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USGS research activities relevant to Alaska have yielded more than 9400 historical publications. This page features some of the most recent newsworthy research findings.

Filter Total Items: 2670

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is an emerging disease threat to wild birds in North America

Prior to the emergence of the A/goose/Guangdong/1/1996 (Gs/GD) H5N1 influenza A virus, the long-held and well-supported paradigm was that highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks were restricted to poultry, the result of cross-species transmission of precursor viruses from wild aquatic birds that subsequently gained pathogenicity in domestic birds. Therefore, management agencies typicall

Species-specific responses to landscape features shaped genomic structure within Alaska galliformes

AimConnectivity is vital to the resiliency of populations to environmental change and stochastic events, especially for cold-adapted species as Arctic and alpine tundra habitats retract as the climate warms. We examined the influence of past and current landscapes on genomic connectivity in cold-adapted galliformes as a critical first step to assess the vulnerability of Alaska ptarmigan and grouse

Kittlitz’s murrelet seasonal distribution and post-breeding migration from the Gulf of Alaska to the Arctic Ocean

Kittlitz’s Murrelets (Brachyramphus brevirostris) nest during summer in glaciated or recently deglaciated (post-Wisconsin) landscapes. They forage in adjacent marine waters, especially those influenced by glacial meltwater. Little is known of their movements and distribution outside the breeding season. To identify post-breeding migrations of murrelets, we attached satellite transmitters to birds

Revealing migratory path, important stopovers and non-breeding areas of a boreal songbird in steep decline

The Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) is a steeply declining aerial insectivore with one of the longest migrations of any North American passerine. We deployed light-level geolocators and archival GPS tags on breeders in boreal Alaska to determine migratory routes, important stopovers and non-breeding locations. Data from 16 individuals revealed a median 23,555 km annual journey (range: 19

Genetic variation in sea otters (Enhydra lutris) from the North Pacific with relevance to the threatened Southwest Alaska Distinct Population Segment

For the sea otter (Enhydra lutris), genetic population structure is an area of research that has not received significant attention, especially in Southwest Alaska where that distinct population segment has been listed as threatened since 2005 pursuant to the U.S. Endangered Species Act. In this study, 501 samples from 14 locations from Prince William Sound, Alaska to the Commander Islands in Russ

Life-history attributes of Arctic-breeding birds drive uneven responses to environmental variability across different phases of the reproductive cycle

Animals exhibit varied life-history traits that reflect adaptive responses to their environments. For Arctic-breeding birds, traits related to diet, egg nutrient allocation, clutch size, and chick growth are predicted to be under increasing selection pressure due to rapid climate change and increasing environmental variability across high-latitude regions. We compared four migratory birds (black b

Subsurface swimming and stationary diving are metabolically cheap in adult Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens)

Walruses rely on sea-ice to efficiently forage and rest between diving bouts while maintaining proximity to prime foraging habitat. Recent declines in summer sea ice have resulted in walruses hauling out on land where they have to travel farther to access productive benthic habitat while potentially increasing energetic costs. Despite the need to better understand the impact of sea ice loss on ene

Mismatch-induced growth reductions in a clade of Arctic-breeding shorebirds are rarely mitigated by increasing temperatures

In seasonal environments subject to climate change, organisms typically show phenological changes. As these changes are usually stronger in organisms at lower trophic levels than those at higher trophic levels, mismatches between consumers and their prey may occur during the consumers’ reproduction period. While in some species a trophic mismatch induces reductions in offspring growth, this is not

Diet-driven mercury contamination is associated with polar bear gut microbiota

The gut microbiota may modulate the disposition and toxicity of environmental contaminants within a host but, conversely, contaminants may also impact gut bacteria. Such contaminant-gut microbial connections, which could lead to alteration of host health, remain poorly known and are rarely studied in free-ranging wildlife. The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a long-lived, wide-ranging apex predato

Knowledge gaps update to the 2019 IPCC special report on the ocean and cryosphere: Prospects to refine coastal flood hazard assessments and adaptation strategies with at-risk communities of Alaska

This article reviews the status of knowledge gaps and co-production process challenges that impede coastal flood hazard resilience planning in communities of northwestern Alaska, where threat levels are high. Discussion focuses on the state of knowledge arising after preparation of the 2019 IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate and highlights prospects to address ur

Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica in Alaska: Revisiting population estimates from the staging grounds

Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica baueri breed in Alaska and spend the nonbreeding season primarily in eastern Australia and New Zealand. Long-term declines spurred recent surveys at nonbreeding sites that yielded a revised population estimate of ~126,000 godwits. We conducted aerial surveys for Bar-tailed Godwits in 2018 and 2019 at pre-migratory staging sites in western Alaska. Counts from sim

Bedrock gorge incision via anthropogenic meander cutoff

Bedrock river-gorge incision represents a fundamental landscape-shaping process, but a dearth of observational data at >10 yr timescales impedes understanding of gorge formation. I quantify 102 yr rates and processes of gorge incision using historical records, field observations, and topographic and image analysis of a human-caused bedrock meander cutoff along the North Fork Fortymile River in Ala