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USGS Latest News

Austin Coal-Tar Sealant Ban Leads to Decline in PAHs

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 06/16/2014 - 11:00
Summary: The 2006 prohibition on the use of coal-tar-based pavement sealants in Austin, Texas, has resulted in a substantial reduction in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey

Contact Information:

Peter Van Metre ( Phone: 512-927-3506 ); Jennifer LaVista ( Phone: 303-202-4764 );



The 2006 prohibition on the use of coal-tar-based pavement sealants in Austin, Texas, has resulted in a substantial reduction in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Pavement sealant is a black, shiny substance sprayed or painted on the asphalt pavement of parking lots, driveways and playgrounds to increase the longevity of the underlying asphalt pavement and enhance its appearance. Pavement sealants that contain coal tar have extremely high levels of PAHs compared to asphalt-based pavement sealants and other urban PAH sources such as vehicle emissions, used motor oil and tire particles. PAHs are an environmental health concern because several are probable human carcinogens and they are toxic to fish and other aquatic life.

In 2006, Austin became the first jurisdiction in the United States to ban the use of coal-tar sealants. USGS scientists evaluated the effect of the ban on PAH concentrations in lake sediments by analyzing trends in PAHs in sediment cores and surficial bottom sediments collected in 1998, 2000, 2001, 2012 and 2014 from Lady Bird Lake, a reservoir on the Colorado River in central Austin. Average PAH concentrations in the lower part of the lake have declined 58 percent since the ban, reversing a 40-year upward trend. The full study, reported in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology, is available online.

“Identifying contaminant trends in water and sediment is key to evaluating the effect of environmental regulations, and provides vital information for resource managers and the public,” said lead USGS scientist Dr. Peter Van Metre.

Results of the USGS study support the conclusions of previous studies that coal-tar sealants are a major source of PAHs to Lady Bird Lake and to other lakes in commercial and residential settings. A sediment core collected by the USGS from Lady Bird Lake in 1998 was part of a study of 40 lakes from across the United States that used chemical fingerprinting to determine that coal-tar sealants were, on average, the largest contributor of PAH to the lakes studied. Chemical fingerprinting of sediment collected for the new study indicates that coal-tar-based sealant continues to be the largest source of PAHs to Lady Bird Lake sediment, implying that PAH concentrations should continue to decrease as existing coal-tar-sealant stocks are depleted.

To learn more, visit the USGS website on PAHs and sealcoat.

Human Activities Increase Salt Content in Many of the Nation's Streams

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 06/16/2014 - 09:18
Summary: Concentrations of dissolved solids, a measure of the salt content in water, are elevated in many of the Nations streams as a result of human activities, according to a new USGS study

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 ); David Anning ( Phone: 928-556-7139 );



Concentrations of dissolved solids, a measure of the salt content in water, are elevated in many of the Nations streams as a result of human activities, according to a new USGS study. Excessive dissolved-solids concentrations in water can have adverse effects on the environment and on agricultural, domestic, municipal, and industrial water users.

Results from this study provide a nation-wide picture of where dissolved-solids concentrations are likely to be of concern, as well as the sources leading to such conditions.

“This study provides the most comprehensive national-scale assessment to date of dissolved solids in our streams,” said William Werkheiser, USGS Associate Director for Water. “For years we have known that activities, such as road de-icing, irrigation, and other activities in urban and agricultural lands increase the dissolved solids concentrations above natural levels caused by rock weathering, and now we have improved science-based information on the primary sources of dissolved-solids in the nation’s streams.”

The highest concentrations are found in streams in an area that extends from west Texas to North Dakota. Widespread occurrences of moderate concentrations are found in streams extending in an arc from eastern Texas to northern Minnesota to eastern Ohio. Low concentrations are found in many states along the Atlantic coast and in the Pacific Northwest.

The total amount of dissolved solids delivered to all of the Nation’s streams is about 270 million metric tons annually, of which about 71% comes from weathering of rocks and soil, 14% comes from application of road deicers, 10% comes from activities on agricultural lands, and 5% comes from activities on urban lands.

All water naturally contains dissolved solids as a result of weathering processes in rocks and soils. Some amount of dissolved solids is necessary for agricultural, domestic, and industrial water uses and for plant and animal growth, and many of the major ions are essential to life and provide vital nutritional functions. Elevated concentrations, however, can cause environmental and economic damages. For instance, estimated damages related to excess salinity in the Colorado River Basin exceed $330 million annually.

“This study applied statistical modeling to understand the sources and transport processes leading to dissolved-solids concentrations observed in field measurements at over 2,500 water-quality monitoring sites across the Nation,” said David Anning, USGS lead scientist for the study. “This new information was then used to estimate contributions from different dissolved-solids sources and the resulting concentrations in unmonitored streams, thereby providing a complete assessment of the Nation’s streams.”

The study determined that in about 13 percent of the Nation’s streams, concentrations of dissolved solids likely exceed 500 mg/L, which is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s secondary, non-enforceable drinking water standard. Many of these streams are found in a north-south oriented band stretching from west Texas to North Dakota.

While this standard provides a benchmark for evaluating predicted concentrations in the context of drinking-water supplies, it should be noted that it only applies to drinking water actually served to customers by water utilities.

An online, interactive decision support system provides easy access to the national-scale model describing how streams receive and transport dissolved solids from human sources and weathering of geologic materials. The decision support system can used to evaluate combinations of reduction scenarios that target one or multiple sources and see the change in the amount of dissolved solids transported downstream waters.

The dissolved-solids model was developed by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program, which provides information about water-quality conditions and how natural features and human activities affect those conditions. Information on modeling applications, data, and documentation can be accessed online.

Through the Eyes of a Polar Bear

USGS Newsroom - Fri, 06/06/2014 - 10:38
Summary: ANCHORAGE— The first "point of view" video from a polar bear on Arctic sea ice has just become available courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey. Scientists applied video camera collars to four female polar bears on the sea ice north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska this past April and are releasing the first clips of footage that provide unique insight into the daily lives of the bears.

Contact Information:

Anthony Pagano ( Phone: 907-538-2399 ); Paul  Laustsen ( Phone: 650-329-4046 );



ANCHORAGE— The first "point of view" video from a polar bear on Arctic sea ice has just become available courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey. Scientists applied video camera collars to four female polar bears on the sea ice north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska this past April and are releasing the first clips of footage that provide unique insight into the daily lives of the bears.

"We deployed two video cameras in 2013, but did not get any footage because the batteries weren’t able to handle the Arctic temperatures,” said Dr. Todd Atwood, research leader for the USGS Polar Bear Research Program. “We used different cameras this year, and we are thrilled to see that the new cameras worked."

The video collars were deployed as part of a new study to understand how polar bears are responding to sea ice loss from climate warming. The study, led by USGS research biologist and University of California Santa Cruz PhD student Anthony Pagano, is taking a close look at polar bear behaviors and energetics. 

Scientists with the USGS have been studying polar bear movement and habitat use for decades using radio and satellite telemetry, mostly used to determine a polar bear’s location. New video collars allow scientists to link the location data from the collar with the actual behavior recorded by the cameras.

