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Federal News

Federal Disaster Aid for Colorado Flooding Tops $304 Million

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 18:07

DENVER – In the more than six months since heavy rains brought flooding in September 2013, Colorado survivors have received more than $304 million from FEMA disaster grants, flood insurance payments and SBA low-interest disaster loans.

To date:

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Categories: Federal News

FEMA Awards $6,415,688 Grant to City of West Frankfort: Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds will be used to make sewer treatment plant improvements

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 09:45

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today released $6,415,688 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to the City of West Frankfort, Ill., for aproposed sewer treatment plant improvement project.

The project includes the relocation of all sewer treatment plant components from the south plant site to the north plant site, where it will be three feet above the base flood elevation.

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Categories: Federal News

New Utah Maps and Road Provider

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 09:00
Summary: Newly released US Topo maps  for Utah now feature a new commercial road data provider. The latest highway, road and street data from HERE has been added to the 1,476 revised US Topo quadrangles for the state. 

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Larry Moore ( Phone: 303-202-4019 ); Bob Davis ( Phone: 573-308-3554 );



Newly released US Topo maps  for Utah now feature a new commercial road data provider. The latest highway, road and street data from HERE has been added to the 1,476 revised US Topo quadrangles for the state. 

"HERE, a Nokia business, is proud to provide fresh, robust and comprehensive map content to the State of Utah and the US Topo Maps program," said Roy Kolstad, VP Sales Enterprise Americas, HERE. "We are excited for users to experience the benefits HERE brings with our more than 25 years of experience in cartography, drawing on more than 80,000 sources of data." 

The new maps also include Public Land Survey System (PLSS). These data are added to the growing list of states west of the Mississippi River. PLSS is a way of subdividing and describing land in the United States. 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. Other selected states will begin getting PLSS map data during the next respective revision cycle

The new design for US Topo maps improves readability of maps for online and printed use, while retaining the look and feel of the traditional USGS topographic map. Map symbols are easy to read when the digital aerial photograph layer imagery is turned on.  

Other re-design enhancements and new features:

  • New shaded relief layer for enhanced view of the terrain
  • Military installation boundaries, post offices and cemeteries
  • New road classification
  • A slight screening (transparency) has been applied to some features to enhance visibility of multiple competing layers
  • New PDF legend attachment
  • Metadata formatted to support multiple browsers 

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 topographic maps are PDF documents with geospatial extensions (GeoPDF®) image software format and may be viewed using Adobe Reader, available as a no-cost download. 

US Topo maps are updated every three years. The initial round of the 48 conterminous state 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 the vast state. 

To download US Topo maps: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/

March 2014 US Topo map of the Moab, Utah area, 1:24,000 scale. Orthoimage layer is turned on, contour and woodland layers turned off. (Larger image) 1885 historical USGS map of the Moab, Utah area, 1:250,000 scale.. (Larger image)

Federal Aid Programs for the State of Washington Emergency Declaration

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 21:09

Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama's emergency disaster declaration issued for the State of Washington.

Assistance for the State and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:

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Categories: Federal News

President Obama Signs Washington Emergency Declaration

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 21:07

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal emergency aid has been made available to the State of Washington to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from flooding and mudslides beginning on March 22, 2014, and continuing.

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Categories: Federal News

Post-Fire Stabilization Seedings Have Not Developed Into Sage-grouse Habitat

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 09:34
Summary: The practice of emergency post-fire seeding in sagebrush landscapes of the Great Basin, which was meant to stabilize soils, has not resulted in restored habitats that would be used by greater sage-grouse according to U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Forest Service researchers who published their results today in the journal Ecosphere

Contact Information:

Susan Kemp ( Phone: 541-750-1047 ); David Pilliod ( Phone: 208-426-5202 );



BOISE — The practice of emergency post-fire seeding in sagebrush landscapes of the Great Basin, which was meant to stabilize soils, has not resulted in restored habitats that would be used by greater sage-grouse according to U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Forest Service researchers who published their results today in the journal Ecosphere.

The new study examined the habitat that was present 8-20 years after the seeding projects occurred. These aerial or rangeland drill seeding projects did not always include sagebrush seeds and were not intended to restore wildlife habitat, but instead were designed to mitigate the effects of fire on soil and vegetation. Yet they provide an opportunity to reverse habitat degradation for sage-grouse, a species being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Scientists first characterized which habitats and landscapes sage-grouse use throughout the Great Basin. Then they examined areas that had burned and were subsequently seeded with rangeland plant species between 1990 and 2003. To link the two phases of the study, the authors assessed whether vegetation conditions in rehabilitated areas were similar to the habitats used by sage-grouse.

