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USGS Latest News

Circulation of Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu in North American Birds

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 04/02/2015 - 11:45
Summary: Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 viruses of Eurasian origin continue to circulate and evolve in North American wild birds Viral Changes Make Current Situation More Complex

Contact Information:

Marisa Lubeck, USGS ( Phone: 303-202-4765 ); Gail Moede Rogall, USGS ( Phone: 608-270-2438 ); Joelle Hayden, USDA ( Phone: 301-851-4040 );



Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 viruses of Eurasian origin continue to circulate and evolve in North American wild birds. 

The U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Department of Agriculture published the genetic analysis of a mixed-origin HPAI H5N1 avian flu virus in the journal Genome Announcements today. This novel virus was discovered in a green-winged teal in Washington State that was sampled at the end of 2014. It is a mixed-origin virus containing genes from the Eurasian HPAI H5N8 and genes from North American low pathogenic avian influenza from wild birds. This H5N1 virus is different from the well-known Asian H5N1 HPAI virus that emerged in 1996. 

This new publication follows a recent article describing the introduction of Eurasian HPAI H5N8 into North America at the end of 2014 and the detection of a different mixed-origin virus (HPAI H5N2) in wild birds. In March 2015, the HPAI H5N2 virus was detected in commercial turkey flocks in Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas, in a backyard flock of mixed poultry in Kansas and in a wild bird in Wyoming. 

“Such findings are not unexpected and might continue as the Eurasian lineage H5 circulates in the United States,” said co-author Mia Kim Torchetti, a USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service scientist. 

The term ‘highly pathogenic’ refers to the ability of an avian influenza virus strain to produce disease in chickens. The population-level impact of these viruses on free-living wild bird species is currently unknown. 

“This report describes the first detection of HPAI H5N1 virus in North America, and this virus has since been detected in a backyard flock in British Columbia, Canada,” said Hon Ip, a USGS National Wildlife Health Center scientist. 

As with the parental Eurasian H5N8 virus, no human infections with this H5N1 virus have been detected. However, similar viruses have infected people in other countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The public health risk posed by these domestic HPAI outbreaks is considered low at this time, but it is possible that human infections with these viruses may occur.  

Each mixed-origin virus might carry different risks and surveillance of circulating HPAI viruses is ongoing. The USGS and USDA scientists continue to monitor Eurasian H5 lineage viruses and provide stakeholders with timely information for management purposes. 

For more information about avian influenza, please visit the USGS National Wildlife Health Center website or the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service avian influenza page

Polar Bears Unlikely to Thrive on Land-based Foods

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 04/01/2015 - 13:00
Summary: A team of scientists led by the U.S. Geological Survey found that polar bears, increasingly forced on shore due to sea ice loss, may be eating terrestrial foods including berries, birds and eggs, but any nutritional gains are limited to a few individuals and likely cannot compensate for lost opportunities to consume their traditional, lipid-rich prey—ice seals

Contact Information:

Karyn Rode ( Phone: 907-786-7106 ); Paul  Laustsen ( Phone: 650-329-4046 );



Polar bear laying down to dry after a swim in the Chukchi sea. (High resolution image)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A team of scientists led by the U.S. Geological Survey found that polar bears, increasingly forced on shore due to sea ice loss, may be eating terrestrial foods including berries, birds and eggs, but any nutritional gains are limited to a few individuals and likely cannot compensate for lost opportunities to consume their traditional, lipid-rich prey—ice seals.

“Although some polar bears may eat terrestrial foods, there is no evidence the behavior is widespread,” said Dr. Karyn Rode, lead author of the study and scientist with the USGS. “In the regions where terrestrial feeding by polar bears has been documented, polar bear body condition and survival rates have declined.”

The authors detail their findings in a review article in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The scientists noted that over much of the polar bear’s range, terrestrial habitats are already occupied by grizzly bears. Those grizzly bears occur at low densities and are some of the smallest of their species due to low food quality and availability. Further, they are a potential competitor as polar bears displaced from their sea ice habitats increasingly use the same land habitats as grizzly bears. 

“The smaller size and low population density of grizzly bears in the Arctic provides a clear indication of the nutritional limitations of onshore habitats for supporting large bodied polar bears in meaningful numbers,” said Rode. “Grizzly bears and polar bears are likely to increasingly interact and potentially compete for terrestrial resources.”

The study found that fewer than 30 individual polar bears have been observed consuming bird eggs from any one population, which typically range from 900 to 2000 individuals. “There has been a fair bit of publicity about polar bears consuming bird eggs. However, this behavior is not yet common, and is unlikely to have population-level impacts on trends in body condition and survival,” said Rode.

Few foods are as energetically dense as marine prey. Studies suggest that polar bears consume the highest lipid diet of any species, which provides all essential nutrients and is ideal for maximizing fat deposition and minimizing energetic requirements. Potential foods found in the terrestrial environment are dominated by high-protein, low-fat animals and vegetation. Polar bears are not physiologically suited to digest plants, and it would be difficult for them to ingest the volumes that would be required to support their large body size.

“The reports of terrestrial feeding by polar bears provide important insights into the ecology of bears on land,” said Rode. “In this paper, we tried to put those observations into a broader context.  Focused research will help us determine whether terrestrial foods could contribute to polar bear nutrition despite the physiological and nutritional limitations and the low availability of most terrestrial food resources. However, the evidence thus far suggests that increased consumption of terrestrial foods by polar bears is unlikely to offset declines in body condition and survival resulting from sea ice loss.”

The review article was developed by researchers at the USGS, Washington State University, and Polar Bears International.

The USGS is leading studies of polar bear response to sea ice loss through its Changing Arctic Ecosystems Initiative. Current studies include examination of polar bear nutritional and behavioral ecology, linked to population-level consequences. For further information, visit the USGS Polar Bear Program.