Although these collars were only on for about 8-10 days, scientists can start to understand the activity patterns of polar bears, for example how often they eat, hunt, rest, walk, and swim and how these behaviors may be affected by sea ice conditions and other variables. Ultimately, this information will help scientists examine the energetic rates and nutritional demands of these animals and the potential effects of declining sea ice conditions,” said Pagano. 

This ongoing research is part of the USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystems Initiative. This research is also relevant to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Polar Bear Recovery Team of which the USGS is a member. The team is drafting the Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan, which will meet requirements of both the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. The required plan, when finalized, will guide activities for polar bear conservation in response to the 2008 determination that the polar bear is a threatened species due to the ongoing loss of sea ice habitat from global climate-change.

Discover the Northwest with Revised Montana Maps

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 06/04/2014 - 09:00
Summary: Just in time to explore the great outdoors this summer, newly designed US Topo maps covering Montana are now available online for free download

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Lance Clampitt ( Phone: 406-994-6919 ); Bob  Davis ( Phone: 573-308-3554 );



Just in time to explore the great outdoors this summer, newly designed US Topo maps covering Montana are now available online for free download.

US Topo maps now have a crisper, cleaner design - enhancing readability of maps for online and printed use. Map symbols are easier to read over the digital aerial photograph layer whether the imagery is turned on or off. Improvements to symbol definitions (color, line thickness, line symbols, area fills), layer order, and annotation fonts are additional features of this latest release. The maps also have transparency for some features and layers to increase visibility of multiple competing layers.

This new design was launched earlier this year and is now part of the new US Topo quadrangles for Montana (2,913 maps) replacing the first edition US Topo maps for the state. 

 “Users in Montana will appreciate improvements in the US Topo product, including the availability of  Forest Service trails, and vegetation cover (green tint), as well as updated structures data through a partnership with the State,” said Lance Clampitt, USGS Geospatial Liaison for Montana. “It is very exciting to see the cooperative work between the State of Montana, Montana State Library (MSL) and the USGS in using the best available source data to make the US Topo maps.”

The MSL is using the USGS mapping and crowd-sourcing program, known as The National Map Corps to collect and update new structures data for US Topo map revisions.  “This new product will be beneficial to the citizens of Montana as well as numerous recreational users that visit the state each year,” Clampitt continued. “The added capability to use the US Topo maps on mobile devices is also very exciting for our outdoor enthusiast.  We look forward to seeing these improvements on the 2014 release for the Treasure State.”  

US Topo maps are updated every three years. The initial round of the 48 conterminous states coverage was completed in September of 2012.  Hawaii and Puerto Rico maps have recently been added. More than 700 new US Topo maps for Alaska have been added to the USGS Map Locator & Downloader, but will take several years to complete.

Re-design enhancements and new features:

  • Crisper, cleaner design improves online and printed readability while retaining the look and feel of traditional USGS topographic maps
  • New functional road classification schema has been applied
  • A slight screening (transparency) has been applied to some features to enhance visibility of multiple competing layers
  • Updated free fonts that support diacritics
  • New PDF Legend attachment
  • Metadata formatted to support multiple browsers
  • New shaded relief layer for enhanced view of the terrain
  • Military installation boundaries, post offices and cemeteries
  • The railroad dataset is much more complete from a new contractor 

The previous versions of US Topo maps for Montana, published in 2011, can still be downloaded from USGS web sites. Also, scanned images of the entire USGS map library of topographic maps from the period 1884-2006 can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection. These scanned images of legacy paper maps are available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website.

US Topo maps are created from geographic datasets in The National Map, and deliver visible content such as high-resolution aerial photography, which was not available on older paper-based topographic maps. The new US Topo maps provide modern technical advantages that support wider and faster public distribution and on-screen geographic analysis tools for users. The new digital electronic topographic maps are delivered in GeoPDF ® image software format and may be viewed using Adobe Reader, available as a no cost download. 

For more information, go to: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/

2014 US Topo map of the Dewey, Montana area with image layer turned on (1:24,000 scale). (high resolution image 1.1 MB) Scan of 1893 USGS topographic map of the Dewey, Montana area from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection (1:250,000 scale). (high resolution image 1.9 MB)

Ultra-violet Light Works as Screening Tool for Bats with White-nose Syndrome.

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 10:00
Summary: Scientists working to understand the devastating bat disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) now have a new, non-lethal tool to identify bats with WNS lesions —ultraviolet, or UV, light. Scientists discover a non-destructive yet effective way to screen bats in hibernation for white-nose syndrome

Contact Information:

Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 ); Carol Meteyer ( Phone: 703-648-4057 ); David Blehert ( Phone: 608-270-2466 );



Scientists working to understand the devastating bat disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) now have a new, non-lethal tool to identify bats with WNS lesions —ultraviolet, or UV, light.

If long-wave UV light is directed at the wings of bats with white-nose syndrome, it produces a distinctive orange-yellow fluorescence. This orange-yellow glow corresponds directly with microscopic skin lesions that are the current “gold standard” for diagnosing white-nose syndrome in bats.

“When we first saw this fluorescence of a bat wing in a cave, we knew we were on to something,” said Greg Turner from Pennsylvania Game Commission, who has been using this technique since 2010. “It was difficult to have to euthanize bats to diagnose WNS when the disease itself was killing so many. This was a way to get a good indication of which bats were infected and take a small biopsy for testing rather than sacrifice the whole bat.”

Millions of bats in the United States have died from the fungal disease called White nose syndrome which is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus (Geomyces) destructans (Pd). White-nose syndrome was first seen in New York during the winter of 2006. Since then, the disease has spread to 25 US states and 5 Canadian provinces.

A significant problem in studying WNS has been the unreliability of visual onsite inspection when checking for WNS in bats during hibernation; the only way to confirm presence of disease was to euthanize the bats and send them back to a laboratory for testing.

“Ultraviolet light was first used in 1925 to look for ringworm fungal infections in humans,” said Carol Meteyer, USGS scientist and one of the lead authors on the paper. “The fact that this technique could be transferred to bats and have such remarkable precision for indicating lesions positive for Pd invasion is very exciting.”

To test the UV light’s effectiveness, bats with and without white-nose syndrome in North America were tested by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center, first using UV light, then using traditional histological techniques to verify the UV light’s accuracy.

In the USGS lab testing, 98.8 percent of bats with the orange-yellow fluorescence tested positive for white-nose syndrome, whereas 100 percent of those that did not fluoresce tested negative for the disease. Targeted biopsies showed that pinpoint areas of fluorescence coincided with the microscopic wing lesions that are characteristic for WNS.

Researchers in the Czech Republic then tested the UV light-assisted biopsy technique in the field, using it to collect small samples from areas of bat wing that fluoresced under UV light. In this study, 95.5 percent of wing biopsies that targeted areas of fluorescence were microscopically positive for WNS lesions, while again 100 percent of bats that did not fluoresce were negative for WNS.

Combining research from two continents demonstrates that UV diagnostics might be applicable worldwide with great sensitivity and specificity in detecting WNS.