The authors found that sage-grouse tend to use areas with a mixture of dwarf sagebrush and Wyoming big sagebrush, native grasses, minimal human development, and minimal non-native plants. This information will help land managers prioritize areas for protection from disturbance or areas for future sage-grouse specific restoration efforts.

"When we compared these vegetation and landscape conditions to those of post-wildfire rehabilitation sites, we found that the probability of sage-grouse using treated areas was low and not very different from burned areas that had not been treated," said USGS ecologist Robert Arkle, the lead author of the publication.

This is sagebrush burning at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in association with a management project located 65 miles northeast of Lakeview, OR.

Burned areas, whether treated or not, generally lacked shrubs even after 20 years, and in low elevation areas especially, non-native plants like cheatgrass were often too prevalent for burned sites to be used as sage-grouse habitat. This is important because it means that for at least 20 years following wildfire, burned areas of the Great Basin are not likely to be used by sage-grouse, regardless of emergency stabilization treatment. With this kind of time lag, a substantial amount of sage-grouse habitat is lost each year to wildfire, while gaining relatively little through natural plant succession or emergency stabilization treatments.

Published guidelines about what constitutes sage-grouse habitat also provided criteria for comparison to what the scientists observed in the seeded sites. Seeded areas met habitat guideline criteria for native grasses about half of the time, but the majority of seeding projects did not meet sagebrush or forb guideline criteria.

Some individual seeding projects did result in higher quality habitat and the authors evaluated the environmental conditions shared by these sites to determine where post-fire rehabilitation is more likely to benefit sage-grouse. Seeding projects that were most effective tended to occur in cool, moderately moist climates and also depended on post-treatment precipitation and surrounding landscape conditions.   

"This is part of a growing body of science demonstrating how difficult it is to rehabilitate sagebrush landscapes once native vegetation is lost through wildfire," said USGS ecologist David Pilliod, who co-authored the publication. "Restoration in the Great Basin is a huge challenge for land managers not only because of difficulties associated with reducing non-native plants and establishing natives, but also because of the rate at which landscapes with sagebrush and other native vegetation are lost. These habitat losses can have negative consequences for sage-grouse and other wildlife that depend on sagebrush."

The study found that even relatively small amounts of non-native plants and human development were both forms of habitat loss that affected whether sage-grouse would use particular locations.

Although these projects did not specifically target sage-grouse, they are important sage-grouse conservation opportunities, according to Arkle. This is because wildfires burn about one million acres each year in the Great Basin and 97 percent of the acres treated by these projects are in historic sage-grouse habitat.

This research was conducted in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management and the Joint Fire Science Project. Funding was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service. The study, Quantifying restoration effectiveness using multi-scale habitat models- implications for sage-grouse in the Great Basin, published in Ecosphere is an offshoot of a larger effort to assess ecological outcomes of emergency stabilization and rehabilitation projects conducted by federal land managers in the Great Basin.

FEMA Awards $2,698,523 Grant to Des Plaines: Hazard Mitigation funds will be used to acquire and demolish 21 flood prone structures

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 09:00

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved $2,698,523 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to the City of Des Plaines, Ill., for the acquisition and demolition of 21 residential structures in the Big Bend subdivision located in the Des Plaines River floodplain. Following demolition, these properties will be maintained as permanent open space in the community.

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Categories: Federal News

FEMA Awards $811,276 Grant to Hancock County: Hazard mitigation funds will be used to acquire and demolish eight flood prone structures and one vacant lot in floodplain

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 08:58

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today released $811,276 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to Hancock County, Ohio, for the acquisition and demolition of eightresidential structures and the acquisition of one vacant parcel located in the floodplain of the Blanchard River in the city of Findlay. Following demolition, these properties will be maintained as permanent open space in the community.

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Categories: Federal News

How is responding to a disaster different in the State of Alaska?

FEMA Press Releases - Thu, 03/20/2014 - 17:50

A large earthquake in Alaska, especially in winter, would require a different type of response than most areas of the nation. FEMA Region X is participating in a series of exercises that will test the ability of the federal government to respond to major disasters in Alaska.

