William Battaglin ( Phone: 303-236-6872 );
The environmental occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern, including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and hormones, can have adverse effects on aquatic and terrestrial life and potentially human health. These contaminants continue to impact waterways across the United States according to articles featured in the Journal of American Water Resources.
The April collection, edited by U.S. Geological Survey scientist William Battaglin and University of Nebraska Professor Alan Kolak, features an introduction and 13 articles written by their colleagues.
The abstracts and links to all of the articles in the featured collection are provided below:
- Featured Collection Introduction: Contaminants of Emerging Concern II (pages 261–265)
- The Hourglass: A Conceptual Framework for the Transport of Biologically Active Compounds from Agricultural Landscapes (pages 266–274)
- Glyphosate and Its Degradation Product AMPA Occur Frequently and Widely in U.S. Soils, Surface Water, Groundwater, and Precipitation (pages 275–290)
- Reconnaissance of Pharmaceuticals and Wastewater Indicators in Streambed Sediments of the Lower Columbia River Basin, Oregon and Washington (pages 291–301)
- Screening for Selected Human Pharmaceuticals and Cocaine in the Urban Streams of Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil (pages 302–308)
- Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Fish from Western U.S. and Alaskan National Parks — Spatial Distribution and Health Thresholds (pages 309–323)
- Comparing Contaminant Removal Costs for Aquifer Recharge with Wastewater with Water Supply Benefits (pages 324–333)
- Effect of Light on Biodegradation of Estrone, 17β-Estradiol, and 17α-Ethinylestradiol in Stream Sediment (pages 334–342)
- Dissipation of Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Biosolids Applied to Nonirrigated Farmland in Eastern Colorado (pages 343–357)
- On-Site Exposure to Treated Wastewater Effluent Has Subtle Effects on Male Fathead Minnows and Pronounced Effects on Carp (pages 358–375)
- Fathead Minnow and Bluegill Sunfish Life-Stage Responses to 17β-Estradiol Exposure in Outdoor Mesocosms (pages 376–387)
- Assessment of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Attenuation in a Coastal Plain Stream Prior to Wastewater Treatment Plant Closure (pages 388–400)
- Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Endocrine Active Chemicals in Small Streams Indicate Differential Exposure to Aquatic Organisms (pages 401–419)
- Assessing the Potential Effects of Fungicides on Nontarget Gut Fungi (Trichomycetes) and Their Associated Larval Black Fly Hosts (pages 420–433)
- Common Weed Killer is Widespread in the Environment
Scientists studying produced waters and their geochemical and environmental impacts have a powerful new tool in the newly released USGS Produced Waters Geochemical Database. This database is publicly available to all scientists and interested members of the public.
Produced waters are those volumes of water that are typically recovered during oil and gas exploration, development, or production. This database is an update of the 2002 USGS Produced Waters Database, adding more than 100,000 new samples with greater spatial coverage and from both conventional and unconventional oil and gas development.
“This update of the database – with significantly more samples, types of analyses, and data from unconventional oil and gas wells – will be a tremendous tool for a number of stakeholders,” said USGS scientist Madalyn Blondes, who led the development of the database. “Industry can use the database to examine water quality for prospective plays and to plan for waste-water injection and recycling. Farmers can look up local produced water quality for possible remediation and reuse. Local and national resource managers and economists will have new data to aid in tracking the composition of trace elements and quantifying strategic mineral commodities.”
The USGS Produced Waters Geochemical Database has data on a comprehensive list of chemicals, including major elements, trace elements, isotopes, and time-series data. In addition, where available, each sample is identified according to what kind of well it was produced from, the properties of the rock formation it originated from, and the physical properties of the water in the sample.
The kind of well the sample originated from is important, as different well types involve different production methods and rock formations. The USGS Produced Waters Geochemical Database lists seven different well types: conventional oil and gas, shale gas, tight oil, tight gas, coal bed methane, geothermal, and groundwater.