“Moreover, the technique hurts the animal minimally and bats fly away after providing data for research,” said Natalia Martinkova from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. “This makes UV fluorescence an ideal tool for studying endangered species.”

This effort included partners in the USFWS, state and federal biologists, the Czech Science Foundation, and the National Speleological Society of the USA.

This research article, “Nonlethal Screening of Bat-wing Skin with the Use of Ultraviolet Fluorescence to Detect Lesions Indicative of White-Nose Syndrome,” was recently published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases. More information may be found on USGS research on white-nose syndrome here.

Hurricane Sandy Impacts Did Not Contribute to Subsequent Storm Flooding

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 05/27/2014 - 11:00
Summary: Flooding in coastal areas bordering Great South Bay, N.Y. and Barnegat Bay, N.J. caused by winter storms that occurred following Hurricane Sandy was not influenced by changes Sandy made to barrier islands or other bay features, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study Study looks at Great South Bay and Barnegat Bay

Contact Information:

Alfredo Aretxabaleta ( Phone: 508-457-2204 ); Bradford Butman ( Phone: 508-457-2212 ); Neil Ganju ( Phone: 508-457-2252 );



WOODS HOLE, Mass. —Flooding in coastal areas bordering Great South Bay, N.Y. and Barnegat Bay, N.J. caused by winter storms that occurred following Hurricane Sandy was not influenced by changes Sandy made to barrier islands or other bay features, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.

The study of Barnegat Bay and Great South Bay looked at data from November 2012 to October 2013, when winter storms brought water levels in these bays to among the 20 highest storm water levels reached from October 2007- October 2013.

“The frequent and extreme high-water levels caused by storms in these two bays in the months after Hurricane Sandy led to perceptions the mainland was more vulnerable to flooding,” said USGS oceanographer and coauthor of the study Neil Ganju. “This study shows that changes to bay features caused by Hurricane Sandy did not influence these post Sandy storm water levels.”

Hurricane Sandy caused extreme floods along portions of the northeast coast of the U.S. and cut new inlets across barrier islands in New Jersey and New York. Scientists investigated whether Hurricane Sandy had in some way reduced the protection provided by the barrier islands and the bays, leaving the mainland more vulnerable to flooding.

The study compared water level measurements made at stations within Great South Bay and Barnegat Bay to ocean water levels before and after Hurricane Sandy. Both are back barrier bays -- bodies of water behind barrier islands and connected to the ocean through one or more inlets.

“Changes in water levels in the back-barrier bays are primarily caused by ocean water levels driving water into or out of the bays through inlets,” said USGS oceanographer and lead author of the study Alfredo Aretxabaleta.  “The study showed that most of the ocean water level fluctuations caused by storms make their way into the bays, while only a fraction of tidal fluctuations do.”

The results showed that alterations to the barrier, inlet, and bay systems caused by Hurricane Sandy did not influence the high water levels caused by storms from November 2012 to October 2013. None of these post-Sandy storms opened new inlets or caused overtopping of the protective dunes and barrier beach systems. Both before and after Sandy, about 80 percent of storm surge—a temporary rise in water level caused by an offshore storm’s winds or low pressure—made its way into the back barrier bays, whereas only about 20 percent of the tidal fluctuations do. This suggests that whether the same storm occurred before or after Hurricane Sandy, the water level in the bays would be the same.   

“While the existing barrier island and inlet system shields the mainland to a great extent from the daily tides, most of the storm surge, and all long-term changes in water level, such as those resulting from sea level rise, reach the mainland” said USGS oceanographer and coauthor Bradford Butman. “These results will inform coastal communities and planners how water levels in back-barrier bays respond to ocean fluctuations.”

Several studies related to Hurricane Sandy recovery, restoration and rebuilding efforts, many of which are funded by Disaster Relief Appropriations Act 2013, are currently underway.

“The USGS is committed to providing the science foundation for federal, state, and local authorities to build more resilient communities,” said John Haines, coordinator of the USGS’ Coastal and Marine Geology Program. “This is one of many studies the USGS is doing to understand the effects of Hurricane Sandy and to evaluate the vulnerability of the coast and its communities to future storms.”

The study, “Water-level response in back-barrier bays unchanged following Hurricane Sandy,” by Aretxabaleta, A.L., Butman, B., and Ganju, N.K., is in the Geophysical Research Letters journal and available online.

Climate Change Accelerates Hybridization between Native and Invasive Species of Trout

USGS Newsroom - Sun, 05/25/2014 - 12:00
Summary: Scientists have discovered that the rapid spread of hybridization between a native species and an invasive species of trout in the wild is strongly linked to changes in climate

Contact Information:

Suzanna Soileau ( Phone: 406-994-7257 ); Clint Muhlfeld ( Phone: 406-600-9686 );



BOZEMAN, Mont. – Scientists have discovered that the rapid spread of hybridization between a native species and an invasive species of trout in the wild is strongly linked to changes in climate.

In the study, stream temperature warming over the past several decades and decreases in spring flow over the same time period contributed to the spread of hybridization between native westslope cutthroat trout and introduced rainbow trout – the world’s most widely introduced invasive fish species –across the Flathead River system in Montana and British Columbia, Canada.

Experts have long predicted that climate change could decrease worldwide biodiversity through cross-breeding between invasive and native species, but this study is the first to directly and scientifically support this assumption. The study, published today in Nature Climate Change, was based on 30 years of research by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, University of Montana, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Hybridization has contributed to the decline and extinction of many native fishes worldwide, including all subspecies of cutthroat trout in western North America, which have enormous ecological and socioeconomic value.  The researchers used long-term genetic monitoring data coupled with high-resolution climate and stream temperature predictions to assess whether climate warming enhances interactions between native and nonnative species through hybridization.

“Climatic changes are threatening highly prized native trout as introduced rainbow trout continue to expand their range and hybridize with native populations through climate-induced ‘windows of opportunity,’ putting many populations and species at greater risk than previously thought,” said  project leader and USGS scientist Clint Muhlfeld. “The study illustrates that protecting genetic integrity and diversity of native species will be incredibly challenging when species are threatened with climate-induced invasive hybridization.”

Westslope cutthroat trout and rainbow trout both spawn in the spring and can produce fertile offspring when they interbreed. Over time, a mating population of native and non-native fish will result in only hybrid individuals with substantially reduced fitness because their genomes have been infiltrated by nonnative genes that are maladapted to the local environment. Thus, protecting and maintaining the genetic integrity of native species is important for a species’ ability to be resilient and better adapt to a rapidly changing climate.  

Historical genetic samples revealed that hybridization between the two fish species was largely confined to one downstream Flathead River population. However, the study noted, over the past 30 years, hybridization rapidly spread upstream, irreversibly reducing the genetic integrity of native westslope cutthroat trout populations. Genetically pure populations of westslope cutthroat trout are known to occupy less than 10 percent of their historical range.

The rapid increase in hybridization was highly associated with climatic changes in the region. From 1978 to 2008 the rate of warming nearly tripled in the Flathead basin, resulting in earlier spring runoff, lower spring flooding and flows, and warming summer stream temperatures. Those locations with the greatest changes in stream flow and temperature experienced the greatest increases in hybridization. 

