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Crude Oil Byproducts in Groundwater Plumes

Thu, 03/31/2016 - 13:50
Summary: A new study suggests that the degraded breakdown products of oil-spill contaminants in groundwater could be just as important to monitor as the original contamination itself.

Contact Information:

Leslie  Gordon ( Phone: 650-329-4006 );



A new study suggests that the degraded breakdown products of oil-spill contaminants in groundwater could be just as important to monitor as the original contamination itself.

At sites where crude oil or petroleum hydrocarbon fuel spills have occurred and contaminants have entered groundwater, naturally occurring microbes in the soil can digest or break down the original crude oil, producing byproducts known as metabolites. The metabolites are more soluble in groundwater than the parent compounds and are transported from the original source forming a groundwater plume.

Results of a recent U.S. Geological Survey study suggest that at oil-spill sites where residual sources are present, the monitoring of metabolites or breakdown products may be an important part of an effective evaluation of the fate and effects of groundwater contaminant plumes.

The study of two crude-oil spill sites in Minnesota focused on the occurrence and fate of the combination of all dissolved organic carbon metabolites in existing contaminant plumes. Contaminants such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are commonly found in groundwater plumes from crude oil. It was the metabolites of those contaminants as well as the less soluble components of the crude oil – the biodegradation products of the original oil contaminants – that were studied.

Scientists discovered concentrations of oil breakdown products at greater concentrations than the typical regulated-compound concentrations. These types of crude-oil metabolites in groundwater plumes at the two sites are not covered by regulatory monitoring and reporting requirements in Minnesota and other states. Yet at study sites where the spilled oil is still present, the total concentration of metabolites can exceed the concentrations of regulated compounds by one to two orders of magnitude. In addition to possible concerns about toxicity, these plumes of metabolites can slow the biodegradation of other compounds in the contaminant plume.

“We compiled 20 years of monitoring data to understand the occurrence of the metabolites relative to other regulated crude-oil contaminants,” said USGS hydrologist and lead author of the study, Barbara Bekins. “Concentrations of the regulated crude oil compounds are one-third to one-half of the total concentration of the metabolites found in groundwater at our study sites. The values of the metabolites are 10 times higher than benzene and two to three times higher than the standard regulatory measure of diesel-like compounds in the same wells. Monitoring data show that the plume of metabolites is expanding more rapidly than the benzene plume.”

“Metabolites of hydrocarbon degradation, such as those found at these crude oil spill sites, are also common at sites contaminated by other fuels such as gasoline leaks and spills,” said USGS co-author Isabelle Cozzarelli.

“This analysis was possible because of USGS scientists’ long-term monitoring of hydrocarbon degradation progression. Long-term collection of hydrologic and geochemical measurements is the foundation of USGS science. This study is a great example of the application of science to inform potential regulatory process updates,” said USGS groundwater specialist and co-author Melinda Erickson.

This new research, “Crude oil metabolites in groundwater at two spill sites,” published in the journal “Groundwater,” is available online.

USGS Seeks National Ground-Water Monitoring Network Proposals 2016 Round II

Wed, 03/30/2016 - 15:01
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey will award up to $4 million in cooperative agreements to support participation in the National Ground-Water Monitoring Network (NGWMN). 

Contact Information:

Daryll Pope ( Phone: 609-771-3933 ); Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



The U.S. Geological Survey will award up to $4 million in cooperative agreements to support participation in the National Ground-Water Monitoring Network (NGWMN). 

The USGS is working with the Federal Advisory Committee on Water Information’s (ACWI) Subcommittee on Ground Water (SOGW) to develop and administer the NGWMN.  The NGWMN is designed as a cooperative groundwater data collection, management, and reporting system that will be based on data from selected wells in existing Federal, State, Tribal, and local groundwater monitoring networks. The Network is envisioned as a long-term collaborative partnership among Federal and non-Federal data providers that will help address present and future groundwater management questions facing the nation.

Cooperative agreements will provide support for both new and existing data providers in the NGWMN. The USGS will fund new data providers to select and classify sites within existing monitoring programs, to set up web services that will link the data to the NGWMN Portal, and to produce a report describing this process. Existing data providers will receive funds to maintain web services and keep site information current. Data providers may also receive funding to collect data to improve site information, to maintain wells, and to drill new or replacement Network wells. Information about the cooperative agreements is available on the NGWMN Cooperative Agreements page.