USGS Releases Online Tool for Estimating Atrazine Levels in Streams and Rivers

USGS Newsroom Technical - Wed, 04/01/2015 - 11:12
Summary: A new online, interactive tool for estimating atrazine concentrations in streams and rivers is now available

Contact Information:

Wes Stone ( Phone: 317-600-2786 ); Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



A new online, interactive tool for estimating atrazine concentrations in streams and rivers is now available. 

The online mapping tool can assist water managers, policy makers, and scientists in several ways, including:

  • Understanding where and why pesticides occur in streams.
  • Assessing geographic patterns in pesticide stream concentrations at many scales, ranging from the watershed to regional and national;
  • Designing efficient and cost-effective monitoring programs and studies; and
  • Identifying streams with the greatest likelihood to have concentrations that exceed a water-quality benchmark of potential concern. 

“Assessment and management of pesticides require far more information on concentrations in streams and rivers than we can afford to directly measure for all the places and times of interest,” said Wes Stone, the USGS hydrologist who developed the model.  “For these situations, statistical models can be used to estimate water-quality conditions at unmonitored locations under a range of possible circumstances.” 

The estimates are based on a USGS statistical model — referred to as Watershed Regression for Pesticides (or “WARP”) — which also provides key statistics for each selected stream, including the probability that a pesticide may exceed a water-quality benchmark of potential concern, and a level of confidence and uncertainty associated with each estimate. 

The release for atrazine is the first in a series of statistical models for other pesticides, each of which is based on USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) monitoring in streams from 1992-2011, agricultural pesticide use, and environmental characteristics, such as soil characteristics, hydrology, and climate.  

Future updates will provide similar mapping and modeling for additional pesticides. Estimates and interactive mapping of pesticides for streams in the U.S. are available at this USGS website. The new website replaces an earlier version of the model for atrazine.  

Golden State Quads Add Trails

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 04/01/2015 - 09:30
Summary: Several of the 2,798 new US Topo quadrangles for California now display public trails along with segments of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail Newly released US Topo maps for California now feature selected trails and other substantial updates.

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Larry Moore ( Phone: 303-202-4019 );



Several of the 2,798 new US Topo quadrangles for California now display public trails along with segments of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Also the new maps now show improved data layers such as public land survey information, map symbol redesign, enhanced railroad information and new road source data. Some of the data for the trails is provided to the USGS through a nationwide “crowdsourcing” project managed by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA).

“The USGS 7.5-minute quads have been the long time gold standard for wall to wall mapping in the United States.” said Tom Lupo, Deputy Director, Data and Technology Division, California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “To me, they are the second best thing the Federal government has ever done!”

For California recreationalists and visitors who want to explore the diverse west coast landscape on a bicycle seat, hiking, horseback or other means, the new trail features on the US Topo maps will come in handy. During the past two years the IMBA, in a partnership with the MTB Project, has been building a detailed national database of trails. This activity allows local IMBA chapters, IMBA members, and the public to provide trail data and descriptions through their website.  MTB Project and IMBA then verify the quality of the trail data provided, ensure accuracy and confirm the trail is legal.  This unique crowdsourcing venture has increased the availability of trail data available through The National Map mobile and web apps, and the revised US Topo maps.

Another trail system, provided through a USGS partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, is the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This west-coast long NST joins the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, the North Country National Scenic Trail, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail as being featured on the new US Topo quads around the nation. The USGS hopes to eventually include all National Scenic Trails in The National Map products.

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is a treasured pathway through some of the most scenic terrain in the nation. Beginning in southern California at the Mexican border, the PCT travels a total distance of 2,650 miles through California, Oregon, and Washington until reaching the Canadian border. The PCT is one of the original National Scenic Trails established by Congress in the 1968 National Trails System Act and fifty-four percent of the trail lies within designated wilderness

Another important addition to the new California US Topo maps is the inclusion of Public Land Survey System data. PLSS is a way of subdividing and describing land in the US. All lands in the public domain are subject to subdivision by this rectangular system of surveys, which is regulated by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

These new maps replace the first edition US Topo maps for the Golden State and are available for free download from The National Map, the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website , or several other USGS applications.

To compare change over time, scans of legacy USGS topo maps, some dating back to the late 1800s, can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection

For more information on US Topo maps: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/

Updated 2015 version of El Capitan, California quadrangle with orthoimage turned on. (1:24,000 scale) (high resolution image 1.4 MB) Scan of the 1909 USGS quadrangle of the Yosemite, California area, to include El Capitan, from the USGS Historic Topographic Map Collection. (1:250,000 scale) (high resolution image 2 MB) Updated 2015 version of the El Capitan, California quadrangle with orthoimage turned off to better see the various trail networks. (1:24,000 scale) (high resolution image 1.3 MB) The National Trails System was established by Act of Congress in 1968. The Act grants the Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture authority over the National Trails System. The Act defines four types of trails. Two of these types, the National Historic Trails and National Scenic Trails, can only be designated by Act of Congress. National scenic trails are extended trails located as to provide for maximum outdoor recreation potential and for the conservation and enjoyment of nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, and cultural qualities of the area through which such trails may pass.