Relative to cutthroat trout, rainbow trout prefer these climate-induced changes, and tolerate greater environmental disturbance. These conditions have likely enhanced rainbow trout spawning and population numbers, leading to massive expansion of hybridization with westslope cutthroat trout.

“The evolutionary consequences of climate change are one of our greatest areas of uncertainty because empirical data addressing this issue are extraordinarily rare; this study is a tremendous step forward in our understanding of how climate change can influence evolutionary process and ultimately species biodiversity,” said Ryan Kovach, a University of Montana study co-author.

Overall, aquatic ecosystems in western North America are predicted to experience increasingly earlier snowmelt in the spring, reduced late spring and summer flows, warmer and drier summers, and increased water temperatures – all of which spell increased hybridization between these species.

The article, published in Nature Climate Change, is titled “Invasive hybridization in a threatened species is accelerated by climate change” and can be viewed at the following website.  Its authors are Clint Muhlfeld, U.S. Geological Survey; Ryan Kovach, University of Montana; Leslie Jones, U.S. Geological Survey; Robert Al-Chokhachy, U.S. Geological Survey; Matthew Boyer, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Robb Leary, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Winsor Lowe, University of Montana; Gordon Luikart, University of Montana; and Fred Allendorf, University of Montana.

This study was supported by the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative, the Interior Department’s Northwest Climate Science Center, the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, National Science Foundation, and Bonneville Power Administration.   

More information about impacts and prevention of invasive species and hybridization can be found on the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center website

Genetic Analysis Reveals Fish Eggs Found in Upper Mississippi River are not Asian Carp

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 05/22/2014 - 14:00
Summary: Scientists have extracted DNA from fish eggs found in northern sections of the Upper Mississippi River and have determined that the eggs and larvae are not from Asian carp

Contact Information:

Dave Ozman ( Phone: 303-202-4744 ); Catherine Puckett ( Phone: 352-377-2469 );



Scientists have extracted DNA from fish eggs found in northern sections of the Upper Mississippi River and have determined that the eggs and larvae are not from Asian carp.  Genetic analysis instead shows that the fish eggs collected in the summer of 2013 likely belong to a native North American species in the same family as carp.  All Asian carp species are considered invasive species and belong to the cyprinid fish family.  

To confirm visual identification of the eggs’ species, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey genetically tested 41 of the 65 eggs and larvae that were collected from the Upper Mississippi River (Pool 9 and Pool 11) in Wisconsin and Iowa.  DNA sequences successfully obtained from 17 eggs revealed that they were similar to those of other cyprinid fishes and did not come from Asian carp.  The one exception was an egg collected from Pool 19 in southern Iowa, which had been visually identified as an Asian carp, and was later genetically confirmed by the USGS as a grass carp, one of the four Asian carp species.  

“What we have learned from this research is that non-Asian carp cyprinid eggs in the northern portions of the Upper Mississippi can closely resemble Asian carp eggs in size and shape,”  said Leon Carl, USGS Midwest Region Director.  “These findings underscore the importance of using genetic testing to confirm the results of visual identification.” 

Researchers were surprised to learn that the large eggs from Pools 9 and 11 belonged to other species in the cyprinid family rather than to Asian carp species.  Such findings are contrary to previously published work that had established that non-Asian carp cyprinids indigenous to the Midwest have considerably smaller eggs compared to the invasive carp that were the focus of the study. 

Detailed visual analysis of the eggs’ size and shape earlier this year indicated that they were consistent with the eggs of Asian carp species and led scientists to believe that invasive carp may have successfully spawned in this northern portion of the Upper Mississippi.  Given the seriousness of the Asian carp spread northward, USGS scientists alerted partners and the general public about that potential in March and decided to pursue genetic testing to confirm the visual findings.

Scientists emphasized that the recent genetic data will modify their application of visual identification methods to distinguish fish eggs and larvae collected in the Upper Mississippi River. The difficulty USGS scientists had in genetically testing the eggs suggests that researchers and managers studying or monitoring Asian carp reproduction in North America should consider separately preserving, for genetic analysis, a subset of collected embryos to confirm visual identification. 

USGS researchers will continue efforts to gain a better understanding of how egg size, location of eggs within the river and flow conditions may help to identify those habitats important to reproduction of native and non-native cyprinids including Asian carp.  Understanding habitat requirements will assist in the development of methods to control invasive Asian carp.

Revised North Dakota, Delaware and Maryland Maps Feature New Design

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 05/22/2014 - 09:30
Summary: US Topo maps now have a crisper, cleaner design - enhancing readability of maps for online and printed use. Map symbols are easier to read over the digital aerial photograph layer whether the imagery is turned on or off Newly designed US Topo maps covering North Dakota, Delaware and Maryland are now available online for free download

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Bob Davis ( Phone: 573-308-3554 );



US Topo maps now have a crisper, cleaner design - enhancing readability of maps for online and printed use. Map symbols are easier to read over the digital aerial photograph layer whether the imagery is turned on or off. Improvements to symbol definitions (color, line thickness, line symbols, area fills), layer order, and annotation fonts are additional features of this latest. The maps also have transparency for some features and layers to increase visibility of multiple competing layers.

This new design was launched earlier this year and is now part of the new US Topo quadrangles for North Dakota (1,402 maps), Delaware (38 maps) and Maryland (213 maps), replacing the first edition US Topo maps for those states.

 "This US Topo map update will be quite popular with users in our state, where rapid changes accompanying the oil boom are impacting a large area,” said Steve Shivers, the USGS Geospatial Liaison for North Dakota. “The three year revision cycle is invaluable in keeping up with these changes. Improvements on the maps will be quite useful to recreational users and developers, who will also enjoy the new capabilities to use the US Topo map data on mobile devices.”

US Topo maps are updated every three years. The initial round of the 48 conterminous states coverage was completed in September of 2012.  Hawaii and Puerto Rico maps have recently been added. More than 400 new US Topo maps for Alaska have been added to the USGS Map Locator & Downloader, but will take several years to complete.

Re-design enhancements and new features:

  • Crisper, cleaner design improves online and printed readability while retaining the look and feel of traditional USGS topographic maps
  • New functional road classification schema has been applied
  • A slight screening (transparency) has been applied to some features to enhance visibility of multiple competing layers
  • Updated free fonts that support diacritics
  • New PDF Legend attachment
  • Metadata formatted to support multiple browsers
  • New shaded relief layer for enhanced view of the terrain
  • Military installation boundaries, post offices and cemeteries
  • The railroad dataset is much more complete from a new contractor

The previous versions of US Topo maps for these states, published in 2011, can still be downloaded from USGS web sites. Also, scanned images of older topographic maps from the period 1884-2006 can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection. These scanned images of legacy paper maps are available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website.

US Topo maps are created from geographic datasets in The National Map, and deliver visible content such as high-resolution aerial photography, which was not available on older paper-based topographic maps. The new US Topo maps provide modern technical advantages that support wider and faster public distribution and on-screen geographic analysis tools for users. The new digital electronic topographic maps are delivered in GeoPDF ® image software format and may be viewed using Adobe Reader, available as a no cost download.