Interested agencies may apply online at GRANTS.GOV under funding opportunity number G16AS00043. Applications will be accepted from March 30, 2016 through May 31, 2016. 

Two Webinars are scheduled to review the application package and answer any question about the opportunity. These are scheduled for April 13th at 1 pm EDT and May 3rd at 2 pm EDT. Registration for the webinars is required. After your registration is accepted, you will receive meeting information. You may register for the webinars at:

April 13th

https://usgs.webex.com/usgs/j.php?RGID=rab7917828b342cb451207fd2882f537f 

May 3rd

https://usgs.webex.com/usgs/j.php?RGID=ref1581be2ef44f102d46946e0b0dc5d0 

Special Review and Webinar Showcase Critical Minerals Research at USGS

Wed, 03/30/2016 - 09:00
Summary: Scientists studying rare earth and critical elements now have a solid foundation for future research, as detailed in a special volume of the Society of Economic Geologists. This review volume, featuring several papers authored and co-authored by the U.S. Geological Survey, provides a comprehensive review of the current state of knowledge for rare earth and critical elements in ore deposits.

Contact Information:

Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 );



Scientists studying rare earth and critical elements now have a solid foundation for future research, as detailed in a special volume of the Society of Economic Geologists. This review volume, featuring several papers authored and co-authored by the U.S. Geological Survey, provides a comprehensive review of the current state of knowledge for rare earth and critical elements in ore deposits.

In addition, on March 30th at 1:00 PM EDT, American Geosciences Institute (AGI) will co-host a webinar titled Underpinning Innovation: The Science and Supply of America's Critical Minerals and Materials. USGS speakers include Larry Meinert, the program coordinator of the USGS Mineral Resources Program and Steve Fortier, the director of the USGS National Minerals Information Center. In addition, Rod Eggert, the deputy director of the Critical Minerals Institute, Ames Laboratory will be a featured speaker.

This webinar is based on a March 3rd Congressional briefing organized by AGI on behalf of the Mineral Science & Information Coalition. The webinar will address the efforts being taken at the federal level to ensure a steady supply of critical minerals and materials.

The special volume, entitled "Rare Earth and Critical Element in Ore Deposits," represents an important contribution to our understanding of where, how, and why individual critical elements occur and should be of use to both geoscientists and public policy analysts. While the papers in this volume provide an overview of the state of knowledge concerning the economic geology of rare earth and critical elements, they also demonstrate the lack adequate data on the occurrence of these elements in many deposit types.

Critical minerals and materials are key components of the innovation economy. Minerals are a part of almost every product we use on a daily basis, either as the raw materials for manufacturing processes or as the end products themselves. Advanced technologies for communications, clean energy, medical devices, and national security rely on raw materials from mines throughout the world.

The concept of element criticality is useful for evaluation of the fragility of commodity markets. This fragility is commonly due to a potential risk of supply disruption, which may be difficult to quantify because it can be affected by political, economic, geologic, geographic, and environmental variables. For instance, in 2010, China curtailed exports of rare earth metals and sparked major concern about the security of global supply chains for a range of vital minerals and materials.

Critical elements may be recovered either as primary commodities or as by-products from mining of other commodities. For example, nearly 90 percent of world production of niobium (Nb) is from the Araxá niobium mine (Brazil), whereas gallium (Ga) is recovered primarily as a by-product commodity of bauxite mining or as a by-product of zinc processing from a number of sources worldwide. Critical elements that are solely produced as by-product commodities pose a particular supply risk because their production is tied to other markets and thus fluctuations in their supply can be independent from their demand.

Rare earth elements are a focus of this volume because price spikes of these commodities over the past several years have created broad interest. As demonstrated in the papers in this volume, ore-grade enrichment of REEs can occur in a variety of deposit types.

USGS Bolsters Better References for Mass Spectrometers

Fri, 03/25/2016 - 07:38
Summary: USGS scientists Haiping Qi and Tyler Coplen were key contributors, among 24 contributing scientists, to a recently completed international project to develop isotopic reference materials for mass spectrometers. An article in the journal Analytical Chemistry details the findings.  