There are 11 National Scenic Trails:
  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  • Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail
  • Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
  • North Country National Scenic Trail
  • Ice Age National Scenic Trail
  • Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
  • Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
  • Florida National Scenic Trail
  • Arizona National Scenic Trail
  • New England National Scenic Trail
  • Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail
(high resolution image 64 KB)

New Technology Helps Identify Dispersal of Avian Flu Virus between Asia and Alaska

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 13:00
Summary: In a new study published today, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service harnessed a new type of DNA technology to investigate avian influenza viruses in Alaska

Contact Information:

Andy Ramey ( Phone: 907-786-7174 ); Paul Laustsen ( Phone: 650-329-4046 );



ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In a new study published today, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service harnessed a new type of DNA technology to investigate avian influenza viruses in Alaska.  Using a “next generation” sequencing approach, which identifies gene sequences of interest more rapidly and more completely than by traditional techniques, scientists identified low pathogenic avian influenza viruses in Alaska that are nearly identical to viruses found in China and South Korea. 

The viruses were found in an area of western Alaska that is known to be a hot spot for both American and Eurasian forms of avian influenza.

“Our past research in western Alaska has shown that 70 percent of avian influenza viruses isolated in this area were found to contain genetic material from Eurasia, providing evidence for high levels of intercontinental viral exchange,” said Andy Ramey, a scientist with the USGS Alaska Science Center and lead author of the study.  “This is because Asian and North American migratory flyways overlap in western Alaska.”

The new study, led by the USGS, found low pathogenic H9N2 viruses in an Emperor Goose and a Northern Pintail.  Both of the H9N2 viruses were nearly identical genetically to viruses found in wild bird samples from Lake Dongting, China and Cheon-su Bay, South Korea.

“These H9N2 viruses are low pathogenic and not known to infect humans, but similar viruses have been implicated in disease outbreaks in domestic poultry in Asia,” said Ramey. 

There is no commercial poultry production in western Alaska and highly similar H9N2 virus strains have not been reported in poultry in East Asia or North America, so it is unlikely that agricultural imports influenced this result.

The finding provides evidence for intercontinental movement of intact avian influenza viruses by migratory birds. The USGS recently released a publication about the detection of a novel highly pathogenic H5N8 virus in the U.S. that is highly similar to the Eurasian H5N8 viruses. This suggests that the novel re-assortment may be adapted to certain waterfowl species, enabling it to survive long migrations. That virus, and associated strains, have now spread from early detections in wild and domestic birds in Pacific states to poultry outbreaks in Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas.

“The frequency of inter-hemispheric dispersal events of avian influenza viruses by migratory birds may be higher than previously recognized,” said Ramey.

While some of the samples for the project came from bird fecal samples collected from beaches at Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, most of the samples came from sport hunters.

“For the past several years, we’ve worked closely with sport hunters in the fall to obtain swab samples from birds and that has really informed our understanding of wildlife disease in this area,” said Bruce Casler, formerly a biologist with the USFWS Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and a co-author of the study. None of the viruses found in harvested birds from Izembek Refuge are known to infect humans, but hunters should always follow safe meat handling and cooking guidelines when processing wild game.

The paper, “Dispersal of H9N2 influenza A viruses between East Asia and North America by wild birds” was published today in the journal Virology. A summary of all samples collected at the Izembek Refuge will be described in a subsequent publication. 

Additional information about avian influenza can be found at the following web sites:

Alaska is an international crossroads for millions of migratory birds that spend winter in Asia, Oceania, South America, and the lower-48 United States. (High resolution image 3 MB)

Updated Information on Cuba Mineral and Petroleum Resources Released

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 10:40
Summary: Cuba is among the top 10 producers of cobalt and nickel and has significant other mineral and petroleum resources, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey publication

Contact Information:

Steven Fortier ( Phone: 703-648-4920 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-352-3487 );



Cuba is among the top 10 producers of cobalt and nickel and has significant other mineral and petroleum resources, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey publication.

The report and accompanying map highlight the mineral resources available in Cuba, as well as detailing locations of petroleum exploration and development. The map also identifies mines, mineral processing facilities and petroleum facilities as well as information on location, operational status and ownership. It also addresses the current status of mineral industry projects, historical developments and trends of the Cuban economy with an emphasis on mineral industries and the supply of and demand for Cuba’s mineral resources.

“Cuba’s geology is complex, and the country has a variety of mineral commodity and energy resources,” said Steven Fortier, Director of the USGS National Minerals Information Center. “It is important that the public and industry have the latest information on the status of the mineral industry and the potential for natural resource development in Cuba.”

A few key points from the report are:

  • In 2013, Cuba was estimated to be among the world’s top ten producers of cobalt and nickel, which are the country’s leading exports
  • Cuba’s current crude oil and associated natural gas production from onshore and shallow water reservoirs is approximately 50,000 barrels per day of liquids and about 20,000 barrels per day oil equivalent of natural gas
  • In 2013, the value of mining and quarrying activities accounted for 0.6 percent of Cuba’s gross domestic product, compared with 1.4 percent in 2000
  • The value of production from Cuba’s industrial manufacturing sector increased by 88 percent between 1993 and 2013, whereas the sector’s share in the GDP decreased by 3 percent during the same period reflecting economic growth in other sectors of the economy

In 2004, the USGS released an assessment of the hydrocarbons of the North Cuba Basin and its three sub-basins. The total amount of undiscovered technically recoverable resources was estimated to be 9.8 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas, 4.6 billion barrels of crude oil, and 0.9 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. About 70 percent of this oil was estimated to be located no more than 50 to 80 kilometers (km) offshore along the length of the western and northern coasts of the island. To date, deepwater drilling has resulted in no commercially viable oil or gas discoveries. 

Industrial minerals and manufactured industrial mineral products produced in Cuba include ammonia and ammonia byproducts, bentonite, cement, feldspar, high-purity zeolite minerals, gypsum, kaolin (a type of clay), lime, high-grade limestone, marble, sand, sulfuric acid, steel and urea. In 2013, an estimated 4,500 metric tons of zeolites was exported to Europe and other Latin American countries and in 2014 the majority of the country’s ammonium nitrate was intended for export.