The database is designed to be dynamic and easily updated with new data or corrections as needed. It is made up of 25 smaller databases, publications, and reports.
The Produced Waters project, as part of the USGS Energy Resources Program (ERP) examines the characterization, use, and impact of waters associated with oil and gas production.
The USGS Produced Waters Geochemical Database can be accessed here. To learn more about USGS produced waters and other energy research, please visit the USGS Energy Website, sign up for our Newsletter, or follow us on Twitter.
A new DNA protocol developed by the U.S. Geological Survey helps biologists distinguish between native and invasive species of aquatic vegetation that have almost identical appearances. Until now, measuring the dispersal of these various invasive plants has been hampered by confusion about where and when the plants arrived.
Invasive aquatic plants from Korea, Brazil, and the Indian subcontinent have been spreading through U.S. waterways for decades. The new DNA protocol will help biologists identify species, track their progress, and provide facts to local managers who can develop appropriate control measures.
“When invasive plants appear in a body of water, local people naturally are alarmed” said Nancy Rybicki, the USGS biologist who teamed up with molecular biologists to develop the new DNA testing technique. “Enormous amounts of money are spent on control. Some species may look very nearly identical, but they have unique reproductive and growth characteristics. Identification, the first step for control or eradication, needs to be precise.”
Co-author and previous USGS employee, Mary Voytek has had extensive experience with the use of molecular tools for microbial identification. In the case of microbes, there are established standards for identification using portions of an organism’s DNA. Not so with plants. It was difficult to know where to start.
The authors were able to develop a simple protocol that was verified on voucher specimens and tested on numerous plant samples. The environmental implications of the results were clear as new information on the range and recent history of these invasive species was revealed.
Using this new protocol, Rybicki determined that hydrilla arrived in both the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay earlier than previously thought, a finding that revises earlier ideas of how it was first introduced into the area.
The authors found that hydrilla was in the Potomac River in 1976. Thus, the original introduction of hydrilla to the Potomac was not from National Park Service experiments conducted in 1980 at Dyke Marsh on the tidal Potomac River as previously thought. It is probable that hydrilla was already present, but was misidentified. It may still be undiscovered in many locations today.
The two biotypes of hydrilla, one first introduced into Florida and the other first introduced into Washington, DC, are both spreading toward Canada, well beyond their predicted range.
“We anticipate that hydrilla will continue to move into colder regions, including, the Great Lakes, where a native plant called elodea is common,” Rybicki explained. “Without DNA verification, misidentification of the two plants is likely.”
DNA analysis to identify underwater grasses, a service provided at the USGS lab in Reston, VA, enables quick identification of these species. Future use of DNA analysis will likely reveal that many more misidentifications have occurred and are waiting to be discovered. Positive identification is the key first step in any discussion of management options to deal with invasive species.
Rybicki, N. B., Kirshtein, J. D., and Voytek, M. A., 2013, Molecular techniques to distinguish morphologically similar Hydrilla verticillata, Egeria densa, Elodea nuttallii, and Elodea canadensis, Journal of Aquatic Plant Management, v. 51, p. 94 -102.
Corresponding author, firstname.lastname@example.org
To initiate new research projects on mineral resources important to the nation's economy, security, and land-use decisions, the U.S. Geological Survey has awarded $208,000 in research grants.
Recipients of the 2014 USGS Mineral Resources External Research Program grants will study rare earth elements in Colorado; scarce metals in the U.S. and global economies; and nickel, copper and platinum deposits in the Lake Superior region. These and other USGS mineral research projects are intended to provide science that can help the nation to avoid supply disruptions for minerals that are critical for national security and the economy, while reducing the effects of mining and other activities on the environment.