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Categories: Federal News

The Science Behind the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 03/20/2014 - 13:00
Summary: Why does the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake Matter 50 Years Later? Scientific experts will talk about a half-century of scientific and monitoring advances triggered by the 1964 events

Contact Information:

Yvette  Gillies, USGS ( Phone: 907-786-7039 ); Susan Buchanan, NOAA ( Phone: 301-427-9000 ); Amy Hartley, UAF ( Phone: 907-474-5823 );



ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Why does the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake Matter 50 Years Later? Scientific experts will talk about a half-century of scientific and monitoring advances triggered by the 1964 events.

The 1964 earthquake occurred at a pivotal time in the history of plate tectonics theory, giving scientists a context to understand the hazards of megathrust earthquakes, and more importantly, it led to the creation of modern national programs to reduce risk from earthquakes and tsunamis. 

What:

Press conference on the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami — the science behind the earthquake and tsunami, what we learned from the events, and how we are better prepared today for similar natural hazards.

 

Who:

Peter Haeussler, Research Geologist and Alaska Coordinator for Earthquake Hazards, U.S. Geological Survey

Paul Whitmore, Director, NOAA National Tsunami Warning Center

Michael West, State Seismologist, Director, Alaska Earthquake Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks

 

When:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 10:00 a.m. Alaska time

 

Where:

U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center
Leslie Holland-Bartels Main Conference Room #206
Glenn Olds Building
4210 University Drive
Anchorage, Alaska 

An audio bridge will be available for remote participation:  703-648-4848, (or toll free 855-547-8255) Security code: 77680#

Resources for the news media, including links to videos, photos, and a fact sheet are available on the USGS "1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami" website

North Atlantic May Be a New Route for Spread of Avian Flu to North America

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 17:10
Summary: The North Atlantic region is a newly discovered important pathway for avian influenza to move between Europe and North America, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report published today

Contact Information:

Gail Moede Rogall ( Phone: 608-270-2438 ); Marisa Lubeck ( Phone: 303-202-4765 );



A. Arrows show generalized movements of birds in particular flyways. Red arrows show general movements in the East Atlantic Flyway and yellow arrows show general movement in the North American Atlantic Flyway. Most birds use only portions of the flyways, which are determined mostly by species and by origin of breeding populations.

B. Red dots show the locations of where birds were sampled in the study. Reykjavik is shown for reference. Samples from some locations (Breiðafjörður and Selfoss) were obtained over a larger area than shown because samples were provided by hunters and fishermen within the region. (High resolution image)

The North Atlantic region is a newly discovered important pathway for avian influenza to move between Europe and North America, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report published today.

USGS scientists and Icelandic partners found avian flu viruses from North America and Europe in migratory birds in Iceland, demonstrating that the North Atlantic is as significant as the North Pacific in being a melting pot for birds and avian flu. A great number of wild birds from Europe and North America congregate and mix in Iceland's wetlands during migration, where infected birds could transmit avian flu viruses to healthy birds from either location.

By crossing the Atlantic Ocean this way, avian flu viruses from Europe could eventually be transported to the United States. This commingling could also lead to the evolution of new influenza viruses. These findings are critical for proper surveillance and monitoring of flu viruses, including the H5N1 avian influenza that can infect humans.

"None of the avian flu viruses found in our study are considered harmful to humans," said Robert Dusek, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. "However, the results suggest that Iceland is an important location for the study of avian flu and is worthy of special attention and monitoring."

The study also highlighted the new finding that gulls play an important role in moving avian flu viruses across the North Atlantic.

During the spring and autumn of 2010 and autumn of 2011, the USGS researchers and Icelandic partners collected avian influenza viruses from gulls and waterfowl in southwest and west Iceland (see map). By studying the virus’ genomes — an organism’s hereditary information — the researchers found that some viruses came from Eurasia and some originated in North America. They also found viruses with mixed American-Eurasian lineages.   

"For the first time, avian influenza viruses from both Eurasia and North America were documented at the same location and time," said Jeffrey Hall, USGS co-author and principal investigator on this study. "Viruses are continually evolving, and this mixing of viral strains sets the stage for new types of avian flu to develop."

The partners on the new study include the Southwest Iceland Nature Research Institute, the University of Iceland's Snaefellsnes Research Centre, the University of Minnesota and the J. Craig Venter Institute. This study was funded by the USGS and the National Institute of Health’s Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance.