For more information, go to: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/

2014 US Topo map of the Keedysville, Maryland area, with ortho image turned on . (high resolution image 1.3 MB) 1894 USGS 30 minute (1:250,000 –scale) quadrangle of the Harpers Ferry, Maryland area. (high resolution image 1.7 MB)

Global Platinum-Group Resources Estimated at More than 150K Metric Tons

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 05/15/2014 - 09:00
Summary: The first-ever inventory and geological assessment of known and undiscovered platinum-group element (PGE) resources estimates that more than 150,000 metric tons of PGEs may exist in the two southern African countries that produce most of the global supply of these critical elements.

Contact Information:

Mike Zientek ( Phone: 509-368-3105 ); Diane Noserale ( Phone: 703-648-4333 );



The first-ever inventory and geological assessment of known and undiscovered platinum-group element (PGE) resources estimates that more than 150,000 metric tons of PGEs may exist in the two southern African countries that produce most of the global supply of these critical elements.

The USGS study identifies 78K metric tons of known PGE resources in South Africa and Zimbabwe and estimates 75K metric tons in PGE resources that may be present, but are undiscovered. This is more than 20 times the total tonnage produced since the 1920s when PGE mining began in these countries.

The U.S. is 90 percent reliant on imports of PGEs which are essential for cleaning automobile exhaust, for manufacturing glass, fertilizer, high-octane fuel, and a variety of chemicals, including cancer fighting drugs. They are widely used in jewelry and electronics such as hard drives, circuitry, and cell phones. PGEs could play a crucial role in fuel cell technology to produce clean energy for cars, homes, and businesses.

The identified resources will meet global demand for many decades, given current growth rates and with supplies also coming from recycling, according to the study. About 90 percent of PGEs in the Earth occur in limited areas of only three countries: South Africa’s Bushveld Complex, Zimbabwe’s Great Dyke, and Russia’s Norilsk region.

“The potential global PGE supply is nearly double what we understood from previous studies, but the geographic concentration of the world’s resources in a few locations leaves the supply of this critical resource open to short-term disruptions,” said USGS Mineral Resources Program Coordinator Larry Meinert. “The supply will more likely be affected in the short term by social, environmental, political and economic factors than from depletion from mining. This finding is consistent with previous studies of known PGE resources and with other studies that characterize future supplies of mineral resources that are critical to the nation,” said Meinert.

For example, water and energy supply shortages, which are common in southern Africa, could result in sudden PGE supply disruptions and may limit the recoverability of resources using advanced methods.

Increased population and higher standards of living have doubled global demand for PGEs in only 20 years. The global net demand for PGEs in 2012 was approximately 470 metric tons.

The USGS Mineral Resources Program delivers unbiased science and information to understand mineral resource potential, production, consumption, and how minerals interact with the environment.

Graph showing the amounts of PGE and minor gold in three major areas compared with the rest of the world. (High resolution image 1.2 MB)

Meeting the Elevation Needs of the Nation

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 05/14/2014 - 11:00
Summary: Want to know how elevation will benefit your state? The USGS National Geospatial Program is advancing the 3D Elevation Program, known as 3DEP, in response to the growing need for high-quality three-dimensional representations of the Nation’s natural and constructed features Nearly 25 state-specific fact sheets are now available to understand 3DEP applications

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Pat  Phillips ( Phone: 703-648-5931 ); Vicki  Lukas ( Phone: 703-648-4646 );



Want to know how elevation will benefit your state? The USGS National Geospatial Program is advancing the 3D Elevation Program, known as 3DEP, in response to the growing need for high-quality three-dimensional representations of the Nation’s natural and constructed features. 3DEP uses modern technology to systematically collect high-density light detection and ranging (lidar) elevation data over the U.S. and interferometric synthetic aperture radar (ifsar) data above Alaska where cloud cover and remote locations preclude the use of lidar for much of the State. 

"Looking at lidar is like looking at the world through 3D glasses” said Kevin Gallagher, the USGS Associate Director for Core Science Systems. “Phenomena that were once obscured are suddenly fully evident in rich color and detail. As you might expect, the applications of such new and transformational data are growing rapidly, from civil engineering, precision agriculture and flood inundation modeling, to forest management, intelligent vehicle navigation and emergency response. A national dataset of such data will drive innovation, transform government and industry, and stimulate the economy."

Elevation data are essential to a broad range of applications and support a large range of business uses including national security, wildlife and habitat management, water resource management, and geologic hazards mitigation, to name a few.

Examples of how each state benefits from current high accuracy elevation data are explained in the 24 3DEP state fact sheets available on the 3DEP or The National Map websites. Those states include:

Remaining state-specific fact sheets will continue to be released in the near future.

The use of 3DEP technology has been recommended and endorsed by National Digital Elevation Program Committee and its 12 member agencies, the National States Geographic Information Council, the Management Association for Private Photogrametric Surveyors and the National Geospatial Advisory Committee.

Since 1990, USGS has collected National Elevation Data and has the Federal lead responsibility for terrestrial elevation data. The 3DEP project is designed to fulfill that coordination responsibility and to assure the Nation receives the essential high quality coverage.

For more information, visit the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) website.

Lidar image showing the upper parts of the landslide that occurred in northwest Washington on March 22, 2014. (high resolution image) Enhanced lidar image from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, October 2012. (high resolution image)

Coral Reefs are Critical for Risk Reduction & Adaptation

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 05/13/2014 - 12:00
Summary: ARLINGTON, Va — Stronger storms, rising seas, and flooding are placing hundreds of millions people at risk around the world, and big part of the solution to decrease those risks is just off shore. A new study finds that coral reefs reduce the wave energy that would otherwise impact coastlines by 97 percent. New study shows that coral reefs provide risk reduction benefits to hundreds of millions of coastal inhabitants around the world

Contact Information:

Sandra L. Rodriguez, TNC ( Phone: 703-841-4227 ); Leslie  Gordon, USGS ( Phone: 650-329-4006 );



ARLINGTON, Va — Stronger storms, rising seas, and flooding are placing hundreds of millions people at risk around the world, and big part of the solution to decrease those risks is just off shore. A new study finds that coral reefs reduce the wave energy that would otherwise impact coastlines by 97 percent.

“Coral reefs serve as an effective first line of defense to incoming waves, storms and rising seas,” said Dr. Michael Beck, lead marine scientist of The Nature Conservancy and a co-author of the study, “200 million people across more than 80 nations are at risk if coral reefs are not protected and restored.”

Published today in the journal “Nature Communications,” this study by an international team of researchers from the University of Bologna, The Nature Conservancy, U. S. Geological Survey, Stanford University and University of California – Santa Cruz, provides the first global synthesis of the contributions of coral reefs to risk reduction and adaptation across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

“This study illustrates that the restoration and conservation of coral reefs is an important and cost effective solution to reduce risks from coastal hazards and climate change,” said Dr. Filippo Ferrario, lead author from the University of Bologna.

Key results from the study:

- Coral reefs provide substantial protection against natural hazards by reducing wave energy by an average of 97 percent (studies across all tropical oceans).