In 2014, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment announced 246 development projects for which it sought foreign investment. The petroleum sector offered the greatest number of prospective investment opportunities followed by the manufacturing and mining sectors. In the energy sector, the country is offering joint ventures in petroleum extraction from onshore and offshore blocks and foreign investment opportunities are being offered in biomass and solar energy production and hydroelectric power.

The report ‘Recent trends in Cuba’s mining and petroleum extraction industries’ FS 2015-3032 is available online.

USGS Seeks Proposals for Earthquake Science

USGS Newsroom Technical - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 13:17
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey expects to award up to $7 million in grants for earthquake hazards research in 2016 Applications due May 19, 2015

Contact Information:

Elizabeth Lemersal ( Phone: 703-648-6716 ); Jessica Robertson ( Phone: 703-648-6624 );



The U.S. Geological Survey expects to award up to $7 million in grants for earthquake hazards research in 2016.

“The USGS Earthquake Hazards Program annually provides grants to support research targeted toward improving our understanding of earthquake processes, hazards and risks,” said Bill Leith, USGS Senior Science Advisor for Earthquake and Geologic Hazards. “We seek cutting-edge proposals that will further our efforts to reduce losses from earthquakes, provide more accurate and timely earthquake information and forecasts and better inform the public about earthquake safety.”

Interested researchers can apply online at GRANTS.GOV under funding opportunity number G15AS00037. Applications are due May 19, 2015.

Every year the USGS awards earthquake research grants to universities, state geological surveys and private institutions. Past projects included:

  • trench investigations to better understand the size and age of large earthquakes between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah;
  • the application of innovative techniques to map seismic hazards near the nation’s capital;
  • exploring the use of rapid and precise GPS recordings to improve earthquake early warning;
  • analysis of the potential for large earthquakes in the Gorgonio Pass, an area of complex faulting east of San Bernardino, California;
  • investigation of recent earthquake activity along major fault lines crossing southeast Alaska; and
  • studies to characterize and understand the causes of potentially induced earthquakes in California, Kansas, Wyoming, Texas, and Ohio.

complete list of funded projects and reports can be found on the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program external research support website.

New Report Indicates Potential for Five Times Known Copper Deposits Yet to Be Found in Central Asia

USGS Newsroom Technical - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 12:25
Summary: A new U.S. Geological Survey report covering major parts of the world’s largest mountain belt in central Asia estimates the existence of about five times as much copper in undiscovered deposits as has been identified to date

Contact Information:

Dave Frank ( Phone: 509-368-3107 ); Leslie  Gordon ( Phone: 650-329-4006
 );



SPOKANE, Wash. — A new U.S. Geological Survey report covering major parts of the world’s largest mountain belt in central Asia estimates the existence of about five times as much copper in undiscovered deposits as has been identified to date. These areas host 20 known porphyry copper deposits, including the world class Oyu Tolgoi deposit in Mongolia that was discovered in the late 1990s.

The results of this new assessment estimate the probability that there may be as many as 97 undiscovered porphyry copper deposits within the assessed permissive tracts, which would represent nearly five times the 20 known deposits. Grade and tonnage models predict estimated resources associated with undiscovered deposits as mean values of 370,000,000 metric tons of copper, 10,000 t of gold, 7,700,000 t of molybdenum, and 120,000 t of silver. These estimated mean tonnages are predictions based on comparisons to known deposits of similar type.

Copper was one of the first metals ever extracted and used by humans, and it has been one of the important materials in the development of civilization. Because of its properties, of high ductility, malleability, and thermal and electrical conductivity, and its resistance to corrosion, copper has become a major industrial metal, ranking third after iron and aluminum in terms of quantities consumed.

USGS scientists worked in collaboration with colleagues in the China Geological Survey, the Centre for Russian and Central Eurasian Mineral Studies, and the Russian Academy of Sciences to complete the assessment. Participants evaluated applicable grade and tonnage models and estimated numbers of undiscovered deposits at different confidence levels for each permissive tract. The estimates were then combined with the selected grade and tonnage models using Monte Carlo simulations to generate probabilistic estimates of undiscovered resources.  Additional resources in extensions of deposits with identified resources were not specifically evaluated.

The full report, USGS SIR 2010-5090-X, “Porphyry Copper Assessment of the Central Asian Orogenic Belt and eastern Tethysides— China, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and India,” is available online and includes a summary of the data used in the assessment, a brief overview of the geologic framework of the area, descriptions of permissive tracts and known deposits, maps, and tables. A geographic information system database that accompanies this report includes the tract boundaries and known porphyry copper deposits, significant prospects, and prospects. Assessments of overlapping younger rocks and adjacent areas are included in separate reports, which are also available online.

Appalachian Basin Energy Resources -- A New Look at an Old Basin

USGS Newsroom Technical - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 10:00
Summary: Appalachian coal and petroleum resources are still available in sufficient quantities to contribute significantly to fulfilling the nation’s energy needs, according to a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey New Geological Compilation Available for Resource Studies and Land-Use Planning

Contact Information:

Leslie  Ruppert ( Phone: 703-648-6431 ); Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 );



Appalachian coal and petroleum resources are still available in sufficient quantities to contribute significantly to fulfilling the nation’s energy needs, according to a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Appalachian basin, which includes the Appalachian coalfields and the Marcellus Shale, covers parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

“The study we conducted is a modern, in-depth collection of reports, cross sections and maps that describe the geology of the Appalachian basin and its fossil fuel resources,” said USGS scientist Leslie Ruppert, the study’s lead editor.

Petroleum resources, including oil and natural gas, remain significant in the Appalachian basin. Although both conventional oil and gas continue to be produced in the Appalachian basin, most new wells in the region are drilled in shale reservoirs, such as the famous Marcellus and Utica Shale, to produce natural gas.