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 ); Tyler B. Coplen ( Phone: 703-648-5862 );



USGS scientists Haiping Qi and Tyler Coplen were key contributors, among 24 contributing scientists, to a recently completed international project to develop isotopic reference materials for mass spectrometers. An article in the journal Analytical Chemistry details the findings.  

The team established 19 new organic reference materials for stable hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen stable isotope-ratio measurements. These materials will be used by isotope laboratories worldwide to calibrate their mass spectrometers so that the complex instruments will indicate the same measurement results on the same sample.

The announcement of so many isotopic reference materials at one time is unprecedented since isotope measurements of the elements hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen began expanding in the early 1950s. Authoritative standard references for mass spectrometers help advance their use in many disparate fields, including anthropology, archaeology, atmospheric sciences, biology, chemistry, ecology, environmental sciences, food and drug authentication, forensic applications, fossil fuel and biofuel research, geochemistry, geology, medical diagnostics, oceanography and paleoclimatology.

The USGS scientists performed most of the testing of the materials to confirm isotopic homogeneity prior to the distribution of those materials to 11 isotope laboratories that participated in the project.

Learn more                                                                      

USGS Reston Stable Isotope Laboratory

More Science at Your Fingertips

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 09:30
Summary: The USGS Science Data Catalog (SDC) recently completed and launched a new and improved interface, making USGS data more accessible and discoverable for users. The USGS SDC is a searchable public data catalog for more than 7,000 USGS data assets and 20 USGS collections. New USGS Science Data Catalog interface improves searches for USGS scientific data

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Michelle Chang ( Phone: 303-202-4333 );



The USGS Science Data Catalog (SDC) recently completed and launched a new and improved interface, making USGS data more accessible and discoverable for users. The USGS SDC is a searchable public data catalog for more than 7,000 USGS data assets and 20 USGS collections.

The SDC was launched in January of 2014, in response to the White House Open Data Initiatives to make federally funded data more available and open to the public.

The SDC serves as the single point of entry that connects USGS data listings to the Department of the Interior and data.gov catalog. USGS programs and science centers partner with SDC as data providers to contribute data from a wide array of relevant science topics including energy and minerals, land cover, natural hazards, hydrology and ecosystems research.

To search for a USGS data asset, go to the Search page and enter one or more search terms. Alternatively users can search by location using the map tool. Results will be displayed with further information about each particular resource. Users can further sort or filter results to discover and explore data assets. The SDC will point to the location where the data can be downloaded.

Notable updates to the SDC include:

  • New Home page – View frequently accessed USGS datasets and data highlighted from USGS programs and science centers
  • Addition of collection-level datasets – Search datasets within large USGS collections (i.e. US Topo Maps and National Land Cover Dataset)
  • New Browse page – Discover USGS datasets by browsing through newly implemented Science Topics, in addition to USGS Mission Areas and data sources represented by USGS Programs and Centers
  • Easy-to-use myReports Page – For USGS data providers, easily access record reports and monitor the records that your center or program is providing to the SDC
  • Data visualization feature for comma delimited value (.csv) data – Instantly visualize selected USGS data in comma separated value (.csv). Future improvements are continuing on this feature.

All USGS programs and science centers are encouraged to participate as data providers, as outlined in the new USGS Instructional Memoranda for Data Management.

For further information about SDC or how to visualize your csv datasets for users, contact sciencedatacatalog@usgs.gov.

The SDC was developed in collaboration with the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and also serves as a Member Node to the National Science Foundation sponsored DataONE project

The new home page of the USGS Science Data Catalog. Image: USGS Science Data Catalog home page featuring the National Water Information System (NWIS)]

 

The new search page allows users to search for USGS datasets based on keywords, location and other filters. Image: Screenshot of a search page results for the keyword, “sediment samples.”

 

A new exploratory and discovery feature allows the catalog to visualize selected USGS datasets for users. Datasets with the "View Data" button allow users to visualize csv datasets in a variety of different charts and graphs. Image: Example screenshot of a pop up page displaying a graph with a display of different variables contained in the dataset. 