The report was published today in the journal PLOS ONE and is available online.

For more information on avian influenza research, please visit the USGS National Wildlife Health Center website.

Bighorn Sheep on A Desert Island: Been There, Dung That

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 17:05
Summary: In a finding authors are coining an "unintentional rewilding," scientists identified a cave dung deposit as belonging to bighorn sheep that became extinct on a desert island sometime between the 6th and the 20th century

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 ); Julio Betancourt ( Phone: 703-648-5840 );



In a finding authors are coining an "unintentional rewilding," scientists identified a cave dung deposit as belonging to bighorn sheep that became extinct on a desert island sometime between the 6th and the 20th century.

The unintentional rewilding occurred when in 1975 wildlife biologists introduced 16 female and 4 male bighorn sheep to Tiburón Island, the largest island in the Gulf of California. Today, the population numbers more than 500 individuals.

A team from the University of California-Riverside, the U.S. Geological Survey, Oregon State University, and East Tennessee State University discuss this non-native rewilding on Tiburón Island, located in the Gulf of California, in this week's PLOS ONE. Ben Wilder, Ph.D. Candidate of UC-Riverside and the lead author of the study, accidentally discovered the 1500-1600 year-old, urine-cemented dung mat on the floor of a small cave in the Sierra Kunkaak, a rugged mountain range of the eastern side of the island.

After comparing the pellets with an extensive collection of dung for both living and extinct herbivores, researchers determined that bighorn sheep formed the dung mat. The ancient sequences exactly matched DNA sequences from modern desert bighorn sheep, and differed substantially from other large herbivores that might have been present.

Until this discovery, there was no knowledge on whether or not bighorn sheep had previously occurred on the island.  

"It's a very clear result," said Clinton Epps, a co-author and a conservation geneticist at Oregon State University. "Furthermore, the sequences are not identical to the modern bighorn populations on Tiburón Island - so we are confident that the sequences do not derive from modern use of the cave by introduced bighorn sheep."

Julio Betancourt, a USGS paleoecologist and co-author of the study, has previously collaborated with geneticists to extract and sequence ancient DNA from cave deposits. Betancourt thinks that, in the future, "molecular caving will become more than an afterthought in arid lands paleoecology."

Michael Hofreiter of the University of Potsdam, a leading authority in ancient DNA research and editor of the paper, notes that, "Given the ongoing progress in paleogenomics and DNA sequencing, it will soon be possible to sequence full genomes from samples like the one recovered from Tiburón island, compare those to genomes from various extant populations and thereby identify the population that is most suitable for reintroduction in a certain area."

The goal of the 1975 re-introduction was use a safe site to foster a large, breeding population that could be used in restocking the mainland, where historic land use decimated native bighorn sheep populations. A controversial aspect of the Tiburón experiment is that it introduced what was then presumed to be a non-native herbivore into a fragile island ecosystem with a unique desert flora.

Wilder said he hopes that these findings will trigger more systematic studies of recent colonization and extinction events throughout these islands and elsewhere to help guide conservation efforts.

The study, "Local extinction and unintentional rewilding of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) on a desert island," was authored by Benjamin T. Wilder, Julio L. Betancourt, Clinton W. Epps; others, and was published this week in PLOS One.

How Valuable is Nature?

USGS Newsroom Technical - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 13:18
Summary: A new method of viewing how humans and the natural environment impact each other is now available. ARIES (Artificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services), one of the first methods to seamlessly integrate spatial data, modeling, and mapping, adopts a convention for evaluating ecosystem services that places society’s needs and natural processes on equal footing.  A New Strategy to Assess Human-Nature Relationships

Contact Information:

Heidi  Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );



A new method of viewing how humans and the natural environment impact each other is now available. ARIES (Artificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services), one of the first methods to seamlessly integrate spatial data, modeling, and mapping, adopts a convention for evaluating ecosystem services that places society’s needs and natural processes on equal footing. 

A new U.S. Geological Survey article published recently in PLOS ONE outlines the ARIES framework and how it can aid in better understanding nature’s value to society — today and under future scenarios for climate and land use change, energy and minerals extraction, water resources management, natural hazard impacts, and natural resource conservation. 