The Appalachian basin contains significant coalbed methane and high-quality, thick, bituminous coal resources although the resource is deeper and thinner than the coal that has already been mined.

Although this volume is not a quantitative assessment of all notable geologic and fossil fuel localities in the Appalachian basin, the selected study areas and topics presented in the chapters pertain to large segments of the basin and a wide range of stratigraphic intervals. This updated geologic framework is especially important given the significance of shale gas in the basin.

This volume discusses the locations of coal and petroleum accumulations, the stratigraphic and structural framework, and the geochemical characteristics of the coal beds and petroleum in the basin, as well as the results of recent USGS assessments of coal, oil and gas resources in the basin. 

Many of the maps and accompanying data supporting the reports in this volume are available from chapter I.1 as downloadable geographic information system (GIS) data files about the characteristics of selected coal beds and oil and gas fields, locations of oil and gas wells, coal production, coal chemistry, total petroleum system (TPS) boundaries and bedrock geology. Log ASCII Standard (LAS) files for geophysical (gamma ray) wireline well logs are included in other chapters. 

USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas and coal resources of onshore lands and offshore state waters. This study of the Appalachian basin will underpin energy resource assessments and may be found online. To find out more about USGS energy assessments and other energy research, please visit the USGS Energy Resources Program website, sign up for our Newsletter, and follow us on Twitter.

First Round of Lidar BAA Awards Released

USGS Newsroom Technical - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 09:30
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey National Geospatial Program is pleased to announce the first round of awards resulting from the USGS Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP), initially issued on July 18, 2014. (Solicitation Number: G14PS00574)

Contact Information:

Diane Eldridge ( Phone: 703-648-4521 ); Mark Newell ( Phone: 573-308-3850 );



The U.S. Geological Survey National Geospatial Program is pleased to announce the first round of awards resulting from the USGS Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP), initially issued on July 18, 2014. (Solicitation Number: G14PS00574).

The BAA is a publicly accessible process to develop partnerships for the collection of lidar and derived elevation data for 3DEP.  The primary goal of 3DEP is to systematically collect nationwide lidar coverage (ifsar in Alaska) over an 8-year period to provide more than $690 million annually in new benefits to government entities, the private sector and citizens.

3DEP presents a unique opportunity for collaboration between all levels of government to leverage the services and expertise of private sector mapping firms that acquire the data, and to create jobs now and in the future. The USGS, along with other federal, state, local and private agencies, is establishing the collection program to respond to the growing needs for high-quality, three-dimensional mapping data of the United States.

 “We are very excited about the high level interest in the BAA as demonstrated by the number and dollar value of the proposals we received,” said Kevin Gallagher, USGS Associate Director for Core Science Systems.

Current and accurate 3D elevation data are essential to help communities cope with natural hazards and disasters such as floods and landslides, support infrastructure, ensure agricultural success, strengthen environmental decision-making and bolster national security. Lidar, short for light detection and ranging, is a remote sensing detection system that works on the principle of radar, but uses light from a laser. Similarly, interferometric synthetic aperture radar (ifsar) is used to collect data over Alaska.

Federal funds to support this opportunity were provided by the USGS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The USGS is acting in a management role to facilitate planning and acquisition for the broader community, through the use of government contracts and partnership agreements.

The Fiscal Year 2015 Awards offered partnership funding to 29 proposals in 25 States and Territories. The FY15 body of work is expected to result in the influx of more than 95,000 square miles of public domain lidar point cloud data and derived elevation products into the 3DEP program.

More information about 3DEP including updates on current and future 3DEP partnership opportunities is available online.

Map depicts the proposed body of work for 3DEP in Fiscal Year 2015. The BAA awards will add more than 95,000 square miles of 3DEP quality lidar data to the national database. (high resolution image 98 MB)

Media Advisory: Public Invitation: What's the Status of Water in South Dakota?

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 14:15
Summary: Media and the public are invited to attend a free meeting and field trips about South Dakota water issues on April 15 and 16 in Rapid City

Contact Information:

Janet Carter ( Phone: 605-394-3215 ); Dan Driscoll ( Phone: 605-394-3211 );



Media and the public are invited to attend a free meeting and field trips about South Dakota water issues on April 15 and 16 in Rapid City.

The 13th annual Western South Dakota Hydrology Meeting is an opportunity for local reporters, scientists, students and community members to meet and exchange ideas, discuss issues and explore new science related to critical water resources in South Dakota. A poster session and evening social will follow oral presentations on Wednesday, April 15. 

Conference attendees may choose to participate in one of four free, optional field trips on Thursday, April 16. Please register for the conference by April 8 to participate in one of the following field trips: 

  • Post-flood geomorphic conditions in Keough Draw and Ward Draw
  • Barrick Gold Corp and Sanford Lab wastewater treatment plants
  • Rapid City stormwater management practices
  • Belle Fourche Irrigation District operation and water conservation 
What: The 13th annual Western South Dakota Hydrology Meeting will examine key flooding, water-quality, groundwater, surface water and geology issues in South Dakota.

Who: The conference keynote speakers are:
  • Neik Veraart, Vice President for Louis Berger’s Environmental Planning and Resilience practice
  • Robert Hirsch, U.S. Geological Survey research hydrologist and former USGS Chief Hydrologist and Associate Director for Water
  • Robert Harmon, President and CEO of EnergyRM
When: Meeting: Wednesday, April 15, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Poster session and evening social: Wednesday, April 15, 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Optional field trips: Thursday April 16, at various times

Where: Rushmore Plaza Civic Center
444 N. Mount Rushmore Rd., Rapid City  (MAP)

Details: The conference is free for media, the public and students, with an optional $20 lunch. Professional registration fee is $100. For professionals who wish to obtain credit for professional development, credits are available for technical sessions attended.

