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Federal News

2011 Oklahoma Induced Earthquake May Have Triggered Larger Quake

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 03/06/2014 - 17:00
Summary: In a new study involving researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey, scientists observed that a human-induced magnitude 5.0 earthquake near Prague, Oklahoma in November 2011 may have triggered the larger M5.7 earthquake less than a day later

Contact Information:

Susan  Garcia ( Phone: 650-346-0998 );



PASADENA, Calif. — In a new study involving researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey, scientists observed that a human-induced magnitude 5.0 earthquake near Prague, Oklahoma in November 2011 may have triggered the larger M5.7 earthquake less than a day later. This research suggests that the M5.7 quake was the largest human-caused earthquake associated with wastewater injection.

"The observation that a human-induced earthquake can trigger a cascade of earthquakes, including a larger one, has important implications for reducing the seismic risk from wastewater injection," said USGS seismologist and coauthor of the study Elizabeth Cochran.

Historically, earthquakes in the central United States have been uncommon. Yet in the year 2011 alone, numerous moderate-size earthquakes occurred in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio and Arkansas.  Many of these earthquakes occurred near waste-water injection wells, and some have been shown to be caused by human activities.

The 2011 Oklahoma earthquake sequence included the November 6, 2011, M5.7 earthquake that ruptured a part of the Wilzetta fault system, a complex fault zone about 200 km (124 mi) in length near Prague, Oklahoma.  Less than 24 hours prior to the M5.7 earthquake, a M5.0 foreshock occurred on November 5, 2011.  That foreshock occurred near active waste-water disposal wells, and was linked in a previously published study to fluid injection in those wells.  The earthquakes have not been directly linked to hydrofracturing. 

The research published this week suggests that the foreshock, by increasing stresses where M5.7 mainshock ruptured, may have triggered the mainshock, which in turn, triggered thousands of aftershocks along the Wilzetta fault system, including a M5.0 aftershock on November 8, 2011. If this hypothesis is correct, the M5.7 earthquake would be the largest and most powerful earthquake ever associated with wastewater injection.  All three earthquakes of magnitude 5.0 and greater along the Wilzetta fault exhibited strike-slip motion at three independent locations along the fault, suggesting that three separate portions of the Wilzetta fault system were activated.  

The paper, "Observations of Static Coulomb Stress Triggering of the November 2011 M5.7 Oklahoma Earthquake Sequence," by D.F. Sumy, E.S. Cochran, K.M. Keranen, M. Wei, G.A. Abers, from the University of Southern California, USGS, Cornell University, Brown University, and the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, was published in the "Journal of Geophysical Research" this week.

Global Undiscovered Copper Resources Estimated at 3.5 Billion Metric Tons

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 03/06/2014 - 11:30
Summary: The first-ever, geologically-based global assessment of undiscovered copper resources estimates that 3.5 billion metric tons of copper may exist worldwide

Contact Information:

Diane Noserale ( Phone: 703-648-4333 ); Larry Meinert ( Phone: 703-648-6100 );



The first-ever, geologically-based global assessment of undiscovered copper resources estimates that 3.5 billion metric tons of copper may exist worldwide. The U.S. Geological Survey outlined 225 areas for undiscovered copper in 11 regions of the world.  The amount of undiscovered global copper estimated by the USGS would be enough to satisfy current world demand for more than 150 years.

According to the assessment, South America is the dominant source for both identified and undiscovered copper resources.  Particularly important, several regions of Asia including China have a large potential for undiscovered copper resources.

"This ground-breaking USGS assessment of future copper resources identifies a huge potential supply that is roughly six times greater than all the copper mined throughout human history," said Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, Anne Castle. "If enough of this copper can be developed in an environmentally responsible and economical way, it will be a boon to new manufacturing and other initiatives that rely on the availability of copper such as the Administration's energy efficiency initiative."

Copper is one of the first metals ever extracted and its first use in coins dates back to about 8000 B.C. It continues to be the material of choice for a variety of industrial needs.