First-Ever Maps to Show Induced and Natural Earthquake Hazards -- Press Conference

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 09:09
Summary: On March 28, USGS scientists will release a report and the first-ever maps showing potential ground-shaking hazards from both human-induced and natural earthquakes. In the past, USGS maps only identified natural earthquake hazards.

Contact Information:

Jessica Fitzpatrick ( Phone: 703-648-6624 );



On March 28, USGS scientists will release a report and the first-ever maps showing potential ground-shaking hazards from both human-induced and natural earthquakes. In the past, USGS maps only identified natural earthquake hazards.

This will also be the first one-year outlook for the nation’s earthquake hazards, and is a supplement to existing USGS assessments that forecast earthquake shaking over 50 years.

This report can be used by government officials to make more informed decisions as well as emergency response personnel to assess vulnerability and provide safety information to those who are in potential danger. Engineers can use this product to evaluate earthquake safety of buildings, bridges, pipelines and other important structures.

The USGS is the only federal agency with responsibility for recording and reporting earthquake activity nationwide and assessing seismic hazard. USGS hazard assessments are incorporated into building codes that influence a trillion dollars in new construction annually and improve the nation’s resilience to earthquake disasters.

What:

The USGS invites media to join a telephone press conference to discuss this new research and updates to the nation’s earthquake hazards.

Who: 

  • Mark Petersen, Chief of the National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project, USGS
  • Michael Blanpied, Associate Coordinator, Earthquake Hazards Program, USGS
  • Justin Rubinstein, Deputy Chief of the Induced Seismicity Project, USGS

When:

Monday, March 28, 2016

1:00 pm ET

Where:

To join, please call 1-888-989-7565 and use the passcode 1317771.

For those outside of the U.S., call 517-308-9122 and use the passcode 1317771.

A recording of the event will be available approximately one hour after the call is completed, and it will be accessible for 30 days. It can be retrieved at 1-800-925-4633 (toll free) or 203-369-3529 (toll for those outside of the U.S.).

Learn more about induced earthquakes by visiting the main USGS website as well as reading six facts and common questions.

USGS Assesses 39–54 Billion Metric Tons of Undiscovered Potash Resources in Central Asia

Wed, 03/23/2016 - 12:00
Summary: The Central Asia Salt Basin of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan has the potential to contain between 39 and 54 billion metric tons of undiscovered potash resources, according to a global mineral resource assessment led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Known potash resources in the Central Asia Salt Basin consist of 1.63 billion metric tons.

Contact Information:

Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 ); Jeff Wynn ( Phone: 360-993-8919 );



The Central Asia Salt Basin of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan has the potential to contain between 39 and 54 billion metric tons of undiscovered potash resources, according to a global mineral resource assessment led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Known potash resources in the Central Asia Salt Basin consist of 1.63 billion metric tons.

Potash is produced worldwide at amounts exceeding 30 million metric tons per year, mostly for use in fertilizers. The term “potash” refers to potassium-bearing, water-soluble salts derived from evaporite basins, where seawater dried up and precipitated various salt compounds; the word for the element “potassium” is derived from potash. In fact, industry uses potash to refer to potassium chloride, as well as potassium sulfate, nitrate, and oxide forms.

The Central Asia Salt Basin hosts significant discovered potash resources and originated in an inland sea during Late Jurassic time. Seawater flowed into the Basin, mostly from its extreme northwestern margin near the modern Caspian Sea, during several evaporation episodes that deposited at least five different packages of evaporites, with virtually all potash in the second and fourth packages.

In this study, the Central Asia Salt Basin was subdivided into three tracts, also known as permissive areas, for evaluation: the Amu Darya tract in the west, the Gissar tract in the center, and the Afghan-Tajik tract in the east. The Gissar and Amu Darya tracts were each quantitatively assessed. The Afghan‑Tajik tract was only qualitatively assessed because of the extreme depth (as deep as 7 km) of the Jurassic salt, extensive deformation and a lack of known potash deposits.

In 2013 (the most recent year for which complete information is available), world potash production was 34.5 million metric tons of K2O-equivalent. Canada was the leading producer of potash (10.1 million metric tons K2O-equivalent), followed by Russia, China, Belarus, Germany, Israel, Jordan, and Chile. Of the 12 known potash-producing countries in 2013, 8 produced 1 million metric tons or more; production in the United States was slightly less than 1 million metric tons, and production in Brazil, Spain, and the United Kingdom was less than 500,000 metric tons each.