A Rare Concentration of Rare Earth Elements Near Jamestown, Colorado
Julien Allaz of the University of Colorado, Boulder will investigate an unusual concentration of rare earth elements in veins near Jamestown, Colorado. These veins were first studied more than 70 years ago, but not since. Allaz will investigate the origin of these veins using state-of-the-art methods. Rare earth elements are essential for an expanding array of high-technology applications, for many alternative energy technologies and for a number of key defense systems, but they are rarely concentrated into mineable ore deposits. Understanding the origin of these veins will help us to assess where similar concentrations of rare earth elements occur.
Understanding the Life Cycle of Scarce Metals in the U.S. and Global Economies
Thomas Graedel of Yale University will lead a team of researchers to characterize the materials flow of four scarce metals: gallium, germanium, rhenium, and tungsten. While similar studies have been conducted for major metals such as iron and copper, no such study has been done for these scarce metals, which are used to make aircraft engines, medical equipment, fiber optics, solar technology, consumer electronics, and lighting. This study will help to quantify potential supply strengths and weaknesses, to manage metal use more wisely, and to protect the environment.
How Did Copper Deposits Form in Sedimentary Rocks in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan
John Ridley of Colorado State University will investigate the nature and extent of fluids that transported and deposited copper in the Nonesuch Formation of northern Wisconsin and Michigan. Though two deposits, Copperwood and White Pine, occur in the Nonesuch, the fluid flow associated with these types of copper deposits is typically much more extensive than the deposits themselves. Copper has long been the key to improved living conditions. Today, nearly every building and house in the U.S. contains copper. It is used in plumbing, electrical wiring, cars, cell phones, and in wind turbines. This research will help evaluate the potential for similar copper deposits in the nation’s mid-continent region.
Determining the Source of Nickel, Copper and Platinum in Deposits of the Lake Superior Region
Edward Ripley and Chusi Li of Indiana University will research the source of nickel, copper and platinum group metals in the Lake Superior region of Minnesota and Michigan. They will apply state-of-the-art copper isotope analysis to determine if the metals originated from igneous rock intrusions in which they are now concentrated or from sedimentary rocks that surround the intrusions. Platinum group metals are used to reduce motor vehicle emissions and in technology. Nickel is used to produce strong alloys and stainless steel. This research project will help to assess and explore for deposits in similar geologic environments in the mid-continent region and elsewhere.
The MRERP invited research proposals that addressed the following topics:
- The Mid-continent Rift of the U.S.—Multidisciplinary studies to image and characterize the mineral resource potential of this significant crustal feature.
- Alaska as a mineral resource frontier—Core science investigations as a foundation for documenting mineral resource potential
- Hyperspectral imaging or other geophysical investigations of selected regions of the U.S.—State-of-the-art tools for mineral resource and mineral environmental investigations
- Materials flow studies—Investigations to address supply chain analysis (including risk analysis) and sustainable mineral supplies
- Critical Mineral Resources—Research to better understand the genesis and regional controls on the distribution of critical mineral-bearing systems. For the purpose of this solicitation, critical mineral commodities are defined as follows (in alphabetical order): cobalt, gallium, indium, lithium, niobium, platinum group elements, rare earth elements, rhenium, tantalum, and tellurium.
USGS accepted proposals from academia, State agencies, industry, or other private sector organizations and scientists. Visit the USGS Mineral Resources External Research Program for more information.
The USGS Mineral Resources Program delivers unbiased science and information to understand mineral resource potential, production, consumption, and how minerals interact with the environment.
The U.S. Geological Survey will award up to $5 million in grants for earthquake hazards research in 2015.
“The grants offered through the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program are an established and long-standing effort that have proven to be a success every year, with talented, scientific applicants who significantly contribute to the advancement of earthquake research,” said Bill Leith, USGS Senior Science Advisor for Earthquake and Geologic Hazards. “Every year we are rewarded by innovative proposals from across the country, so we encourage the continued submission of new ideas to help earthquake science evolve and, ultimately, reduce earthquake losses.”
Interested researchers can apply online at GRANTS.GOV under funding opportunity number G14AS00036. Applications are due May 22, 2014.
