ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In a new study published today, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service harnessed a new type of DNA technology to investigate avian influenza viruses in Alaska. Using a “next generation” sequencing approach, which identifies gene sequences of interest more rapidly and more completely than by traditional techniques, scientists identified low pathogenic avian influenza viruses in Alaska that are nearly identical to viruses found in China and South Korea.
The viruses were found in an area of western Alaska that is known to be a hot spot for both American and Eurasian forms of avian influenza.
“Our past research in western Alaska has shown that 70 percent of avian influenza viruses isolated in this area were found to contain genetic material from Eurasia, providing evidence for high levels of intercontinental viral exchange,” said Andy Ramey, a scientist with the USGS Alaska Science Center and lead author of the study. “This is because Asian and North American migratory flyways overlap in western Alaska.”
The new study, led by the USGS, found low pathogenic H9N2 viruses in an Emperor Goose and a Northern Pintail. Both of the H9N2 viruses were nearly identical genetically to viruses found in wild bird samples from Lake Dongting, China and Cheon-su Bay, South Korea.
“These H9N2 viruses are low pathogenic and not known to infect humans, but similar viruses have been implicated in disease outbreaks in domestic poultry in Asia,” said Ramey.
There is no commercial poultry production in western Alaska and highly similar H9N2 virus strains have not been reported in poultry in East Asia or North America, so it is unlikely that agricultural imports influenced this result.
The finding provides evidence for intercontinental movement of intact avian influenza viruses by migratory birds. The USGS recently released a publication about the detection of a novel highly pathogenic H5N8 virus in the U.S. that is highly similar to the Eurasian H5N8 viruses. This suggests that the novel re-assortment may be adapted to certain waterfowl species, enabling it to survive long migrations. That virus, and associated strains, have now spread from early detections in wild and domestic birds in Pacific states to poultry outbreaks in Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas.
“The frequency of inter-hemispheric dispersal events of avian influenza viruses by migratory birds may be higher than previously recognized,” said Ramey.
While some of the samples for the project came from bird fecal samples collected from beaches at Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, most of the samples came from sport hunters.
“For the past several years, we’ve worked closely with sport hunters in the fall to obtain swab samples from birds and that has really informed our understanding of wildlife disease in this area,” said Bruce Casler, formerly a biologist with the USFWS Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and a co-author of the study. None of the viruses found in harvested birds from Izembek Refuge are known to infect humans, but hunters should always follow safe meat handling and cooking guidelines when processing wild game.
The paper, “Dispersal of H9N2 influenza A viruses between East Asia and North America by wild birds” was published today in the journal Virology. A summary of all samples collected at the Izembek Refuge will be described in a subsequent publication.
Additional information about avian influenza can be found at the following web sites:Alaska is an international crossroads for millions of migratory birds that spend winter in Asia, Oceania, South America, and the lower-48 United States. (High resolution image 3 MB)
Cuba is among the top 10 producers of cobalt and nickel and has significant other mineral and petroleum resources, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey publication.
The report and accompanying map highlight the mineral resources available in Cuba, as well as detailing locations of petroleum exploration and development. The map also identifies mines, mineral processing facilities and petroleum facilities as well as information on location, operational status and ownership. It also addresses the current status of mineral industry projects, historical developments and trends of the Cuban economy with an emphasis on mineral industries and the supply of and demand for Cuba’s mineral resources.
“Cuba’s geology is complex, and the country has a variety of mineral commodity and energy resources,” said Steven Fortier, Director of the USGS National Minerals Information Center. “It is important that the public and industry have the latest information on the status of the mineral industry and the potential for natural resource development in Cuba.”
A few key points from the report are:
- In 2013, Cuba was estimated to be among the world’s top ten producers of cobalt and nickel, which are the country’s leading exports
- Cuba’s current crude oil and associated natural gas production from onshore and shallow water reservoirs is approximately 50,000 barrels per day of liquids and about 20,000 barrels per day oil equivalent of natural gas
- In 2013, the value of mining and quarrying activities accounted for 0.6 percent of Cuba’s gross domestic product, compared with 1.4 percent in 2000
- The value of production from Cuba’s industrial manufacturing sector increased by 88 percent between 1993 and 2013, whereas the sector’s share in the GDP decreased by 3 percent during the same period reflecting economic growth in other sectors of the economy
In 2004, the USGS released an assessment of the hydrocarbons of the North Cuba Basin and its three sub-basins. The total amount of undiscovered technically recoverable resources was estimated to be 9.8 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas, 4.6 billion barrels of crude oil, and 0.9 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. About 70 percent of this oil was estimated to be located no more than 50 to 80 kilometers (km) offshore along the length of the western and northern coasts of the island. To date, deepwater drilling has resulted in no commercially viable oil or gas discoveries.