The USGS Mineral Resources Program delivers unbiased science and information to understand mineral resource potential, production, consumption, and how minerals interact with the environment. To keep up-to-date on USGS mineral research, follow us on Twitter!


2016 Doug D. Nebert NSDI Champion of the Year Award

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 09:30
Summary: The Federal Geographic Data Committee is now accepting nominations for the Doug D. Nebert National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) Champion of the Year Award. Doug was a recognized national and international leader in the establishment of spatial data infrastructures and technical visionary as well as respected colleague. Calling for nominations to honor outstanding accomplishments to the spatial data infrastructure mission of the Department of Interior

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Gita  Urban-Mathieux ( Phone: 703-648-5175 );



The Federal Geographic Data Committee is now accepting nominations for the Doug D. Nebert National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) Champion of the Year Award. Doug was a recognized national and international leader in the establishment of spatial data infrastructures and technical visionary as well as respected colleague.

Doug Nebert presenting at a conference, expanding on his vision of National Spatial Dataset Infrastructure issues (undated photo). Doug Nebert getting ready to lift off in a private plane, his other lifelong passion (undated photo).

To commemorate Nebert’s varied contributions to and passions for our nation’s geography and cartography, the FGDC is accepting nominations for the newly established award.

“This award commemorates Doug’s influence in promoting the vision of the NSDI,” said Ivan DeLoatch, Executive Director of the FGDC. “This is a unique opportunity to honor significant contributions to an individual or group of individuals that have furthered the goal of available and easily integrated data to enhance the understanding of our physical and cultural world.”

Eligibility: The nominations are available to an individual or a team representing federal, state, tribal, regional, and/or local government, academia, or non­profit and professional organization that has developed an outstanding, innovative, and operational tool, application, or service capability used by multiple organizations that furthers the vision of the NSDI. The nominee must be a US citizen.

Nomination Process: Each nomination package will be submitted in electronic form through the award website and include justification and related nomination information. Nominations are due by May 6, 2016.

Award Selection: An interagency team of SDI experts from the FGDC will review all nominations and make a recommendation for the award to the FGDC Chair who will make the final decision on the award. The award information will be posted on the FGDC website.

The award is based on the following foundational precepts:

  • Innovation and vision
  • Interoperability
  • Use of standards
  • Advancement of NSDI principles
  • Service to communities of users
  • Developed once, used by many
  • Improved performance and service
  • Real-world application

Further questions can be directed to Gita Urban-Mathieux  or Rich Frazier.

USGS Offers Earthquake Research Grants

Wed, 03/16/2016 - 14:14
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey will award up to $7 million in grants for earthquake hazards research in 2017.

Contact Information:

Jessica Fitzpatrick ( Phone: 703-648-6642 ); Thomas Pratt ( Phone: 703-648-6709 );



The U.S. Geological Survey will award up to $7 million in grants for earthquake hazards research in 2017.

"The USGS has a long-standing grants program that supports innovative earthquake research, and we are currently soliciting project proposals for 2017," said Bill Leith, who is the USGS Senior Science Advisor for Earthquake and Geologic Hazards. "We seek proposals to better characterize earthquake sources, reduce uncertainty in earthquake hazard assessments or improve forecasts and other efforts to reduce risk. In addition, we welcome proposals that provide more accurate and timely earthquake information or aim to better inform the public about earthquakes and earthquake safety."

Interested researchers can apply online at GRANTS.GOV under funding opportunity number G16AS00024. Applications are due May 25, 2016.

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, Calif.;
  • 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.

2016 Lidar Partnership Awards Announced

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 09:30
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey has announced the first recipients of the 2016 partnership funding awards for the 3D Elevation Program. This program, referred to as 3DEP, presents a unique opportunity for collaboration between the USGS and other federal, state and local agencies to leverage the services and expertise of private sector mapping firms that acquire high-quality, three-dimensional mapping data of the United States.

Contact Information:

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



The U.S. Geological Survey has announced the first recipients of the 2016 partnership funding awards for the 3D Elevation Program. This program, referred to as 3DEP, presents a unique opportunity for collaboration between the USGS and other federal, state and local agencies to leverage the services and expertise of private sector mapping firms that acquire high-quality, three-dimensional mapping data of the United States.