Each year the USGS awards earthquake hazards research grants to universities, state geological surveys, and private institutions. Past projects included investigating the Central Virginia Seismic Zone to develop a better understanding of this active seismic zone; examining the paleoseismic record in the Prince William Sound area of Alaska to characterize earthquakes prior to the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964 to better understand future earthquakes in this hazard-prone area; and using GPS to measure ground deformation in the greater Las Vegas area and provide information on how faults will rupture in large, damaging earthquakes.
A complete list of funded projects and reports can be found on the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program external research support website.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nutrient enrichment of our nation's streams, lakes, and estuaries is widespread and can contribute to harmful algal blooms, increasing costs for drinking water and causing declines in ecosystem health.
Maps and tables describing the major sources and watershed inputs of nutrients to the Great Lakes and estuaries along the Atlantic coast, Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Northwest are now available online. These new maps and the data tables highlight the major sources of nutrients and the areas within a watershed that contribute the largest amounts of nutrients to 115 estuaries along the coastal areas and from 160 watersheds draining into the Great Lakes.
The data can serve further uses. For instance, water resource managers interested in a particular stream or estuary can use the online, interactive decision support tool to estimate how changes in nutrient inputs (source, type, and amount) affect nutrient loads at a downstream location.
A new reporting feature within the tool provides summary information on the amount and source of nutrients from upstream states or major hydrologic regions. For instance, output from the new tool shows the amount of nitrogen contributed from each of the 31 states that drain from the Mississippi River Basin into the Gulf of Mexico.
"This innovative combination of national maps and an online decision support tool provides unparalleled access to water-quality modeling information," said Jerad Bales, USGS acting associate director for Water. "It can be used to improve nutrient reduction strategies and inform nutrient policies across the nation."
These maps and data tables were produced using the USGS Spatially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes (SPARROW) nutrient models to explain spatial patterns in stream nutrient loads in relation to human nutrient inputs and natural processes and sources.
Successful management of our nation's waters requires an integrated approach that includes both monitoring and modeling to understand the affect, source type, input amounts, and performance of management activities on nutrients in local streams and ultimately in our Nation’s estuaries
Additional information on USGS nutrient monitoring and modeling activities by the National Water-Quality Assessment Program is available online.
Concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in runoff from pavement with coal-tar-based sealcoat remain elevated for months following sealcoat application, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.
PAHs are an environmental health concern because they are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. A 2012 human health-risk analysis found that people living near pavement sealed with coal-tar-based products have an elevated risk of cancer.
USGS scientists evaluated concentrations of PAHs and azaarenes (chemicals similar in structure to PAHs but containing a nitrogen atom in the place of a carbon atom) in runoff from test plots sealed with either coal-tar-based or asphalt-based sealcoat starting five hours after sealcoat application and continuing for as long as three months after application. The full report, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, is available online.
Concentrations of PAHs and azaarenes in runoff from the coal-tar-sealcoated pavement were about 20 times higher than in runoff from the asphalt-sealcoated pavement, and about 40 times higher than in runoff from unsealed asphalt. Concentrations and assemblages of PAHs indicated that the asphalt-based sealcoat might have contained a small amount (5-10%) of coal-tar-based sealcoat.
Although the total concentration of PAHs varied relatively little over the three months following application, the concentration of high molecular weight (large) PAHs increased and the concentration of low molecular weight (small) PAHs decreased. The low molecular weight PAHs are acutely toxic to aquatic life, but the high molecular weight PAHs are more likely to cause mutations, birth defects, and cancer. The high molecular weight PAHs in the runoff were mostly in the form of particles.
This study is the first to investigate concentrations of azaarenes associated with sealcoat runoff. Sources of azaarenes include coal-tar and oil-shale processing, wood preserving, and chemical manufacturing. In samples of runoff collected just hours after sealcoat application, concentrations of the azaarene carbazole exceeded those of any other PAH or azaarene measured. Azaarenes have a large range of ecotoxicological effects, including acute toxicity, but have been less well studied than PAHs.