"Copper is one of the building blocks of civilization and is used in almost every aspect of modern life such as plumbing, electrical wiring, cars, cell phones, and energy systems such as wind turbines. In fact, copper has become so valuable that it is even being stolen from construction sites and out of backyards," said Larry Meinert, USGS Mineral Resources Program Coordinator. 

U.S. consumption is 2 million metric tons of copper per year whereas world consumption is about 20 million metric tons per year. 

The USGS Global Copper Assessment was completed in cooperation with numerous international collaborators from national geological surveys, industry, and academia. The USGS is the principal Federal provider of research and information on nonfuel mineral resources.  

Supporting studies, including documentation of the assessment methodology, descriptions of individual tracts, and spatial data for use in geographic information systems (GIS) are available from the USGS Mineral Resources Program.  Information on production and consumption of copper as well as general information about copper is available from the USGS.

Global copper consumption. (High resolution image)

FEMA Awards $707,507 Grant to City of Carmi: Hazard mitigation funds will be used to acquire 22 flood prone structures and seven vacant lots in floodplain

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 03/05/2014 - 18:11

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today released $707,507 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds the City of Carmi, Ill., for the acquisition and demolition of 22 residential structures and the purchase of seven flood prone vacant lots located in the Little Wabash River floodplain. Following demolition, these properties will be maintained as permanent open space in the community.

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Be “Alert Savvy” to Stay Safe in Severe Weather

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 03/05/2014 - 18:07

CHICAGO - Understanding severe weather watches and warningswill help to keep you and your family safe during a disaster. FEMA and the National Weather Service (NWS) encourage everyone to learn this life-saving information and act if extreme weather threatens their area.

NWS alerts that are used to warn of severe weather, flood and tornado hazards include:

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COLORADO AND FEMA ANNOUNCE DISASTER CASE MANAGEMENT GRANT

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 03/05/2014 - 12:12

Denver – FEMA, in conjunction with the State of Colorado, announced on Tuesday that Colorado will receive a Disaster Case Management Grant in the amount of $2,667,963.  The money will be used for the Disaster Case Management Program for survivors of the devastating floods in Colorado last September.

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Severe Weather: Get the Facts. Know How to Act.

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 03/05/2014 - 11:55

CHICAGO – Do you know your tornado and severe weather risks and what to do if bad weather threatens your community? FEMA wants to make sure you’re not relying on severe weather myths when it comes to keeping your family safe.

"Severe weather can strike unexpectedly, but there are steps you can take to prepare for it,” said Andrew Velasquez III, regional administrator, FEMA Region V. "Learn your risk and what to do now so you're ready to act in dangerous weather conditions."

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Severe Weather Safety: What You Need to Know

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 18:14

CHICAGO – Severe weather can happen anytime, anywhere. <?xml:namespace prefix = o />

Spring flooding is common throughout Minnesota—whether along the Red River, Mississippi, or another one of the state’s many bodies of water. In addition, communities in Minnesota regularly face severe storms and tornadoes that leave behind costly damages for residents to recover from. Everyone should be ready for these risks.

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Keep Warm, but Beware “The Silent Killer”

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 18:06

CHICAGO – As dangerously low temperatures persist throughout the Midwest, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wants individuals and families to remain heat safe, and avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO).<?xml:namespace prefix = o />

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Severe Storm Safety: What You Need to Know

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 17:32

CHICAGO – Severe storms can happen anywhere, anytime in Illinois. <?xml:namespace prefix = o />

Last spring, extensive flooding throughout the state of Illinois resulted in more than $166 million in federal assistance to individuals for essential home repairs and clean-up. Then in November, severe storms and tornadoes left more than 1,000 homes severely damaged or destroyed throughout Illinois.