Register: All attendees are asked to register before April 8 by visiting the conference website or by contacting Janet Carter at 605-394-3215 or jmcarter@usgs.gov  

The annual conference typically draws more than 350 attendees. The preliminary 2015 program is available on the conference website.

The conference is organized by the USGS, South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, South Dakota Engineering Society, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and West Dakota Water Development District. 

For additional information about USGS water-resources studies in South Dakota, please visit the USGS South Dakota Water Science Center website.

Laboratory Study Shows Future Generations of Fish Affected by Endocrine Disruptor Exposure

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 11:00
Summary: Fish exposed to the endocrine-disrupting chemicals bisphenol A (BPA) or 17a-ethinylestradiol (EE2) in a laboratory have been found to pass adverse reproductive effects onto their offspring up to three generations later, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Missouri

Contact Information:

Jennifer LaVista ( Phone: 303-202-4764 ); Donald Tillitt ( Phone: 573-876-1866 );



Fish exposed to the endocrine-disrupting chemicals bisphenol A (BPA) or 17a-ethinylestradiol (EE2) in a laboratory have been found to pass adverse reproductive effects onto their offspring up to three generations later, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Missouri.

Aquatic environments are the ultimate reservoirs for many contaminants, including chemicals that mimic the functions of natural hormones. Fish and other aquatic organisms often have the greatest exposures to such chemicals during critical periods in development or even entire life cycles.

Scientists exposed fish to either BPA or EE2 for one week during embryonic development, while subsequent generations were never exposed. Future generations showed a reduced rate of fertilization and increased embryo mortality. The full study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, is available online.

“This study shows that even though endocrine disruptors may not affect the life of the exposed fish, it may negatively affect future generations,” said USGS visiting scientist and University of Missouri Assistant Research Professor, Ramji Bhandari. “This is the first step in understanding how endocrine disruptors affect future generations, and more studies are needed to determine what happens in the natural environment.”

There were no apparent reproductive abnormalities in the first two generations of fish, except for two instances of male to female sex reversal in adults of the EE2 exposed generation. Findings show a 30 percent decrease in the fertilization rate of fish two generations after exposure, and a 20 percent reduction after three generations. If those trends continued, the potential for declines in overall population numbers might be expected in future generations. These adverse outcomes, if shown in natural populations, could have negative impacts on fish inhabiting contaminated aquatic environments.

This study examined concentrations of EE2 and BPA that are not expected to be found in most environmental situations. However, concerns remain about the possibility of passing on adverse reproductive effects to future generations at lower levels. At this time, the ability to evaluate mixtures of estrogenic chemicals working jointly is limited. 

The scientists studied BPA and EE2 because they are chemicals of environmental concern and represent different classes of endocrine disrupters. BPA is a chemical used primarily to manufacture polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, but is also an additive in other consumer products. Due to extensive use of these products in daily human life, the accumulation of BPA-containing waste in the environment has been a serious concern and a potential threat to public and wildlife health. EE2 is used in oral contraceptives designed for women, and about 16 – 68 percent of each dose is excreted from the body. As a result, EE2 has been found in aquatic environments downstream of wastewater treatment plants.

For more information on endocrine disruptors visit the USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center web page.

New Study Sheds Light on Mammal Declines in Everglades National Park

USGS Newsroom - Fri, 03/20/2015 - 16:10
Summary: Nearly 80 percent of radio-tracked marsh rabbits that died in Everglades National Park in a recent study were eaten by Burmese pythons, according to a new publication by University of Florida and U.S. Geological Survey researchers

Contact Information:

Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-352-3487 ); Robert McCleery ( Phone: 352-846-0566 );



GAINESVILLE, Fla. – – Nearly 80 percent of radio-tracked marsh rabbits that died in Everglades National Park in a recent study were eaten by Burmese pythons, according to a new publication by University of Florida and U.S. Geological Survey researchers.  

A year later, there was no sign of a rabbit population in the study area.  The study demonstrates that Burmese pythons are now the dominant predator of marsh rabbits, and likely other mid-sized animals in the park, potentially upsetting the balance of a valuable ecosystem.

The study provides the first empirical evidence that the Burmese python caused reductions in marsh rabbit populations in the park, supporting previous studies that suggested pythons were a significant factor in declines of many other mid-sized mammals since becoming established there a few decades ago.

The estimated tens of thousands of Burmese pythons now populating the greater Everglades present a low risk to people in the park, according to previous research by USGS and NPS.

Scientists know that invasive pythons prey on native Everglades mammals, but they didn’t have experimental evidence that pythons could cause population declines or local extinction of mammals, said Robert McCleery, a UF assistant professor in wildlife ecology and conservation who led the study.

While a 2012 study showed that as pythons were proliferating, mammals were declining, it did not directly link the two phenomena. “This study does just that,” said Bob Reed, a USGS research herpetologist and study co-author.

“Mammals play an important role in the Everglades ecosystem, and so recovery of mammal populations is closely tied with recovering the overall health and functionality of this ecosystem,” McCleery said.

In most Florida wetlands, it’s easy to detect marsh rabbit populations by searching for their scat, but the researchers could not find evidence of rabbits in the parts of Everglades National Park they studied during intensive surveys prior to conducting their experiment.

In 2012, a group of scientists that included researchers from Davidson College, USGS and UF compared data on mammal populations from the 1990s – before pythons became widespread in Everglades National Park ─ to results of population surveys conducted between 2003 and 2011. The 2012 study found that significant mammalian population declines coincided in space and time with the proliferation of invasive pythons in the Everglades.  