"This methodological advance is designed to integrate diverse data and models more quickly and accurately, using principles from semantic meta-modeling and big data," said Ken Bagstad, USGS researcher and contributing author of the paper. "This is not just another tool for environmental assessment, but rather a new and different way to look at the linkages between people, nature, and the economy." 

The ARIES methodology has been in development since 2007 and used in case studies since 2010. A variety of government and academic partners have contributed to its development, including the USGS, Basque Centre for Climate Change, University of Vermont, Conservation International and Earth Economics. 

Five Months Remain Before Montgomery County, TX Flood Maps Become Final

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 12:03

DENTON, Texas –– New flood maps for specific areas of Montgomery County, Texas will become effective five months from now, on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Local and federal officials encourage everyone in the county to view the maps to understand their flood risk and consider buying flood insurance before then.

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Categories: Federal News

Five Months Remain Before Travis County, TX Flood Maps Become Final

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 12:00

DENTON, Texas –– New maps for specific areas of Travis County, Texas will become effective on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Local and federal officials encourage everyone in the affected area to view the maps to understand their flood risk and consider buying flood insurance before then.

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Categories: Federal News

Invasive Burmese Pythons Are Good Navigators and Can Find Their Way Home

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 08:00
Summary: Invasive Burmese pythons in South Florida are able to find their way home even when moved far away from their capture locations, a finding that has implications for the spread of the species Implications For Spread

Contact Information:

Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 ); Bill  Giduz ( Phone: 704-894-2244 );



Reporters: Photos, b-roll, and FAQs available online

Everglades National Park, Fla.— Invasive Burmese pythons in South Florida are able to find their way home even when moved far away from their capture locations, a finding that has implications for the spread of the species.

 A multi-organizational team of scientists found that when six Burmese pythons were relocated 13-22 miles from their capture locations, the snakes headed straight back home, navigating to within 3 miles of their original capture locations in Everglades National Park.

"Previous studies have shown that many snakes lack the ability to home, yet this study provides evidence that Burmese pythons are capable of homing after they have been displaced --- and they are able to do so at a scale previously undocumented for any snake species," said Shannon Pittman, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Davidson College in North Carolina. "Understanding this large-scale navigational ability is critical to understanding the ability of Burmese pythons to expand their geographic range," Pittman added.

To find your way home requires a map sense on the part of the animal, which allows the animal to determine its position in relation to a goal; and a compass sense, which requires access to a reliable compass to maintain orientation toward the goal. The relocated snakes moved faster and straighter than snakes that were not relocated, demonstrating that Burmese pythons have navigational map and compass senses.

The relocated snakes also appeared to use local cues from their release site to determine their position relative to home. Potential cues underlying the map sense in pythons may be olfactory or magnetic that change predictably through space. The compass aspect of their navigational ability could be accomplished through the use of magnetic, celestial, olfactory or polarized light cues, all of which generate a reliable compass sense.

"The snakes maintained their oriented movement over the course of a relatively long time, between 94 and 296 days," said Kristen Hart, a USGS researcher and study coauthor. "This indicates that not only do pythons keep their long-term movement goal in mind, but also that they were highly motivated to get back home."

These findings have implications for management and conservation of the species, the study authors emphasized.  Animals that are adept at navigating and homing are better able to exploit resources that are relatively far away, widely spaced or seasonally variable. These abilities also reduce risks associated with searching potentially hostile or unfamiliar areas because the dispersing snakes can always return to a safe location.  

"Understanding navigation in invasive species improves the ability to control populations and limit dispersion," said Hart.  "For example, the fine-tuned navigational capacity that the pythons exhibited may lower their risk when they move to and explore new areas."

This research is useful for resource managers because it has implications for python movement behavior at the edges of the invasion front where there is a need for containment, Pittman said.

"Invasive exotic reptiles continue to challenge agencies charged with protecting the health of south Florida ecosystems," said Everglades National Park Superintendent Dan Kimball.  "Continued research like this on the invasive exotic Burmese python is critical so that we can make better informed management decisions and move closer to containment of this species that has adapted to this environment."

The invasive Burmese python is an apex predator in the Everglades that became established in Florida several decades ago.  The largest snakes removed from the Everglades have exceeded 18 feet and 150 pounds.  Snakes of this size are capable of ingesting large prey like adult deer and alligators.

 "Homing of invasive Burmese pythons is South Florida: evidence for map and compass senses in snakes" by S.E. Pittman, K.M. Hart, M.S. Cherkiss, R.W. Snow, I. Fujisaki, B.J. Smith, F.J. Mazzotti, and M.E. Dorcas, is published in the journal Biology Letters.  The study can be accessed online.  