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President's 2015 Budget Proposes $1.1 Billion for the USGS

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 15:21
Summary: The President's fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey is $1.1 billion, an increase of $41.3 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. The FY 2015 Budget reflects the President's ongoing commitment to scientific discovery and innovation to support decision making in addressing critical societal needs and to support a robust economy, while protecting the health and environment of the Nation Targeted investments advance research on climate change and earth sciences to support community safety, health, and economic growth

Contact Information:

Jason Freihage ( Phone: 703-648-4145 ); Diane Noserale ( Phone: 703-648-4333 );



The President's fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey is $1.1 billion, an increase of $41.3 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. The FY 2015 Budget reflects the President's ongoing commitment to scientific discovery and innovation to support decision making in addressing critical societal needs and to support a robust economy, while protecting the health and environment of the Nation. 

The Budget includes increases totaling $76.4 million to advance key research and development priorities in the sustainable stewardship of natural resources, as identified in the USGS Science Strategy and Department of the Interior and Administration initiatives.  This includes robust funding for science to support the sustainable development of energy and mineral resources, water resources management; ecosystem restoration and management; wildlife and environmental health; and climate resilience. 

"The USGS has a strong 135-year legacy of providing reliable and relevant scientific information to decision-makers," said Suzette Kimball, Acting USGS Director. "The President's proposed budget recognizes the USGS is uniquely positioned to support our Nation's needs through multi-disciplinary earth science research. This is key for understanding our land, its resources, and our changing climate." 

Key increases in the FY 2015 Budget are summarized below. For more detailed information on the President’s 2015 budget, visit the USGS Budget, Planning, and Integration website.

Science Research, Monitoring, and Tools to Support Climate Preparedness and Resilience

The FY 2015 Budget includes $67.6 million for Climate Change Science for a Changing world, a program increase of $18.2 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. The budget provides funding to the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center/DOI Climate Science Centers Program, the Climate Research and Development Program, and the Biologic Carbon Sequestration Project for research and the development of information and tools to help communities, States, Tribes, and the Federal government understand, plan for, and respond to the impacts of global change.  Resilience in the face of a changing climate requires that the Nation prepare for an increasingly wide range in temperature and precipitation patterns, which could impact all sectors of society, infrastructure, and natural systems.  Natural resource managers and infrastructure planners face complex challenges under changing conditions such as drought, wildfire, flooding, and sea level rise. The USGS provides science necessary to inform planning and resource management strategies to help mitigate and adapt to changing conditions.

 Restoring, Protecting, and Sustainably Managing Ecosystems

The FY 2015 Budget request includes a total of $51.1 million for Ecosystem Priorities, an increase of $12.4 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. Increases in FY 2015 provide support for research and development to advance ecosystem restoration in key landscapes, such as the California Bay-Delta and the Chesapeake Bay ($1.5 million each), the Puget Sound ($1.1 million), the Columbia River ($850,000) and the Upper Mississippi River ($200,000).  These multi-disciplinary projects are designed to serve local ecosystem management needs and develop knowledge and approaches that are transferable to similar ecosystems across the nation.

Invasive plants and animals cause significant costs to society and impacts to the health of human and natural systems, including transmitting diseases, threatening fisheries, clogging waterways, increasing fire vulnerability, and adversely effecting ranchers and farmers.  Increases of $4.5 million for invasive species research focus on brown tree snakes in Guam, invasive species in the Everglades, Asian carp in the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi, and new and emerging invasive species of national concern. 

The Budget provides a number of other increases to understand and manage ecological resources in priority areas, including $500,000 for managing and restoring landscapes after wildfires and $300,000 for research on pollinators critical to ecosystem health.  The Budget provides $2.8 million for the development of critical ecosystem services tools to enable agencies to manage multiple sources of information into assessment products for land and resource management.  Efforts to engage the next generation are illustrated with a requested increase of $2.7 million for the USGS’ Earth Scientists for Tomorrow initiative, which will be carried out in partnership with the Cooperative Research Units. 