- The reef crest, or shallowest part of the reef where the waves break first, dissipates 86 percent of wave energy on its own.

- The median cost for building artificial breakwaters is USD $19,791 per meter, compared to $1,290 per meter for coral reef restoration projects.

"Coral reefs are wonderful natural features that, when healthy, can provide comparable wave reduction benefits to many artificial coastal defenses and adapt to sea-level rise” said Dr. Curt Storlazzi a co-author from USGS. “This research shows that coral reef restoration can be a cost-effective way to decrease the hazards coastal communities face due to the combination of storms and sea-level rise." 

“While there are many concerns about the future of corals reefs in the face of climate change,” Dr. Fiorenza Micheli of Stanford University said, “there are still many reasons for optimism about the future of coral reefs particularly if we manage other local stressors such as pollution and development.” 

The study found that there are 197 million people worldwide who can receive risk reduction benefits from coral reefs alone or may have to bear higher costs of disasters if the reefs are degraded. These are people in villages, towns, and cities who live in low, risk prone coastal areas (below 10m elevation) and within 50 km of coral reefs.

Conservation efforts are most often directed to more remote reefs, however the study suggests there should also be a focus on reefs closer to the people who will directly benefit from reef restoration and management. In terms of number of people who receive risk reduction benefits from coral reefs, the top 15 countries include:

1. Indonesia, 41 million
2. India, 36 million
3. Philippines, 23 million
4. China, 16 million
5. Vietnam, 9 million
6. Brazil, 8 million
7. United States, 7 million
8. Malaysia, 5 million 9. Sri Lanka, 4 million
10. Taiwan, 3 million
11. Singapore, 3 million
12. Cuba, 3 million
13. Hong Kong, 2 million
14. Tanzania, 2 million
15. Saudi Arabia, 2 million

 

 

 

 

 

Additionally, major investments are being made in artificial defense structures such as seawalls for coastal hazard mitigation and climate adaptation. The study shows that the restoration of coral reefs for coastal defense may be as low as 1/10 the cost of building artificial breakwaters. Reef defenses can be enhanced in a cost-effective manner through restoration, a key factor in protecting small island nations and regions with limited fiscal resources.

Drs. Beck and Micheli were supported in this work by Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation, an effort that has awarded 135 fellowships to individuals from 31 countries for projects to address conservation challenges facing our oceans.

 
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.  To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have helped protect 130 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at http://www.nature.org/.

The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation awards recipients US $150,000 for a three-year project to address conservation challenges facing our oceans. The program has awarded 135 fellowships to individuals from 31 countries. The program is managed by The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C. www.PewMarineFellows.org

"National Climate Change Viewer" Enables Focus on Future Climate-Driven Changes for U.S. Watersheds at Local Levels

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 05/08/2014 - 15:36
Summary: WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today unveiled the National Climate Change Viewer, a climate-visualization website tool from the Interior Department’s U.S. Geological Survey.  Provides local and watershed-level maps and summaries of climate projections

Contact Information:

Andrea Newman ( Phone: 7036484475 );



WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today unveiled the National Climate Change Viewer, a climate-visualization website tool from the Interior Department’s U.S. Geological Survey. 

Record Number of Oklahoma Tremors Raises Possibility of Damaging Earthquakes

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 05/05/2014 - 11:30
Summary: The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased by about 50 percent since October 2013, significantly increasing the chance for a damaging quake in central Oklahoma. 

Contact Information:

Marisa Lubeck ( Phone: 303-202-4765 );



The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased by about 50 percent since October 2013, significantly increasing the chance for a damaging quake in central Oklahoma. 

In a new joint statement by the U.S. Geological Survey and Oklahoma Geological Survey, the agencies reported that 183 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater occurred in Oklahoma from October 2013 through April 14, 2014. This compares with a long-term average from 1978 to 2008 of only two magnitude 3.0 or larger earthquakes per year. As a result of the increased number of small and moderate shocks, the likelihood of future, damaging earthquakes has increased for central and north-central Oklahoma.

“We hope that this new advisory of increased hazard will become a crucial consideration in earthquake preparedness for residents, schools and businesses in the central Oklahoma area,” said Dr. Bill Leith, USGS Senior Science Advisor for Earthquakes and Geologic Hazards. “Building owners and government officials should have a special concern for older, unreinforced brick structures, which are vulnerable to serious damage during sufficient shaking.”

The joint statement indicates that a likely contributing factor to the increase in earthquakes is wastewater disposal by injection into deep geologic formations. The water injection can increase underground pressures, lubricate faults and cause earthquakes – a process known as injection-induced seismicity. Much of this wastewater is a byproduct of oil and gas production and is routinely disposed of by injection into wells specifically designed and approved for this purpose. The recent earthquake rate changes are not due to typical, random fluctuations in natural seismicity rates.

Oklahoma’s heightened earthquake activity since 2009 includes 20 magnitude 4.0 to 4.8 quakes, plus one of the two largest recorded earthquakes in Oklahoma’s history – a magnitude 5.6 earthquake that occurred near Prague on Nov. 5, 2011, which damaged a number of homes and the historic Benedictine Hall at St. Gregory's University in Shawnee.

As a result of the increased seismicity, the Oklahoma Geological Survey has increased the number of monitoring stations and now operates a seismograph network of 15 permanent stations and 17 temporary stations. Both agencies are actively involved in research to determine the cause of the increased earthquake rate and to quantify the increased hazard in central Oklahoma.

Information about earthquake preparedness can be found at the following websites: http://www.ready.gov/earthquakes and http://www.shakeout.org/centralus/

Groovy Turtles' Genes to Aid in Their Rescue

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 05/05/2014 - 08:41
Summary: DAVIE, Fla.-- The diverse patterns on the diamondback terrapins’ intricately grooved shell may be their claim to fame, but a newly published U.S. Geological Survey study of the genetic variation underneath their shell holds one key to rescuing these coastal turtles.

Contact Information:

Rachel Pawlitz ( Phone: 352-264-3554 );



DAVIE, Fla.-- The diverse patterns on the diamondback terrapins’ intricately grooved shell may be their claim to fame, but a newly published U.S. Geological Survey study of the genetic variation underneath their shell holds one key to rescuing these coastal turtles.

Listed as an endangered species in Rhode Island and deemed threatened in Massachusetts, the terrapin is the only turtle in North America that spends its entire life in coastal marshes and mangroves. Seven different subspecies of terrapins are currently recognized by scientists based on external traits, such as their skin color and the shape of their shells. Each subspecies occupies a strip of the eastern seaboard or Gulf of Mexico coastline, from as far north as Massachusetts to as far west as Texas.

Many of the coastal states where terrapins are found have designated it a species of special concern, and the states are looking to address the issues the terrapins face due to fragmentation of their coastal habitats. An increasingly patchy swath of isolated coastal marshes makes it harder for terrapins to find each other and continue interbreeding as they have in the past.

“Before now, it was not clear how terrapin genetics varied across the range,” said Kristen Hart, a USGS research ecologist and lead author of the study. “Understanding this variation across the landscape helps land managers develop conservation plans. For example, they may pinpoint areas where habitat protection can be supplemented with migration corridors.”