Sealcoat products are widely used in the United States, both commercially and by homeowners. The products are commonly applied to commercial parking lots (including strip malls, schools, churches and shopping centers), residential driveways, apartment complexes and playgrounds.
The USGS and the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI) have teamed up to teach six online workshops open to public discussing Laser Specs for Field Hydrology and Biogeochemistry: Lessons Learned and Future Prospects.
The goal of this video workshop series is two-fold:
- To exchange technical information on application of laser spectrometry, both in field deployment and for analyzing field samples in the lab, and to compare performance with isotope-ratio mass spectrometry, the laboratory standard.
- To highlight research that makes use of this relatively recent and novel technology, both for understanding basic hydrologic processes, and as part of multi-tracer projects that allow new insights into hydrologic and geochemical systems.
Laser spectrometry enables new insights in environmental sciences for many problem-solving applications in hydrology, the science behind our understanding of water resources. Laser spectrometry enables measurements of the relative ratios of the stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen, found in all water, by determining absorption of water vapor of selected wavelengths of light reflected ten thousand times between mirrors in the spectrometer laser.
“With a commitment to both the advancement of water-quality science and education, this partnership with CUAHSI to promote these new breakthroughs in Laser Spectrometry is very exciting,” said Donna Myers, Chief of the USGS Office of Water Quality.
Participants are able to view the workshops live and participate by asking questions and posting comments on the discussion boards. By being a virtual workshop held online, national and international experts are able to provide their insights to participants on this new technology and its applications without traveling to a meeting. Each session of the series will be recorded and posted online after the event for those who cannot attend live or would like to watch them again.
"These visual workshops provide a no-cost, informative, and exciting opportunity for anyone interested to learn about hydrological science and technology from anywhere at their convenience," said Dr. Richard P. Hooper, Executive Director & President of CUAHSI, and former National Coordinator of the National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN) in the USGS Office of Water Quality from 1998-2003.
Education technology, specifically within higher education, is moving in the direction of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which is the newest innovation in distance learning, allowing students from all over the world to enroll in the courses.
This is the third such workshop jointly organized by USGS and CUAHSI, and the first to be held on-line. Past workshops have similarly focused on bringing new technologies to the forefront of water monitoring and research. CUAHSI is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Donita Turk ( Phone: 785-832-3570 );
Evaluations of water nutrient ratios suggest that concentrations of a class of cyanobacteria toxins (cyanotoxins), called microcystins, tended to decrease as the total nitrogen to total phosphorus (TN:TP) ratio increased.
Nitrogen addition and phosphorus removal treatments were used to control nutrient ratios in confined experimental chambers in Willow Creek Reservoir, Ore., over two consecutive summers.
Two scientific articles on this research, recently published in the scholarly journal Lake and Reservoir Management, were completed as a joint partnership between the University of Idaho and the U.S. Geological Survey. The study supports previous work done on nutrient ratios and microcystins. The articles, entitled "Experimental manipulation of TN:TP ratios suppress cyanobacterial biovolume and microcystin concentration in large-scale in situ mesocosms," and "Experimental additions of aluminum sulfate and ammonium nitrate to in situ mesocosms to reduce cyanobacterial biovolume and microcystin concentration," are available online.
"This does not necessarily mean that increasing nitrogen in a lake will decrease cyanotoxins," said USGS scientist Ted Harris. "This was a study done in one location, and warrants further research."
This case study suggested that a TN:TP ratio of 75:1 or larger resulted in the growth of green algae instead of toxic cyanobacteria. Toxic cyanobacteria can produce toxins such as microcystins which can be harmful to aquatic life, terrestrial animals, and humans. Cyanotoxin exposure has led to illness in wildlife, livestock, and humans and can result in death in severe exposure cases.
Results from this research could help manage cyanobacteria toxin production; however these approaches need to be studied more extensively in whole-lake settings to fully understand the implications of using these approaches to control cyanobacteria toxin production balanced against other potential environmental harm and socio-economic conditions.