Sustainable Development of Energy Resources

The 2015 Budget provides $40.7 million for USGS research on conventional and renewable energy.  The Budget supports the responsible development of renewable and conventional energy resources, with increases of $1.3 million for geothermal energy resource assessments on Federal lands, $8.3 million for studies on hydraulic fracturing, and $500,000 on research on energy development in the Outer Continental Shelf.  The Budget supports the safe and responsible production of natural gas and cleaner energy from fossil fuels, including research and development to enable safe and responsible natural gas production.  A total of $18.6 million is provided for the USGS as part of a $48 million interagency R&D initiative aimed at understanding and minimizing potential environmental, health, and safety impacts of unconventional gas resource development and production through hydraulic fracturing.  This research is being coordinated between the USGS, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency and focuses on timely, policy-relevant science to enable prudent development while protecting human health and the environment. The development of unconventional oil and gas resources through hydraulic fracturing plays an important and rapidly growing role in the domestic energy portfolio of the Nation, and the USGS has unique capability to provide critically needed science to inform decisions. 

Water Challenges

The FY 2015 Budget provides $210.4 million for the USGS Water Mission Area, $3.1million above 2014 enacted.  The request includes $14.5 million for the WaterSMART program, which is an increase of $6.4 million above the 2014 enacted level.  As competition for water resources grows for activities like farming and energy production, so does the need for information and tools to aid water and natural resource managers.  The 2015 Budget includes an increase of $2.4 million for the groundwater-monitoring network and $2.0 million for grants to State water resource agencies to improve the availability and quality of water-use data they collect and to integrate those data with the USGS Water Census.  The Budget also proposes increases of $1.2 million to fund more than 50 streamgages in the National Streamflow Information Program, $1.0 million to expand work related to water availability issues on tribal lands, $750,000 for national hydrologic modeling for groundwater sustainability, and $700,000 to develop and improve the next generation of streamflow measurement techniques. 

Earth Observations and Data to Support Global and Landscape Scale Understanding

The 2015 Budget invests in Earth observation systems, data, and tools to support understanding and management of lands and resources on a global and landscape scale.  This includes continued funding for the operation of the Landsat satellite program, which is celebrating the anniversary of the successful launch of Landsat 8, continuing the program’s 41 year history of imaging the Earth’s surface.  In 2015, the USGS will continue to work with NASA to analyze user requirements and implement a 20-year sustained land imaging program to provide for Landsat data continuity.  Funding for the land imaging program is provided in the 2015 budget for NASA, which will be responsible for development of a sustained, space-based, global land imaging capability.  Increases in FY 2015 for the USGS will support improving the accessibility and usability of Landsat data and products, particularly in resource decision making.  

The Budget invests in numerous landscape scale earth observation and data efforts including the Federal Geospatial Platform, which provides the Nation with access to science, information, and geospatial frameworks for use in planning, natural resource management, and a myriad of other societal uses.  Reflecting the multitude of societal benefits derived from Lidar elevation data, the Budget requests a $5.2 million increase for the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) initiative as well as increased funding for collecting data and updating elevation maps in Alaska.  A $2.0 million increase will support the Big Earth Data Initiative, which is working to make scientific data collected by the Federal government easier to find and use. 

Environmental Health

The 2015 budget request proposes funding for research on the impacts of human activities that introduce chemical and pathogenic contaminants into the environment and threaten human, animal, and ecological health.  Increases proposed include $3.2 million to study the environmental impacts of uranium mining on public lands in the area of the Grand Canyon and $1.5 million to support a national assessment of 800 common and emerging contaminants in stream systems.

FEMA, NOAA To Launch Third National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 03/03/2014 - 14:21

LINCROFT, N.J. -- The third annual National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, will be held March 2-8, 2014.

This year’s theme is “Be a Force of Nature: Take the Next Step.” The nationwide effort is designed to increase awareness of severe weather and encourage individuals, families, businesses and communities to know their risk, prepare ahead of an event, and be an example to others wherever they may be.