Disaster Fraud: Filing A False Claim With FEMA is a Felony

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 03/18/2014 - 11:15

LINCROFT, N.J -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s primary mission is to help citizens and first responders prepare for, respond to and recover from all manner of disasters. To that end, FEMA takes the disbursement of necessary funds to the proper parties very seriously.

People who intentionally try to defraud the government are taking money away from those who truly need assistance. FEMA must ensure that taxpayer dollars go only to people who incurred legitimate losses. This may include prosecuting anyone who makes a fraudulent claim.

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Categories: Federal News

Bacteria No Match for Deep Floridan Aquifer

USGS Newsroom Technical - Tue, 03/11/2014 - 11:00
Summary: ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.-- A first of its kind study has the potential to impact future regulatory decisions on disinfection practices for water prior to its recharge or following its storage in the Floridan Aquifer. New USGS study assesses the fate of coliform bacteria in recharged water

Contact Information:

John  Lisle ( Phone: 727-502-8140 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.-- A first of its kind study has the potential to impact future regulatory decisions on disinfection practices for water prior to its recharge or following its storage in the Floridan Aquifer.

The U.S Geological Survey report found that coliform bacteria die off faster in a regional aquifer system than was previously known, though a small percentage survives. One of the state's regulatory criteria for ensuring the quality of recharged water is whether it contains coliform bacteria.

Aquifer storage and recovery facilities have been used in Florida for about 30 years to store large volumes of water over long periods of time, increasing water supply during seasonal and multi-year droughts. Potable water, treated and untreated groundwater, partially treated surface water and reclaimed water is recharged into zones of the Floridan Aquifer and later recovered when needed.

"Although it is commonly believed that bacteria are few in number and mostly inactive in the lower zones of the Floridan aquifer system, we found relatively high numbers of bacteria that are alive and active," said USGS microbiologist, John Lisle. "However, when we looked specifically at coliform bacteria, we found that they died off at higher rates in the aquifer than was previously known." Understanding that coliform bacteria die off faster than previously known has the potential to shape the standards or monitoring requirements that are set.

In addition to the coliform die off data, this study is the first to characterize both the geochemistry and natural microbial ecology of the Floridan Aquifer and how they influence groundwater quality. It provides a baseline that can be used to enhance geochemical models that predict changes in groundwater quality following any type of recharge event.

"Characterization of native bacterial communities in aquifers is important because of the direct connection between some groundwater quality variables and bacterial activities. Groundwater bacteria catalyze geochemical reactions under conditions that can be significantly different within the same aquifer," said June Mirecki, a hydrogeologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "Fundamental studies, like this study, have significant implications for truly understanding the fate of contaminants in aquifers targeted for aquifer storage, carbon sequestration and deep well injection."

The Floridan Aquifer flows southward at between 800-3,000 feet below the ground. It is among the most productive groundwater sources in the U.S. The upper zones of the Floridan aquifer are used as a drinking water source, while the lower zones, like those in this study, have been targeted for the recharge of treated surface water and reclaimed water and carbon sequestration repositories.

The fate of coliform bacteria injected into the lower zones of the Floridan Aquifer was studied as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The study was done in cooperation with the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The full report "Survival of Bacterial Indicators and the Functional Diversity of Native and Microbial Communities in the Floridan Aquifer, South Florida" by John T. Lisle is available online. 

New Permafrost… But is it Permanent?

USGS Newsroom Technical - Mon, 03/10/2014 - 09:52
Summary: A recent USGS-led study shows new, recently-formed patches of permafrost in one of Alaska's retreating lakes, a finding that, at first glance, would seem at odds with prevailing theories about arctic climate.

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 );



A recent USGS-led study shows new, recently-formed patches of permafrost in one of Alaska's retreating lakes, a finding that, at first glance, would seem at odds with prevailing theories about arctic climate.

Widespread lake shrinkage in discontinuous regions of permafrost has been linked to climate warming and shallow permafrost thaw.  Counter-intuitively, USGS scientists have observed newly forming permafrost around Twelvemile Lake in interior Alaska, where lake water level has dropped by several meters over the past three decades.