“Previous studies implicated pythons in mammal declines in the Everglades, but those studies were largely correlative,” said Reed. “This new study moves us from correlation to causation in terms of the impact of invasive pythons on native mammals.” 

To conduct the most recent study, researchers found areas outside of the park that supported large and healthy populations of marsh rabbits. They moved 31 marsh rabbits into select areas in the park in two experimental populations. They also put 15 rabbits in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and captured, collared and released another 49 in Fakahatchee Strand State Park, where they knew there would be few, if any, pythons ─ and used those as control sites. All of the rabbits were equipped with radio-collars so that they could be regularly located.

The researchers radio-tracked the rabbits and found that 77 percent of those that died in the Everglades were eaten by Burmese pythons, and that there was no sign of a rabbit population in the areas where they released them in the park one year later. On the other hand, rabbits remained common at the control site after the experiment. Many animals eat marsh rabbits, but outside the park, they’re most often the victims of bobcats and coyotes.

Furthermore, the warmer and wetter the weather, the more rabbits were consumed by pythons in the park. The researchers suggested this may be because higher water levels allow the pythons to easily swim long distances while searching for food and because they feed more frequently when it’s hot.

Scientists chose to study the pythons’ impacts on marsh rabbit populations because the high reproductive rates of rabbits mean that their populations are typically resilient to predators, McCleery said. The conclusion that pythons are capable of eliminating marsh rabbit populations in Everglades National Park led the authors to suggest that the observed declines in other mid-sized mammal species in the park could also be due to predation by pythons.

The study was published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Academy B. McCleery’s co-authors include UF graduate student Adia Sovie, as well as Robert Reed, Kristen Hart and Margaret Hunter, all research wildlife biologists with the USGS. 

Dive In – Explore Thousands of Coastal and Seafloor Images

USGS Newsroom Technical - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 14:21
Summary: Thousands of photos and videos of the seafloor and coastline—most areas never seen before—are now available and easily accessible online. This is critical for coastal managers to make important decisions, ranging from protecting habitats to understanding hazards and managing land use

Contact Information:

Nadine Golden ( Phone: 831-460-7530 ); Seth Ackerman ( Phone: 508-457-2315 ); Jessica Robertson ( Phone: 703-648-6624 );



Thousands of photos and videos of the seafloor and coastline—most areas never seen before—are now available and easily accessible online. This is critical for coastal managers to make important decisions, ranging from protecting habitats to understanding hazards and managing land use.

Imagery is available through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Coastal and Marine Geology Video and Photograph Portal.

This USGS portal is unique, due to the sheer quantity and quality of data presented. It is the largest database of its kind, providing detailed and fine-scale representations of the coast. The "geospatial context" is also unique, with maps displaying imagery in the exact location where it was recorded.

Prior to development of the data portal, retrieving this imagery required internal USGS access with specific hardware and software. It was difficult to manage and challenging to share such a large amount of information.

"The USGS has been dedicated to developing a system that allows for convenient communication internally as well as to outside collaborators and the public to access our abundance of coastal and seafloor imagery," said USGS geographer Nadine Golden, who is the Lead Principal Investigator for the USGS portal. "The portal makes it easy for users to discover, obtain and disseminate information."

This portal contains coverage of the seafloor off California and Massachusetts, and aerial imagery of the coastline along the Gulf of Mexico and mid-Atlantic coasts. Additional video and photographs will be added as they are collected, and archived imagery will also be incorporated soon. Areas of future focus include data sets for Washington State’s Puget Sound, Hawaii and the Arctic.

"As part of an ongoing seafloor mapping partnership, Massachusetts has worked with the USGS Woods Hole Science Center to map more than 850 square miles of marine waters and collect extensive video footage and photographs of the seafloor," said Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management Director Bruce Carlisle. "The Coastal and Marine Geology Video and Photograph Portal is a great resource, providing direct and easy access to this imagery. It will support several key elements of the recently updated Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan, including habitat characterization and the review of ocean development projects under the plan."

Information in this portal helps create coastal maps and representations of seafloor composition and habitats. It provides references for short- and long-term monitoring of changes to the coast, whether from anthropogenic modifications or natural occurrences. Hurricanes and extreme storms are of particular concern, and USGS imagery helps managers, emergency responders and researchers understand circumstances before, during and after such events. Other critical hazards include coastal flooding and sea-level rise, as well as assessments for earthquake and tsunami awareness.

Data also support coastal and marine spatial planning, including evaluation of sites for renewable ocean energy facilities as well as the development of communities and infrastructure. USGS science helps designate marine protected areas, define habitats, identify needs for ecosystem restoration, and inform regional sediment management decisions.

In total, approximately 100,000 photographs and have been collected as well as 1,000 hours of trackline video covering almost 2,000 miles of coastline. Imagery was taken by video and still cameras towed by boat or from aerial flights.

This effort supports the National Ocean Policy mandate to provide access to federal data resources.

How does it work? Start with the tutorial and then dive in!

In 2013, a successful video and photograph pilot interactive website was launched for the California Seafloor Mapping Program, and this helped build the newly released portal.

Also, check out a new crowdsourcing application called, "USGS iCoast – Did the Coast Change?" This application allows citizen scientists to identify changes to the coast by comparing aerial photographs taken before and after storms.

Learn more about USGS science by visiting the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program website.