Agencies often maintain migration corridors to help wildlife continue to breed based on their historic patterns. These are areas where habitat restoration, regulatory policies, or other means are used to ensure animals can pass safely between two or more prime areas of habitat. Well-placed corridors could maintain the terrapins’ existing natural diversity and keep their overall population numbers robust, explained Hart.

“Diversity loss can be a silent threat to many species,” explained Maggie Hunter, a USGS research geneticist and co-author of the study. “The threat to long-term survival of terrapins occurs if they become separated into isolated groups. Isolation can affect their overall survival several generations down the line.”

 To support a healthy mix of genetic diversity, however, managers must first understand the existing genetic variation.

“Healthy interbreeding doesn’t mean that turtles from Maine have to interbreed with those from Texas,” explained Hunter. “Once managers know where ‘natural breaks’ in populations occur, they can focus on keeping terrapin populations healthy by enabling reproduction within each of those distinct groups.”

To identify those natural genetic breaks, Hart teamed up with Hunter and USGS research geneticist Tim King to study their breeding patterns using DNA from the blood samples of nearly a thousand terrapins. Based on their variation in 12 genetic markers -- strands of DNA that King had decoded for comparative purposes -- the terrapins were assigned into genetically similar groups.

They found only 4 genetically distinct populations, which came as a surprise, given there are 7 recognized terrapin subspecies. This means the ‘natural breaks’ in breeding don’t correspond to the ranges of those subspecies.

The results of the genetic study offer one more benefit. During the 1920s, terrapins were considered a delicacy and hunted for their meat, and they still occasionally turn up as food in markets around the country. Now, wildlife agencies can use a DNA test to determine where these turtles came from, so they can return rescued turtles back to their original habitat.

The study, “Regional differentiation among populations of the Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin)” was recently published in the journal Conservation Genetics

New Findings on Contaminants of Emerging Concern Featured in JAWRA

USGS Newsroom Technical - Mon, 04/28/2014 - 14:59
Summary: The environmental occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern, including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and hormones, can have adverse effects on aquatic and terrestrial life and potentially human health. These contaminants continue to impact waterways across the United States according to articles featured in  the Journal of American Water Resources.

Contact Information:

William Battaglin ( Phone: 303-236-6872 );



The environmental occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern, including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and hormones, can have adverse effects on aquatic and terrestrial life and potentially human health. These contaminants continue to impact waterways across the United States according to articles featured in  the Journal of American Water Resources.

The April collection, edited by U.S. Geological Survey scientist William Battaglin and University of Nebraska Professor Alan Kolak, features an introduction and 13 articles written by their colleagues.

The abstracts and links to all of the articles in the featured collection are provided below:

Revised West Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia Maps Feature New Design

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 04/24/2014 - 09:00
Summary: US Topo maps now have a crisper, cleaner design - enhancing readability of maps for online and printed use Newly designed US Topo maps covering West Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia are now available online for free download

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Bob Davis ( Phone: 573-308-3554 );



US Topo maps now have a crisper, cleaner design - enhancing readability of maps for online and printed use. Map symbols are easier to read over the digital aerial photograph layer whether the imagery is turned on or off. Improvements to symbol definitions (color, line thickness, line symbols, area fills), layer order, and annotation fonts are additional features of this supplemental release. Users can now adjust the transparency for some features and layers to increase visibility of multiple competing layers.

This new design was launched earlier this year and is now part of the new US Topo quadrangles for West Virginia (418 maps), New Jersey (150) and Georgia (952 maps), replacing the first edition US Topo maps for those states.

“Users in West Virginia will appreciate improvements in the US Topo product, including the availability of improved contours, Forest Service trails, and vegetation cover (green tint),” said Craig Neidig, USGS Geospatial Liaison for West Virginia. “The product should find an audience among the many recreational users and outdoor enthusiasts in West Virginia, especially with the capability to use the US Topo maps on mobile devices.  We look forward to the addition of layers including mining sites, wetlands, and more historic features that users were accustomed to seeing on the old topographic quadrangles for the Mountain State.” 

US Topo maps are updated every three years. The initial round of the 48 conterminous states coverage was completed in September of 2012.  Hawaii and Puerto Rico maps have recently been added. More than 400 new US Topo maps for Alaska have been added to the USGS Map Locator & Downloader, but will take several years to complete. 

Re-design enhancements and new features:

  • Crisper, cleaner design improves online and printed readability while retaining the look and feel of traditional USGS topographic maps
  • New functional road classification schema has been applied
  • A slight screening (transparency) has been applied to some features to enhance visibility of multiple competing layers
  • Updated free fonts that support diacritics
  • New PDF Legend attachment
  • Metadata formatted to support multiple browsers
  • New shaded relief layer for enhanced view of the terrain
  • Military installation boundaries, post offices and cemeteries
  • Starting with Georgia, the railroad dataset is much more complete from a new contractor

To enjoy earlier legacy quads for West Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia, go to the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection. These scanned images of paper maps up through 2006 are also available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website.

US Topo maps are created from geographic datasets in The National Map, and deliver visible content such as high-resolution aerial photography, which was not available on older paper-based topographic maps. The new US Topo maps provide modern technical advantages that support wider and faster public distribution and on-screen geographic analysis tools for users. The new digital electronic topographic maps are delivered in GeoPDF image software format and may be viewed using Adobe Reader, available as a no cost download.

For more information, go to: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/

Historical map of the Cass, West Virginia area, 1922. (high resolution image 1.8 MB) US Topo map of the Cass, West Virginia quadrangle, March 2014. (high resolution image 1.2 MB)

USGS Releases New National Produced Waters Geochemical Database

USGS Newsroom Technical - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 14:06
Summary: Scientists studying produced waters and their geochemical and environmental impacts have a powerful new tool in the newly released USGS Produced Waters Geochemical Database. This database is publicly available to all scientists and interested members of the public.

Contact Information:

Madalyn Blondes ( Phone: 703-648-6509 ); Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 );



Scientists studying produced waters and their geochemical and environmental impacts have a powerful new tool in the newly released USGS Produced Waters Geochemical Database. This database is publicly available to all scientists and interested members of the public.

Produced waters are those volumes of water that are typically recovered during oil and gas exploration, development, or production. This database is an update of the 2002 USGS Produced Waters Database, adding more than 100,000 new samples with greater spatial coverage and from both conventional and unconventional oil and gas development.

“This update of the database – with significantly more samples, types of analyses, and data from unconventional oil and gas wells – will be a tremendous tool for a number of stakeholders,” said USGS scientist Madalyn Blondes, who led the development of the database. “Industry can use the database to examine water quality for prospective plays and to plan for waste-water injection and recycling. Farmers can look up local produced water quality for possible remediation and reuse.  Local and national resource managers and economists will have new data to aid in tracking the composition of trace elements and quantifying strategic mineral commodities.”  

The USGS Produced Waters Geochemical Database has data on a comprehensive list of chemicals, including major elements, trace elements, isotopes, and time-series data. In addition, where available, each sample is identified according to what kind of well it was produced from, the properties of the rock formation it originated from, and the physical properties of the water in the sample.