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NOAA, FEMA: Be a Force of Nature

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 02/28/2014 - 15:31

National Severe Weather Preparedness Week March 2-8

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The National Map and National Atlas Merge

USGS Newsroom - Fri, 02/28/2014 - 11:00
Summary: During this year, National Atlas of the United States and The National Map will transition into a combined single source for geospatial and cartographic information

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Jay Donnellly ( Phone: 703-648-5395 ); Katrina  Burke ( Phone: 703-648-5155 );



During this year, National Atlas of the United States and The National Map will transition into a combined single source for geospatial and cartographic information. This transformation is projected to streamline access to maps, data and information from the USGS National Geospatial Program (NGP). This action will prioritize our civilian mapping role and consolidate core investments while maintaining top-quality customer service.  

The USGS will continue its long history of providing topographic maps, geospatial data and other geographic information by offering a range of scales and layers of geospatial information on The National Map Viewer and through US Topo maps.  As a result of the conversion to an integrated single source for geospatial and cartographic information, nationalatlas.gov will be removed from service on September 30, 2014. 

"We recognize how important it is for citizens to have access to the cartographic and geographic information of our nation.  We are committed to providing that access through nationalmap.gov", said Mark DeMulder, NGP Director.  

"We value the National Atlas customers and stakeholders and want to make this transition as easy as possible," explained Jay Donnelly, the National Atlas Program Manager. "We will post updates to The National Map and National Atlas Websites as this transition unfolds, including information on the future availability of the products and services currently delivered by nationalatlas.gov." 

Further information is available at:  http://nationalatlas.gov/transitionfaq.html

25 Years After the Exxon Valdez, Sea Otter Population at Pre-Spill Levels

USGS Newsroom - Fri, 02/28/2014 - 11:00
Summary: Nearly 25 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill injured wildlife off the coast of Alaska, a new report issued today by the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that sea otters have returned to pre-spill numbers within the most heavily oiled areas of Prince William Sound

Contact Information:

Yvette  Gillies ( Phone: 907-786-7039 );



Sea otter in kelp. Photograph by Benjamin Weitzman, U.S. Geological Survey. (High resolution image)

ANCHORAGE— Nearly 25 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill injured wildlife off the coast of Alaska, a new report issued today by the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that sea otters have returned to pre-spill numbers within the most heavily oiled areas of Prince William Sound.

Sea otters in the path of the oil incurred heavy mortality when 42 million liters of Prudhoe Bay crude oil were spilled in Prince William Sound in March 1989, with an estimated loss of several thousand otters. Through long-term data collection and analysis, scientists found that sea otters were slow to recover, likely because of chronic exposure to lingering oil. Other studies documented persistence of oil in the sea otter’s intertidal feeding habitats. 

"Although recovery timelines varied widely among species, our work shows that recovery of species vulnerable to long-term effects of oil spills can take decades," said lead author of the study, Brenda Ballachey, research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "For sea otters, we began to see signs of recovery in the years leading up to 2009, two decades after the spill, and the most recent results from 2011 to 2013 are consistent with recovery as defined by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council."

Scientists assessed recovery by estimating the number of living sea otters based on aerial surveys and comparing that to pre-spill numbers. They also collected carcasses of otters that had died in the spill area. Carcasses were evaluated to determine how old sea otters were when they died. Historically, and prior to the spill, most dead otters were either very old or very young, but following the spill, more middle-aged otters were dying as well. The ages of dead animals has now returned to the pre-spill pattern.

Recovery also was assessed using studies to detect oil exposure using gene expression as a biochemical indicator. The most recent genetic evidence suggested a reduction in oil exposure since 2008.

Scientists concluded that the status of sea otters in western Prince William Sound is now consistent with the criteria established for population recovery set by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.

The sea otter was one of more than 20 nearshore species considered to have been injured by the spill.

The publication "2013 update on sea otter studies to assess chronic injury from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, Prince William Sound, Alaska" is available online. 