"Central Alaskan lake shrinkage may be caused by shallow permafrost changes and not by increasing deep aquifer connections," said Martin A. Briggs, USGS, lead author of the study. "Newly formed permafrost along the shores of shrinking lakes may reduce groundwater outflow and allow them to refill."

Permafrost, or frozen ground lasting at least two consecutive years, typically forms in colder climates when average annual temperatures remain close to or below freezing. Permafrost soils accumulate ice and plant material and can impede groundwater flow. While the upper 1-2 meters may thaw seasonally, frozen soil and dead plant material continues to accumulate at depth over thousands of years, depending on the strength and duration of the colder climate.

During periods of thaw, water and gases are released from their frozen pockets of ice. By understanding permafrost thaw, its degradation in a warming climate, and its impacts on ecosystems and society, managers will be able to plan for rising global temperatures, and climate change. New permafrost formation should also be considered as a possibility in some systems.

This study considered ecological succession, the pattern of vegetation regrowth, within the receded lake margin as the driver of new permafrost through alterations in ground shading and water infiltration. This hypothesis was tested by modeling variably saturated groundwater flow and heat transport under freeze-thaw conditions.

The simulations supported new permafrost development under current climatic conditions, when the net changes effects of woody vegetation are considered, thus pointing to the role of ecological succession.

"Large lake level swings due to shallow permafrost thaw and subsequent refreezing due to ecological succession may be an important natural cycle," said Briggs. "However, in the long term, model simulations projected into the future to reflect even moderate climate warming indicate new permafrost around similar lake sites will stop forming and recede within seven decades, possibly ending the current natural cycle of lake level waning and waxing."

In summary, the findings in this study highlight the importance of vegetation succession in promoting permafrost regeneration in a lake system near the Arctic Circle, which is highly sensitive to subtle soil temperature changes.

This study was conducted by team of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and was published in the journal of Geophysical Research Letters.

Female Coyotes Can Have Mixed Wolf-Coyote Pups

USGS Newsroom Technical - Wed, 02/26/2014 - 18:25
Summary: Scientists have successfully produced hybrid pups between a male western gray wolf and a female western coyote in captivity.   Is the Eastern Wolf a Valid Species?

Contact Information:

David Mech ( Phone: 651-649-5231 ); Marisa Lubeck ( Phone: 303-202-4765 );



Scientists have successfully produced hybrid pups between a male western gray wolf and a female western coyote in captivity.  

By artificially inseminating a female western coyote with western gray wolf sperm, U.S. Geological Survey scientists and partners from the St. Louis Zoo, University of California, Davis, and Wildlife Science Center recently demonstrated that coyotes are able to bear and nurture healthy hybrid offspring. The results contribute new information to an ongoing question about whether the eastern wolf of southeastern Canada (and formerly of the eastern U.S.) is a unique species that could be protected by the U. S. Endangered Species Act. The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

"Our study adds one more piece to the ongoing controversy over whether the eastern wolf is a valid species," said David Mech, USGS scientist and the report's lead author.

During the 2012 and 2013 study, the scientists attempted to inseminate nine captive western coyotes with sperm from eight different gray wolves at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center Predator Research Facility in Logan, Utah. Three coyotes became pregnant, and one successfully birthed and nursed six live, healthy pups, currently housed at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn., north of the Twin Cities.

Some geneticists have suggested recognizing the eastern wolf as a new species of wolf, and potentially adding it to the Endangered Species List. This proposal is based on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)—a type of DNA that can only be passed on to offspring by the mother—that has been found in wolves from Manitoba, Canada, through the Great Lakes into southeast Canada. Those wolves could have gotten their coyote-like mtDNA either from hybridization with coyotes or by hybridizing with the eastern wolf.  The latter view is that of the geneticists who claim that the coyote-like mtDNA is from the eastern wolf, which is closely related to the coyote.

Scientists who propose that the coyote-like mtDNA came from female coyotes that bred with male, western wolves long ago believe that the eastern wolf is merely a smaller race of the wolf of the West.

The new USGS study shows that it is at least possible for western wolf sperm to fertilize western coyote eggs and that the mother coyote can bear and raise the hybrids.

"Our findings leave the eastern wolf debate open by adding further merit to the hybrid theory rather than disproving it," Mech said. "However, the findings are applicable to captive animals and are not necessarily true under natural conditions, so the counter-hybrid theory is not disproved either."

For more information on USGS wolf research, please visit the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center website.