The kind of well the sample originated from is important, as different well types involve different production methods and rock formations. The USGS Produced Waters Geochemical Database lists seven different well types: conventional oil and gas, shale gas, tight oil, tight gas, coal bed methane, geothermal, and groundwater.

The database is designed to be dynamic and easily updated with new data or corrections as needed. It is made up of 25 smaller databases, publications, and reports.

The Produced Waters project, as part of the USGS Energy Resources Program (ERP) examines the characterization, use, and impact of waters associated with oil and gas production.

The USGS Produced Waters Geochemical Database can be accessed here. To learn more about USGS produced waters and other energy research, please visit the USGS Energy Website, sign up for our Newsletter, or follow us on Twitter.

USGS Webinar: Using The National Map Services to Enable your Web and Mobile Mapping Efforts

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 10:00
Summary: Are you a developer, firm, or organization using mobile or web applications to enable your users?  The USGS has publicly available geospatial services and data to help you

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Brian Fox ( Phone: 303-202-4140 ); Rob Dollison ( Phone: 703-648-5724 );



Screen shot of a mobile mapping service integrating USGS topographic data; hiking and biking trails south of Golden, Colo. (larger image)

Are you a developer, firm, or organization using mobile or web applications to enable your users?  The USGS has publicly available geospatial services and data to help you!  

The USGS’ National Geospatial Technical Operations Center (NGTOC) will be hosting a 30 minute Webinar on “Using The National Map services to enable your web and mobile mapping efforts” on the 30th of April at 9am Mountain Time.  

This webinar will feature a brief overview of services, data, and products that are publicly available, a quick overview on how SingleTracks.com (http://www.singletracks.com/) a leading private firm is leveraging this public data to benefit their users, and a Question & Answer session with a USGS developer to help you get the most out of the national geospatial services.

“This is the first webinar from NGTOC to bring developers and users together for some demonstrations and starting some dialog”, said Brian Fox, the NGTOC Systems Development Branch Chief.  “Using this webinar format, we can simultaneously improve the awareness of USGS geospatial services and develop a better understanding of what users and developers need to make our data and services more available and usable.” 

To access the webinar, you’ll need to activate Adobe WebEx and call into the toll free conference number 855-547-8255 and use the security code: 33220038.  The webinar will display through WebEx. Direct link: http://bit.ly/OhNDx5 or browse the selections for that date and time. The WebEx and audio bridge will be live 15 prior to the start time.

To ensure that you have the appropriate players installed for this WebEx enabled Webinar: https://usgs.webex.com/usgs/systemdiagnosis.php

A simultaneous closed caption option will be available at: http://recapd.com/w-a5791c. The session will also be recorded and posted to the webinar website shortly after conclusion.

To find out more about this webinar conference, go to: http://ngtoc.usgs.gov/webinars.html

Elevated Levels of Mercury Found in Fish in Western U.S. National Parks

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 11:40
Summary: Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans

Contact Information:

Susan Kemp ( Phone: 541-750-1047 ); Jeffrey Olson ( Phone: 202-208-6843 );



WASHINGTON. — Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans.

The information about mercury, and its appearance in protected areas considered to be relatively pristine and removed from environmental contaminants, is in a recently published scientific report from the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service.

The study of mercury in fish is the first of its kind to incorporate information from remote places at 21 national parks in 10 western states, including Alaska. Western parks were selected for this study because of the significant role that atmospheric mercury deposition plays in remote places, and the lack of broad-scale assessments on mercury in fish in remote areas of the west.

Mercury concentrations in fish sampled from these parks were generally low, but were elevated in some instances. This study examines total mercury in fish, of which 95 percent is in the form of methylmercury, the most dangerous form to human and wildlife health.

Mercury is harmful to human and wildlife health, and is among the most widespread contaminants in the world. It is distributed at a global scale from natural sources, such as volcanic eruptions and from human sources such as burning fossil fuels in power plants. Mercury is distributed at local or regional scales as a result of current and historic mining activities. These human activities have increased levels of atmospheric mercury at least three fold during the past 150 years. 

“Although fish mercury concentrations were elevated in some sites, the majority of fish across the region had concentrations that were below most benchmarks associated with impaired health of fish, wildlife, and humans. However, the range of concentrations measured suggest that complex processes are involved in driving mercury accumulation in these environments and further research is needed to better understand these processes, and assess risk,” said USGS ecologist Collin Eagles-Smith, the lead author of the publication. 

Between 2008 and 2012, NPS resource managers collected more than 1,400 fish from 86 lakes and rivers, and USGS scientists measured mercury concentrations in fish muscle tissue. Sixteen fish species were sampled, with a focus on commonly consumed sport fish found across the study area such as brook, rainbow, cutthroat, and lake trout. Smaller prey fish consumed by birds and wildlife were also sampled.

Scientists compared fish mercury concentrations among sites within an individual park, as well as  from one park to other parks, and identified areas with elevated mercury levels. They also compared the mercury concentrations in the fish to a range of health benchmarks including human health guidelines established by the EPA for fish consumption, and wildlife risk thresholds that indicate the potential for toxicity and impairment in fish and fish-eating birds.

The authors found that mercury levels varied greatly, from park to park and among sites within each park. In most parks, mercury concentrations in fish were moderate to low in comparison with similar fish species from other locations in the Western states. Mercury concentrations were below EPA’s fish tissue criterion for safe human consumption in 96 percent of the sport fish sampled. 

The average concentration of mercury in sport fish from two sites in two Alaskan parks exceeded EPA’s human health criterion. Mercury levels in individual fish at some parks from other states including California, Colorado, Washington, and Wyoming also exceeded the human health criterion.

Neither the USGS nor the NPS regulate environmental health guidelines. The NPS is coordinating with state officials in the 10 study states regarding potential fish consumption advisories. State fish consumption guidelines consider both the risks associated with mercury exposure and the benefits of fish consumption, such as improved cardiac health from increased omega-3 fatty acid consumption or potential reduced intake of unhealthy fats due to food substitutions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to high levels of mercury in humans may cause damage to the brain, kidneys, and the developing fetus. Pregnant women and young children are particularly sensitive to the effects of mercury.

Mercury at elevated levels can also impact wildlife. High mercury concentrations in birds, mammals, and fish can result in reduced foraging efficiency, survival, and reproductive success. Mercury concentrations in fish exceeded the most conservative fish toxicity benchmark at 15 percent of all sites, and levels exceeded the most sensitive health benchmark for fish-eating birds at 52 percent of all sites.

Mercury threatens natural resources, including wildlife, which the NPS is mandated to protect. “This is a wake-up call,” said NPS ecologist Colleen Flanagan Pritz, a co-author of the report. “We need to see fewer contaminants in park ecosystems, especially contaminants like mercury where concentrations in fish challenge the very mission of the national parks to leave wild life unimpaired for future generations."

Funding for this study was provided by the NPS Air Resources Division, USGS Contaminants Biology Program within the Environmental Health Mission Area, the Ecosystems Mission Area to the USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, and with in-kind contributions from participating parks.

More information is available in the USGS Top Story "Mercury Finds a Way—Even into the Pristine National Parks."