Burmese Pythons Pose Little Risk to People in Everglades

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 14:30
Summary: The estimated tens of thousands of Burmese pythons now populating the Everglades present a low risk to people in the park, according to a new assessment by U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service scientists

Contact Information:

Bob  Reed ( Phone: 970-226-9230 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



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

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. -- The estimated tens of thousands of Burmese pythons now populating the Everglades present a low risk to people in the park, according to a new assessment by U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service scientists.

The human risk assessment looked at five incidents that involved humans and Burmese pythons over a 10-year period in Everglades National Park. All five incidents involved pythons striking at biologists who were conducting research in flooded wetlands.

"Visitor and staff safety is always our highest priority at Everglades National Park," said Superintendent Dan Kimball. "Everglades, as many other national parks, draws many thousands of visitors for the opportunity to view the wildlife that live here in a natural setting.  Our guidance to visitors with respect to Burmese pythons is the same as for our native wildlife -- please maintain a safe distance and don't harass the wildlife.  With respect to controlling Burmese pythons, we are working diligently with our state, federal, tribal, and local partners to manage this invasive species and educate the public on the importance of not letting invasive species loose in the wild."

Although there have been numerous bites to people provoking Burmese pythons by attempting to capture or kill the snakes, this study examined only unprovoked strikes directed at people.

"The strikes did not appear to be defensive, but were more likely were associated with aborted feeding behavior," said USGS wildlife biologist and herpetologist Bob Reed, the lead author of the study. "Pythons usually direct defensive strikes at the front of a person, not from the side or rear, as all of these strikes were. Additionally, Burmese pythons rely on being secretive and evading detection as their primary means of avoiding interactions with people, and typically don’t strike until provoked."

The biologists did not detect any of the snakes before the strikes occurred, making it even more likely that the attacks were related to feeding and not defense, Reed noted. Two of the attacks resulted in very minor injuries from the pythons’ teeth and none involved constriction.

Reed and his co-author, retired Everglades National Park scientist Skip Snow, consider the attacks as cases of mistaken identity. In four of five cases the python was small compared to the size of the person, which resulted in the snake likely aborting the attack upon realizing the large size of its prey. Aborting strikes before actual bites with the possible prey indicates that pythons may be able to assess the size of the prey mid-strike and adjust accordingly, the study said.

Although the pythons’ threat to people is low, previous studies have shown that this invasive snake species is having a negative effect on many of the native mammals in the South Florida Everglades. One study suggests the population of raccoons, opossums, and bobcats have declined significantly in the regions of Everglades National Park where pythons have been established the longest.

More than one million people visit Everglades National Park every year, often traveling along hiking and canoeing trails where Burmese pythons have been spotted or captured. Despite this close interaction, the study noted that none of the reported incidents involved a park visitor.  All of the incidents were directed at biologists moving through remote and flooded areas of the park

"As people wade through shallow water, they produce ripples that move ahead of them, and these pressure waves may be detectable to a motionless snake in ambush posture," said Reed. "We speculate that detecting these changes in water pressure may alert a python that an animal is approaching, perhaps priming it to strike immediately when a potential prey item is detected."

Burmese pythons became established in Florida several decades ago as a result of the international pet trade. 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 deer and alligators.

This human risk assessment concluded that although the risk of an unprovoked attack by a Burmese python in Everglades National Park is low, it is not non-existent. Available evidence from captive snakes suggests that even those strikes that result from cases of mistaken identity or defensive behavior may still result in constriction, which can prove fatal to people when a large python or a small human is involved.

The study focused only on the risk associated with Burmese pythons, but did not address other invasive constrictor species, such as the Northern African python, which is also known as the African Rock python, which are also known to be established and breeding in South Florida outside of Everglades National Park. USGS scientists continue to work with partners to better understand the impacts on invasive reptiles in the Everglades, help reduce their spread into new areas and help prevent new species from becoming established.

"Assessing risks to humans from invasive Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park, Florida, USA" by Robert Reed and Skip Snow is published online in the Wildlife Society Bulletin. 