Industrial minerals and manufactured industrial mineral products produced in Cuba include ammonia and ammonia byproducts, bentonite, cement, feldspar, high-purity zeolite minerals, gypsum, kaolin (a type of clay), lime, high-grade limestone, marble, sand, sulfuric acid, steel and urea. In 2013, an estimated 4,500 metric tons of zeolites was exported to Europe and other Latin American countries and in 2014 the majority of the country’s ammonium nitrate was intended for export.
In 2014, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment announced 246 development projects for which it sought foreign investment. The petroleum sector offered the greatest number of prospective investment opportunities followed by the manufacturing and mining sectors. In the energy sector, the country is offering joint ventures in petroleum extraction from onshore and offshore blocks and foreign investment opportunities are being offered in biomass and solar energy production and hydroelectric power.
The report ‘Recent trends in Cuba’s mining and petroleum extraction industries’ FS 2015-3032 is available online.
The U.S. Geological Survey expects to award up to $7 million in grants for earthquake hazards research in 2016.
“The USGS Earthquake Hazards Program annually provides grants to support research targeted toward improving our understanding of earthquake processes, hazards and risks,” said Bill Leith, USGS Senior Science Advisor for Earthquake and Geologic Hazards. “We seek cutting-edge proposals that will further our efforts to reduce losses from earthquakes, provide more accurate and timely earthquake information and forecasts and better inform the public about earthquake safety.”
Interested researchers can apply online at GRANTS.GOV under funding opportunity number G15AS00037. Applications are due May 19, 2015.
Every year the USGS awards earthquake research grants to universities, state geological surveys and private institutions. Past projects included:
- trench investigations to better understand the size and age of large earthquakes between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah;
- the application of innovative techniques to map seismic hazards near the nation’s capital;
- exploring the use of rapid and precise GPS recordings to improve earthquake early warning;
- analysis of the potential for large earthquakes in the Gorgonio Pass, an area of complex faulting east of San Bernardino, California;
- investigation of recent earthquake activity along major fault lines crossing southeast Alaska; and
- studies to characterize and understand the causes of potentially induced earthquakes in California, Kansas, Wyoming, Texas, and Ohio.
A complete list of funded projects and reports can be found on the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program external research support website.
DNREC’s Polly Drummond Hill Road Yard Waste Site will shorten schedule; site to be closed Mondays and Tuesdays starting April 6
SPOKANE, Wash. — A new U.S. Geological Survey report covering major parts of the world’s largest mountain belt in central Asia estimates the existence of about five times as much copper in undiscovered deposits as has been identified to date. These areas host 20 known porphyry copper deposits, including the world class Oyu Tolgoi deposit in Mongolia that was discovered in the late 1990s.
The results of this new assessment estimate the probability that there may be as many as 97 undiscovered porphyry copper deposits within the assessed permissive tracts, which would represent nearly five times the 20 known deposits. Grade and tonnage models predict estimated resources associated with undiscovered deposits as mean values of 370,000,000 metric tons of copper, 10,000 t of gold, 7,700,000 t of molybdenum, and 120,000 t of silver. These estimated mean tonnages are predictions based on comparisons to known deposits of similar type.
Copper was one of the first metals ever extracted and used by humans, and it has been one of the important materials in the development of civilization. Because of its properties, of high ductility, malleability, and thermal and electrical conductivity, and its resistance to corrosion, copper has become a major industrial metal, ranking third after iron and aluminum in terms of quantities consumed.
USGS scientists worked in collaboration with colleagues in the China Geological Survey, the Centre for Russian and Central Eurasian Mineral Studies, and the Russian Academy of Sciences to complete the assessment. Participants evaluated applicable grade and tonnage models and estimated numbers of undiscovered deposits at different confidence levels for each permissive tract. The estimates were then combined with the selected grade and tonnage models using Monte Carlo simulations to generate probabilistic estimates of undiscovered resources. Additional resources in extensions of deposits with identified resources were not specifically evaluated.
The full report, USGS SIR 2010-5090-X, “Porphyry Copper Assessment of the Central Asian Orogenic Belt and eastern Tethysides— China, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and India,” is available online and includes a summary of the data used in the assessment, a brief overview of the geologic framework of the area, descriptions of permissive tracts and known deposits, maps, and tables. A geographic information system database that accompanies this report includes the tract boundaries and known porphyry copper deposits, significant prospects, and prospects. Assessments of overlapping younger rocks and adjacent areas are included in separate reports, which are also available online.