...Weinstein, Sara B.; Lake, Camille M.; Chastain, Holly M.; Fisk, David; Handali, Sukwan; Kahn, Philip L.; Montgomery, Susan P.; Wilkins, Patricia P.; Kuris, Armand M.; Lafferty, Kevin D.
Maternal transfer of mercury to songbird eggs
We evaluated the maternal transfer of mercury to eggs in songbirds, determined whether this relationship differed between songbird species, and developed equations for predicting mercury concentrations in eggs from maternal blood. We sampled blood and feathers from 44 house wren (Troglodytes aedon) and 34 tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) mothers...Ackerman, Joshua T.; Hartman, C. Alex; Herzog, Mark
Trace element contamination in feather and tissue samples from Anna’s hummingbirds
Trace element contamination (17 elements; Be, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Mo, Cd, Ba, Hg, Tl, and Pb) of live (feather samples only) and deceased (feather and tissue samples) Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna) was evaluated. Samples were analyzed using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS; 17 elements) and atomic...Mikoni, Nicole A.; Poppenga, Robert H.; Ackerman, Joshua T.; Foley, Janet E.; Hazlehurst, Jenny; Purdin, Güthrum; Aston, Linda; Hargrave, Sabine; Jelks, Karen; Tell, Lisa A.
Widespread occurrence and potential for biodegradation of bioactive contaminants in Congaree National Park, USA
Organic contaminants with designed molecular bioactivity, such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals, originate from human and agricultural sources, occur frequently in surface waters, and threaten the structure and function of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Congaree National Park in South Carolina (USA) is a vulnerable park unit due to its...Bradley, Paul M.; Battaglin, William A.; Clark, Jimmy M.; Henning, Frank; Hladik, Michelle L.; Iwanowicz, Luke; Journey, Celeste A.; Riley, Jeffrey W.; Romanok, Kristin
Occurrence and in vitro bioactivity of estrogen, androgen, and glucocorticoid compounds in a nationwide screen of United States stream waters
In vitro bioassays are sensitive, effect-based tools used to quantitatively screen for chemicals with nuclear receptor activity in environmental samples. We measured in vitro estrogen (ER), androgen (AR), and glucocorticoid receptor (GR) activity, along with a broad suite of chemical analytes, in streamwater from 35 well-characterized sites (3...Conley, Justin M.; Evans, Nicola; Cardon, Mary C.; Rosenblum, Laura; Iwanowicz, Luke; Hartig, Phillip C.; Schenck, Kathleen M.; Bradley, Paul M.; Wilson, Vickie S.
Geographic and temporal patterns of variation in total mercury concentrations in blood of harlequin ducks and blue mussels from Alaska
We compared total mercury (Hg) concentrations in whole blood of harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) sampled within and among two geographically distinct locations and across three years in southwest Alaska. Blue mussels were collected to assess correlation between Hg concentrations in locally available forage and birds. Mercury...Savoy, Lucas; Flint, Paul L.; Zwiefelhofer, Denny; Brant, Heather; Perkins, Christopher R.; Taylor, Robert J.; Lane, Oksana P.; Hall, Jefferson S.; Evers, David C.; Schamber, Jason
Mercury and water level fluctuations in lakes of northern Minnesota
Large lake ecosystems support a variety of ecosystem services in surrounding communities, including recreational and commercial fishing. However, many northern temperate fisheries are contaminated by mercury. Annual variation in mercury accumulation in fish has previously been linked to water level (WL) fluctuations, opening the possibility of...Larson, James H.; Maki, Ryan P; Christensen, Victoria G.; Sandheinrich, Mark B.; LeDuc, Jaime F.; Kissane, Claire; Knights, Brent C.
Cyanide poisoning of a Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
A Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) was found dead in a ditch leading from a heap leach pad at a gold mine in Nevada. Observations at autopsy included an absence of external lesions, traces of subcutaneous and coronary fat, no food in the upper gastrointestinal tract, and no lesions in the viscera. Cyanide concentrations (µg/g ww) were 5.04 in...Franson, J. Christian
Heavy metal contamination at shooting ranges is well documented (e.g., Heier et al. 2009; Islam et al. 2016). Primarily lead, but also copper, zinc, and antimony often occur at high concentrations in shooting range soils; cadmium, nickel, silver, and arsenic may also be present (Cao et al. 2003; Islam et al. 2016). These metals represent a...Schmitt, Christopher J.
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
Six years ago, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had trouble breathing normally. The list of potential causes that soldiers were exposed to seemed endless: smoke from burn pits used for trash disposal, desert dust, diesel generator exhaust, humidity and temperature extremes, explosives, and city trash and sewage.
Every few days, a fleet of satellites orbiting 700 kilometers above the Earth scans the continental United States to help keep Americans safe. But these eyes in the sky aren’t seeking terrorists or enemy combatants: they scrutinize lakes to locate problems of the microbial variety, namely cyanobacteria.
A joint collaboration between EPA, NOAA, NASA, and USGS scientists has demonstrated that satellite imagery can be used to track the frequency of harmful algal blooms. The satellites can accomplish this by measuring certain algal pigments in the water.
The U. S. Geological Survey is poised to bring a dynamic array of science and tools to help decision-makers manage and offset effects of increased drought across the United States, according to a drought plan report released today.
U.S. Geological Survey scientists and partners are taking technology to the next level, using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly called drones, to acquire both fire intensity and emissions data during prescribed burns.
Budget Focuses on Core USGS Science and Efficiency
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.
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.
Studies on the aquatic food web, tree swallows, and the spread of contaminants take center stage at SETAC 2016.
Building knowledge to protect ecological and human health
Environmental Ratios of Cadmium and Zinc are less Toxic to Aquatic Insects than Expected