 “We are very excited about the growing interest in our 3DEP initiative across all levels of government. I’m particularly pleased with the outstanding quality of the project proposals we received for this award opportunity,” said Kevin Gallagher, USGS Associate Director for Core Science Systems.

Thus far in 2016, partnership funding has been awarded to 21 proposals in 19 states and territories.  The total data acquisition for FY16 is expected to result in the influx of more than 150,000 square miles of public domain lidar point cloud data and derived elevation products into the 3DEP program.

These 2016 awards are the result of a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the 3D Elevation Program, issued on July 17, 2015. (Fed Biz Opps G15PS00558 and Grants.gov G15AS00123). 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 data, with IfSAR data in Alaska, over an 8-year period. 3DEP is designed based on an extensive benefit-cost analysis to conservatively provide new benefits of $690 million/year with the potential to generate $13 billion/year in new benefits through applications that span the economy. 

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, IfSAR, short for interferometric synthetic aperture radar is used to collect data over Alaska due to cloud cover, extreme weather conditions, rugged terrain and remote locations.

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.

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.

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

Map depicts the status of BAA awards to date. Project selection is ongoing and will be posted at the 3DEP website. The FY16 3DEP data acquisition is projected to add more than 150,000 square miles of 3DEP quality lidar data to the national database. For the complete list, visit the 2016 Lidar Awards Page.

Cattle Increase Occurrence of Ravens That Prey on Sage Grouse

Wed, 03/02/2016 - 10:00
Summary: DIXON, Calif. – Ravens are almost fifty percent more likely to inhabit areas in sagebrush landscapes if cattle are present, and preferentially select sites near greater sage-grouse breeding grounds.

Contact Information:

Catherine Puckett ( Phone: 352-377-2469 );



DIXON, Calif. – Ravens are almost fifty percent more likely to inhabit areas in sagebrush landscapes if cattle are present, and preferentially select sites near greater sage-grouse breeding grounds.

These findings have implications for greater sage-grouse management practices aimed at reducing raven predation on sage-grouse nests, according to research published in Ecosphere.

Raven abundance in the sagebrush-steppe of the American West has increased three-fold during the last four decades, mostly as a result of unintended food and water subsidies from human land-use practices. Predation is the primary source of sage-grouse nest failure, and reducing ravens access to food and water subsidies could assist with conservation efforts. While removal of ravens may reduce their local abundance in the short term, removing subsidies that promote ravens will likely be more effective for long-term control of raven predation.

U.S. Geological Survey and Idaho State University scientists examined the influence of livestock on common ravens in about 400 square miles of sagebrush-steppe ecosystem in southeastern Idaho. Grazing by livestock in these systems is common practice on many public lands, but potential influences of livestock on ravens are poorly understood.

“Common ravens are a known predator of numerous species including the greater sage-grouse,” said lead author and USGS scientist Peter Coates. “This study provides information to help rangeland resource managers develop conservation actions that focus on increasing the reproductive success of greater sage-grouse. For example, limiting raven access to livestock resources, such as water troughs, and adjusting the timing of livestock access to sage-grouse breeding areas during the spring, would likely reduce raven predation on sage-grouse eggs.”

Research findings include:

  • The probability of raven occurrence increased by 45.8 percent in areas where cattle were present.
  • Ravens preferentially selected areas near sage-grouse breeding grounds, called leks, especially at sites where cattle were present.
  • Landscape characteristics also influenced raven occurrence. For example, ravens selected relatively open (fewer trees) low elevation areas, specifically those with cropland, wet meadow and urbanization. 

The study was a partnership of the USGS, Idaho State University, and Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The journal article is available here. Additional project information can be found at the USGS Western Ecological Research Center website.

About Greater Sage-Grouse and the Great Basin

The Great Basin comprises more than 72.7 million hectares (more than 179 million acres) across five states: Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and California. Wildfire has been identified as a primary disturbance in the Great Basin.

Greater sage-grouse occur in parts of 11 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces in western North America. Implementation of effective management actions for the benefit of sage-grouse continues to be a focus of Department of the Interior agencies following the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the species is not warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act. 