Screenshot from the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Video and Photograph Portal. Zooming into an area of interest reveals lines where continuous video footage was acquired and dots where still photographs were taken. Clicking on a segment launches the video in a pop-up window. Photographs appear beside the video, changing as the video passes each point where a photograph was taken. (High resolution image)

Frozen Heat Features USGS Science

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 03/16/2015 - 10:00
Summary: The Gas Hydrates Project at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) contributed to a four-year international effort by multiple partners, including the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), to formulate a just-released report entitled, “Frozen Heat: A Global Outlook on Methane Gas Hydrates.&rdquo New International Report on Gas Hydrates Draws Heavily from USGS Expertise

Contact Information:

William F.  Waite ( Phone: 508-457-2346 ); Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 );



The Gas Hydrates Project at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) contributed to a four-year international effort by multiple partners, including the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), to formulate a just-released report entitled, “Frozen Heat: A Global Outlook on Methane Gas Hydrates.”

The two-volume report reviews the state-of-the-art in science and technology related to gas hydrates, providing information in a form accessible to policy makers and stakeholders. The USGS Gas Hydrates Project contributed scientific results, editing, and reviews to assist formulation of the report.    

Gas hydrate is a frozen form of gas and water that occurs naturally at moderate pressure and low temperature. These conditions are characteristic of continuous permafrost and marine sediments at water depths greater than ~350 meters (~1150 ft).  Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is the most common gas incorporated into global gas hydrate deposits. Gas hydrate sequesters about 1600 billion metric tons (~1800 billion US tons) of carbon or up to 25% of the global budget of carbon that can move around the earth-ocean-atmosphere system.

“The USGS plays an active leadership role in gas hydrate research nationally and internationally,” said USGS Energy Resources Program Coordinator Brenda Pierce. “Having USGS experts join with other scientists to present current scientific knowledge to a broad audience in this report serves an important part of our outreach mission.” 

The first volume of the report focuses on the history of gas hydrate research and describes how and where gas hydrates form. USGS research featured prominently in this volume, as USGS scientists have studied the formation and occurrence of gas hydrates all over the world, including Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, and internationally in countries like Japan, Korea, and India.

Volume I of the report also considers how gas hydrates interact with the environment on a small scale (for example, the link between gas hydrates and deep marine biological communities), and globally (for example, the interplay between gas hydrates and climate).  

“We were pleased to work with U.S. and international partners to contribute scientific expertise to this effort,” said Carolyn Ruppel, Chief of the USGS Gas Hydrates Project. “The report dovetails with our Project’s emphasis on gas hydrates in the natural environment and on the climate and energy resource implications of methane hydrates.”   

Volume 2 discusses gas hydrates as a potential energy resource, including consideration of the technology needed to extract gas from methane hydrates.  USGS scientists have long been active in this research area and participated in tests of methane production from natural gas hydrates in permafrost areas, such as Alaska’s North Slope.

The USGS has a globally recognized research program  studying natural gas hydrates in deepwater and permafrost settings worldwide.  USGS researchers focus on the potential of gas hydrates as an energy resource, the impact of climate change on gas hydrates, and seafloor stability issues.

International Bat Monitoring Research Group Receives

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 03/09/2015 - 10:00
Summary: USGS bat conservation researchers and their partners are being recognized today with the U.S. Forest Service Wings Across the Americas Research Award for their contributions to the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat)

Contact Information:

Suzanna Soileau ( Phone: 406-994-7257 ); Catherine Puckett ( Phone: 352-377-2469 );



USGS bat conservation researchers and their partners are being recognized today with the U.S. Forest Service Wings Across the Americas Research Award for their contributions to the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat). 

The award will be accepted on behalf of USGS contributions to NABat by Anne Kinsinger, USGS associate director for Ecosystems, at the North American Wildlife Resources Conference in Omaha, Nebr.  USGS partners also being recognized are the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, Wildlife Conservation Society, Bat Conservation International, Bat Conservation Trust, Canadian Wildlife Service, University of California, University of Alberta and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“Research on bats is important not only because they are vital to the well-being of ecosystems, but also it is in the best interest of the economy due to the importance of bats for pest control and pollination of native and agricultural plants,” said Kinsinger. “USGS has focused considerable research on issues threatening the health and well being of bat populations in North America. Our participation in NABat provides valuable scientific information for bat conservation.”

Wings Across the Americas is an international program of the U.S. Forest Service that works with a wide range of partners here in the United States and overseas to conserve habitats and populations of birds, bats, butterflies and dragonflies. The award recognizes outstanding conservation work by U.S. Forest Service and partner agencies.

The novelty of the NABat program is a vision for collaborative monitoring of an imperiled species group with a sound statistical underpinning allowing for species distribution modeling across broad geographic regions. Participating USGS researchers provide specific expertise on statistical survey design, statistical analysis of bat acoustic and colony count data and database development informed by experience with many wildlife species such as bats, birds and amphibians.

NABat was developed in conjunction with specialists from other agencies, universities and NGOs in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico in response to growing concerns over threats to bats from continuing and emerging stressors including habitat loss and fragmentation, white-nose syndrome, wind energy development and climate change.  There are currently no national programs to monitor and track bat populations in North America, and NABat seeks to assist in development of such programs that will provide managers and policy makers with the information they need to effectively manage bat populations, detect early warning signs of population declines and estimate extinction risk.

Efforts to date include four workshops and discussions supported by the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives National Council and the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis to develop a national monitoring program. These workshops were attended by scientists and researchers from multiple agencies including FWS, USGS, USFS, NPS, University of Calgary and the Canadian Wildlife Service.  In addition, the framework for NABat entitled “A Plan for a North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat)” will be published in May 2015.

USGS recipients of the Wings Across the Americas award include FORT scientists Laura Ellison, Tom Stanley, Brian Cade, Paul Cryan and Sara Oyler-McCance; NOROCK scientists Kathryn M. Irvine and Steve Corn; UMESC scientist Wayne Thogmartin; Patuxent scientists John Sauer and Matthew Clement; NPWRC scientist Douglas Johnson; NWHC scientist Robin Russell; and CSU Cooperative Research Unit scientist William Kendall.