FEMA Region 6 Supports National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

FEMA Press Releases - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 13:42

DENTON, Texas – Spring storm season is just around the corner, so now is the time to prepare. With that in mind, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Region 6 office is proud to support National Severe Weather Preparedness Week which runs from March 2-8, 2014.

National Severe Weather Preparedness Week is sponsored by FEMA and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). It is designed to increase awareness of potential severe weather events and to encourage people and communities to know their risks, take action and be an example.

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Pollutants Pose Threat to Mekong River Residents

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 11:30
Summary: Portions of the Mekong River Basin contain hotspots of persistent organic pollutants that pose a significant threat to the residents and wildlife of the Mekong Basin, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study

Contact Information:

Gabrielle Bodin ( Phone: 337-266-8655 ); Scott  Wilson ( Phone: 337-266-8644 );



LAFAYETTE, La. – Portions of the Mekong River Basin contain hotspots of persistent organic pollutants that pose a significant threat to the residents and wildlife of the Mekong Basin, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.

A research team comprised of members from the University Network for Wetland Research and Training in the Mekong Region, the International Crane Foundation and the USGS found that the total loading of persistent organic pollutants in wetland sediments of the Mekong Basin was generally low, but hotspot sites occurred where concentrations exceeded established ecological risk thresholds. Team members from the University Network are providing the results to officials within their own countries so they can determine how to address the issues.

"The overall results of this study provide crucial baseline data that will guide future development and conservation efforts in the Mekong Basin," said Scott Wilson of the USGS National Wetlands Research Center and co-author of the study. "Future work will focus on the classification and distribution of wetlands in the Mekong River Basin, an investigation into heavy metal contamination, and surface elevation monitoring in the coastal area of Southeast Asia."

Persistent organic pollutants are not readily biodegradable and are known to induce a variety of toxic effects in humans and other organisms. In humans, adverse health effects related to reproductive, developmental, behavioral, neurologic, endocrine, and immunologic processes have been linked to exposure. Since persistent organic pollutants do not degrade easily, they can persist in the environment for long periods of time. The pollutants come from agricultural pesticides, industrial pollutants, and other unintentional by-products. This study focused primarily on persistent organic pollutants used in agricultural practices.

The persistent organic pollutants accumulate in the fatty tissue of fish, amphibians, snakes and water birds that make up a large portion of the local population's diet.  Animals tested in some hotspots, such as the Tonle Sap, are known to have high levels of bioaccumulation.

The international team looked at 531 samples from approximately 450 wetlands across five countries in Southeast Asia and analyzed them for 39 persistent organic pollutants -- in this case organochlorines and PCBs.  

"Conducting quality science at this spatial scale requires intimate knowledge of local areas," said Wilson. "This effort could only be completed with the help of local universities, regional organizations like the International Crane Foundation, and the interdisciplinary science program of agencies like USGS."

Results showed that the use of DDT, a known persistent organic pollutant that has been banned in the study countries, has declined in the region, however, some wetland hotspots were found that contain levels of DDT above established risk thresholds and even suggest continued illegal use. The concentration and distribution of endosulfan, a chemical being phased out in the U.S. and other parts of the world, and its metabolites were also studied and represent a serious problem that requires further study and management action in the Mekong River Basin.

The USGS study, "Persistent Organic Pollutants in Wetlands of the Mekong Basin," was initiated by the U.S. Department of State and was prepared in cooperation with the University Network for Wetland Research and Training in the Mekong Region and the International Crane Foundation.

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.

FEMA Awards $1,643,411 Grant to Pearl City: Hazard mitigation funds will be used to acquire and demolish 23 flood prone structures

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 02/26/2014 - 15:32

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released $1,643,411 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to Pearl City, Ill., for the acquisition and demolition of 19 residential and four commercial structures located in the floodplain of Yellow Creek. <?xml:namespace prefix = o />

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Fire Departments in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas Receive Millions in FEMA Preparedness Grants

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 02/25/2014 - 16:13

DENTON, Texas — Fire departments in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas have been awarded more than $7.5 million in preparedness grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

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