Multidisciplinary Science Addresses Complex Resource and Environmental Issues

Wed, 02/17/2016 - 14:00
Summary: The ongoing resource, climate, hazards and environmental issues of the United States are addressed in a new U.S. Geological Survey product, providing an overview of the USGS Mineral Resources Program's multidisciplinary science.

Contact Information:

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



The ongoing resource, climate, hazards and environmental issues of the United States are addressed in a new U.S. Geological Survey product, providing an overview of the USGS Mineral Resources Program's multidisciplinary science.

The report highlights more than 50 selected activities that were conducted within the Integrated Methods Development Project, an interdisciplinary project designed to develop new tools and conduct innovative research integrating geologic, geophysical, geochemical, and remote-sensing expertise.

“This new product showcases the breadth and diversity of the USGS Mineral Resources Program and its ability to undertake complex research topics spanning from microscopic to planetary scales,” said USGS scientist emeritus Kathy Smith, the report’s lead editor.

The report includes studies that address the location, quantity and quality of mineral resources and the potential environmental consequences of resource development. In addition, a number of field and laboratory capabilities and interpretative methodologies are highlighted.

“These capabilities have applications to resource studies as well as to studies related to ecosystem health, human health, disaster and hazard assessment, and planetary science,” said Smith.

New tools developed within the IMDP have been applied to an extensive array of projects and research areas. For example, geophysical equipment and techniques developed in-house are now used in a variety of traditional and nontraditional mineral, energy and water resource studies, military applications and environmental investigations. Several geophysical applications include studies on climate change, volcanic hazards, geologic mapping and monitoring capabilities. Diverse applied geochemistry activities provide a process-level understanding of transport and bioavailability of metals in a variety of environmental settings.

The National Map Data Download Enhancements

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 09:30
Summary: The USGS National Map program is transitioning all of its GIS data download capabilities to its new TNM Download client during the week of February 15, 2016. The new launch page will help users easily find the variety of resources available to get National Map data, download GIS data, visualize and analyze data on the web, or access developer tools such as APIs and map services.

Contact Information:

Rob Dollison ( Phone: 703-648-5724 ); Mark Newell ( Phone: 573-308-3850 );



The USGS National Map program is transitioning all of its GIS data download capabilities to its new TNM Download client during the week of February 15, 2016. The new launch page will help users easily find the variety of resources available to get National Map data, download GIS data, visualize and analyze data on the web, or access developer tools such as APIs and map services.

This is not a replacement for all the visualization capabilities in the current National Map Viewer, but rather an application and API to improve and simplify the data download experience. The National Map Viewer will remain available for web-based visualization and analysis of National Map data.

Usage of TNM Download Client combined with staged product files will provide faster, more reliable and larger quantities of data to the geospatial community. The Download Client has an associated API available to developers to take advantage in their own applications.

The National Map released several recent enhancements to the delivery of its data products and map services to include:

TNM Download Client
The new TNM Download Client  will replace the data download function in the older legacy TNM Viewer. It allows the user to easily filter by product, file format, and search for data over their area of interest. Product specific workflows have also been developed such as selecting a particular hydrologic unit and to give users more appropriate results. Several ‘How to Download Data’ tutorial videos (lessons 4a-4d) have been created to take advantage of the new capabilities.

Basic download steps

1) Zoom to your area of interest

2) Select the desired product and file formats

3) Click on the “Find Product’ button to get search results

4) You will then be presented with a .CSV file to directly download or add to a cart if you want additional products

5) You can order multiple National Map products from this client but it is easiest to go through the steps for each product line you want to order, one product at a time. 

Download Manager
Download Manager is a Java-based application that runs on your local computer and enables download of multiple products without requiring the user to click each individual download link.  If you require lots of data, export all the search results into a .CSV file and use the ‘Download Manager’ application for fast behind the scenes data retrieval while working on other activities.

Large Scale Contours are available
The contours created from The National Map US Topo program are now included in a dynamic contours map service. This new service has dynamic layers enabled to allow user-defined custom styling to be applied in Esri® clients.