For more information:
- USGS Kansas Algal Toxin Research Website
- USGS Nutrients National Synthesis Project
- USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
A new USGS study quantifies change in fish diversity in response to streamflow alteration in the Tennessee River basin.
The USGS study highlights the importance of the timing, magnitude, and variability of low streamflows and the frequency and magnitude of high streamflows as key characteristics critical to assessing how fish communities change in response to streamflow alteration. This study was completed using fish community data collected by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and predictions of streamflow characteristics at more than 600 locations.
The Tennessee River basin is one of the richest areas of aquatic diversity in the country, if not the world. However, expanding urban development, more than 600 privately held small dams on medium to small streams, and withdrawal of more than 700 million gallons of water each day threaten this diversity. Understanding the effect of streamflow alteration on aquatic ecology is increasingly important as change in land use and human population are projected.
One of the examples from the study shows that as maximum October streamflow deviates outside reference conditions by approximately 6 cubic feet per second per square mile, fish diversity may decline by almost nine species in the Blue Ridge ecoregion of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. Results such as this were identified across the Blue Ridge, Ridge and Valley, and Interior Plateau ecoregions for 11 categories of fish and will help resource managers identify when streamflow alteration may result in too much ecological degradation.
“Managing river flows to meet the needs of our growing communities and economies will become increasingly challenging in the future”, said Sally Palmer, director of science for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. “Maintaining our rivers to support an abundance of natural wildlife, including our native fish, is an important goal as well. Studies like these give us better information to make management decisions which more effectively balance all the demands placed on our river resources.”
The National Park Service, responsible for the protection and management of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and the Obed Wild and Scenic River in Tennessee, has a need to assess potential impacts to the resources they are charged with protecting. “This research enhances our ability to respond to current development pressures and serves as the foundation to develop a decision support tool to address future water resource issues” said Jeff Hughes, hydrologist with the NPS.
Additional information regarding environmental flows research in the Tennessee River basin can be found online. This work was completed as part of the USGS Cooperative Water Program in collaboration with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and The Nature Conservancy.
A new online, interactive sediment data portal represents the best available compendium of suspended sediment data for streams and rivers across the Nation.
Watershed managers, policy-makers, researchers, and the public can use the portal to access suspended sediment information at over 4,900 sites.
Ever since sediment samples were first collected in 1889 by pioneering engineer Frederick Newell and 14 of his colleagues on the Rio Grande River at Embudo, N.M., the U.S. Geological Survey has continued to collect and record information on sediment transport in streams and rivers across the Nation.
Too much sediment can harm aquatic life and reduce the storage capacity of reservoirs affecting water supply and flood storage. In some instances, too little sediment can also be an issue. For example, decreased amounts of sediment in the lower Mississippi Basin have been identified as the primary reason for the loss of thousands of square miles of wetlands off the Louisiana coast.
The portal provides easy access to valuable long-term data sets that can be useful in assessing how landscape modifications are affecting sediment transport in streams and rivers. Information on sediment concentrations and grain size can help identify appropriate and cost-effective sediment monitoring methods. Sediment data and ancillary data on streamflow condition, sediment grain size, sampling method, and landscape condition are also available for download within the portal.
USGS Data Series Report DS776 describes the methods used to recover, quality control, and summarize USGS suspended-sediment data in the portal through 2010. In addition to daily and discrete suspended sediment sampling, the USGS, in cooperation with numerous local, state, and other federal agencies, currently operates 424 real-time turbidity sensors across the Nation. These data are available at USGS Water-Quality Watch.
Sediment monitoring and real-time turbidity monitoring is supported by the USGS National Stream Quality Accounting Network, Cooperative Water Program, and the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. The USGS also continuously monitors streamflow at over 8,000 of the nation's streams on a real-time basis. These data are available at USGS Current Streamflow Conditions.