Dynamic Style Control is enabled on vector map services
Users can take advantage of dynamic style control on The National Map vector web services. This feature enables users to change the color and line weight of our vectors to best meet their mapping and visualization needs, without having to download the actual dataset.

File GeoDatabase 9.3.1 format retired
In addition to these new enhancements, some of the existing file formats and capabilities will be retired over the next few months. File GeoDatabase 9.3.1 format will be retired in mid-February 2016 and the download function in The National Map (TNM) legacy viewer will be removed. Users will be directed to the new TNM Download Client.

To keep current with The National Map downloadable products and map services, visit The National Map Viewer launch page.

Questions or feedback regarding any of these changes can be submitted to tnm_help@usgs.gov.

Screen shot of download enhancements to lidar data availability visualization and file downloads.

 

Screen shot of lidar data downloads.

New Invasive Annual Grass Book Addresses Critical Questions for the Western U.S.

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 08:46
Summary: Cheatgrass in the Santa Rosa Range, Nevada. Photographer credit: Photo courtesy of Nolan Preece.  

Contact Information:

Susan Kemp, USGS ( Phone: 541-750-1047 ); Cass Cairns, USFS ( Phone: 970-498-1370 );



Cheatgrass in the Santa Rosa Range, Nevada. Photographer credit: Photo courtesy of Nolan Preece.

 

^_BOISE, Idaho — Bromus species – such as cheatgrass – are exotic annual grasses that have become the dominant annual grasses in the western hemisphere. Their spread and impacts across the western U.S. continue despite the many attempts by land managers to control these species. A new book edited by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State University was released today and answers critical research, planning and management questions about these species.

Sagebrush habitat is essential for the survival of the greater sage-grouse and other wildlife species as well as for economic activities, such as ranching and recreation.  The Department of Interior Secretarial Order 3336 on Rangeland Fire Prevention, Management and Restoration directly addresses the need for additional science and research to unlock the key to controlling invasive exotic Bromus grasses and developing tools to protect and support resistant and resilient sagebrush landscapes in the United States.

“There are nearly 150 species of Bromus globally,” said Matthew Germino, USGS ecologist and lead editor of the new book. “Despite extensive research on the grass species that have invaded the western U.S., land managers still face challenges in controlling the spread and impact of these grasses across the landscape.”

The book titled “Exotic Brome-Grasses in Arid and Semiarid Ecosystems of the Western U.S.: Causes, Consequences, and Management Implications,” synthesizes available literature on the biology, ecology, sociology and economics of Bromus grasses to develop a more complete picture of the factors that influence their invasiveness, impacts and management in the western U.S.

The synthesis helps to answer questions on:

  • The effects of environmental factors on Bromus species distributions
  • Arid and semiarid ecosystem attributes and processes that influence resistance to invasion by Bromus
  • Traits of Bromus species that contribute to their invasiveness
  • Impacts of Bromus invasions on ecosystems
  • Effects of pathogens on Bromus invasions and their potential for biocontrol
  • Effects of land uses on Bromus invasions
  • Management options for exotic annual Bromus and their application
  • Socioeconomic drivers and patterns of human response to Bromus invasion

“The risks and problems associated with Bromus have been known in the U.S. for decades, but much of the past research was done to answer questions at local scales and focused on only a few causal factors,” said Jeanne Chambers, USFS research ecologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station and co-editor. “Today, Bromus grass impacts are large scale and influenced by many interacting factors requiring a more holistic approach.”

The book is the result of funding provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Research, Extension, and Education Network – or REEnet – which brought together a diverse range of public agency and university specialists from around the United States to generate and refine ideas on Bromus grasses. Lessons learned from this synthesis can be used to address impacts of species like cheatgrass on the sagebrush-steppe, a habitat that supports over 350 wildlife species, including greater sage-grouse.

Greater sage-grouse occur in parts of 11 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces in western North America.  Implementation of effective management actions for the benefit of sage-grouse continues to be a focus of Department of the Interior agencies following the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the species is not warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

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The Rocky Mountain Research Station is one of five regional units that make up the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development organization – the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. The Station maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Plains, and administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds, while maintaining long-term databases for these areas. RMRS research is broken into eight science program areas that serve the Forest Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international organizations, private groups and individuals. To find out more about the RMRS go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs. You can also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usfs_rmrs