U.S. Geological Survey News Feed
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – An increase in the barred owl population is contributing to the decline of threatened Northern spotted owls, according to models developed by U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Forest Service scientists.
The larger barred owl is considered to be a more aggressive competitor, with higher reproductive capacity as well as a more diverse diet and use of habitat. In the face of increasing barred owl populations and declining habitat, the medium size Northern spotted owl, which lives in old growth forests of northern California and the Pacific Northwest of the United States, is declining.
Using 22 years of detection data from a 1000 square kilometer site in Oregon, researchers found that both species are more likely to abandon an area when the other species is present.
"While both species feel the effects of competition, spotted owls are far more sensitive," said Charles Yackulic, a USGS research statistician and lead author of the study. "As a result, spotted owls at this site, and in many other areas, are declining while barred owl numbers steadily increase."
The authors simulated future population dynamics and found that barred owls are likely to drive down spotted owls to low numbers over the next few decades.
"Scientists in other parts of the Pacific northwest have suggested that differences in the habitat preferences of the barred owl and spotted owl might allow them to coexist. While the two species showed different habitat preferences in this study site, there is still substantial overlap in habitat use," said Yackulic. "As a result, in recent years, barred owls have frequently excluded spotted owls from habitat that they would otherwise prefer."
Some of the spotted owls forced to leave a territory in response to barred owl invasions may establish territories in another area. However, the areas that are available for colonization often contain less suitable habitat and this may lead to a lowered probability of successfully producing young, further contributing to population decline. While habitat differences in this site are unlikely to allow for coexistence, it is unknown whether habitat preferences of barred and spotted owls at sites elsewhere in the spotted owl range are sufficiently different for barred owls and spotted owls to coexist.
"The results of the model show that should the barred owl population be reduced to about a quarter of its current size through management actions, it would minimize the costs associated with managing barred owl populations indefinitely, while also providing substantial benefits to the spotted owl population," said Yackulic.
Janice Reid, U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist and study coauthor, commented on the importance of long term management. "It is important that long term management plans include protection of currently occupied and reproductively successful spotted owl territories from habitat degradation if we are to have any hope of slowing the spotted owl population decline in the face of the increasing barred owl population."
"The roles of competition and habit in the dynamics of populations and species distributions" by C.B. Yackulic, J. Reid, J.D. Nichols, J.E. Hines, R. Davis and E. Forsman in the journal Ecology, is available online.
@USGSLive (Twitter account) will be live-tweeting this event
It's 1964 in Alaska. Imagine 4.5 minutes of powerful ground shaking underneath you from a magnitude 9.2 earthquake. You and your loved ones are then faced with resulting landslides and a devastating tsunami. You just experienced the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America. In that moment, scientists did not know how or why it occurred.
That event marked a turning point for earthquake science. Come learn about the great leaps in research over the last 50 years, and the research still underway to understand the remaining mysteries of earthquake hazards.
It is essential to start with science, because we can't plan if we don’t know what we are planning for.
The USGS and the Hazards Caucus Alliance invite you to a congressional briefing on exploring earthquakes, focusing on analysis of the past and essential science still needed to protect lives and property.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Rayburn House Office Building
David Applegate, U.S. Geological Survey
Peter Haeussler, U.S. Geological Survey
Tom Jordan, Seismological Society of America
John Schelling, Washington State Military Department's Emergency Management Division
American Geosciences Institute
American Geophysical Union
Geological Society of America
Seismological Society of America
Please send your RSVP to Jessica Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to attend.
Refreshments will be provided courtesy of the Seismological Society of America.
Clearer views of waters along the U.S. and Canadian border are now possible with new seamless digital maps. These maps make it easier to solve complex water issues that require a thorough understanding of drainage systems on both sides of the International Boundary.
"In the past, cross-border maps were not always accurate, but now these new digital maps are fully linked across the entire U.S. and Canadian border," said Peter Steeves, physical scientist with the USGS. "This cooperative project allows scientists on either side to look at the water just as nature does, irrespective of the artificial line separating the two nations."
Developed cooperatively by both countries, the digital maps make tackling difficult issues more effective. For example, levels of phosphorous flowing from Lake Champlain in Vermont into Quebec can now be better understood; flooding in the Red River Valley (which flows north from Minnesota and the Dakotas into Manitoba) can be traced; salmon fisheries in the Columbia River Basin in the Pacific Northwest can be efficiently restored; and understanding localized water use and water availability all along the border is now improved.
"The USA/Canada coordinated mapping efforts along the International Border have opened doors to joint scientific analysis that rely on hydrography integration", said David Harvey, National Manager with the Environment Service of Canada. "Water quality and quantity modelling are already being developed on top of this enriched database."
The advent of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) over the past 20 years has allowed for advancements in the analysis potential of digitally mapped water features to a degree hardly imagined when the USGS started mapping in the 19th century. As technology improves in the years to come, even more progress will be made, such as in the use of lasers to map the earth, new techniques to analyze information, and faster computers to process the data.
For more than 125 years, the USGS has provided accurate maps of the nation's surface waters. During the last two decades this mapping has become digital, using computers and new technologies to provide unprecedented knowledge of water resources. This data is stored in the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD).
The principle agencies involved in this effort are the USGS and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), with oversight by the International Joint Commission (IJC). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Agricultural Foods Canada, Environment Canada along with many provincial and in-state partners participated throughout the process.
Additional information on the NHD and WBD can be found at http://nhd.usgs.gov/.Digital Surface Watersheds along the U.S. and Candian International Boundary. (Larger image) U.S. and Canadian harmonized international sub-basins displaying Canadian 5-digit and U.S. 8-digit hydrologic unit codes; now available within the Watershed Boundary Dataset. (Larger image, 6.7 MB)
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – More than 400 years after its discovery by Galileo, the largest moon in the Solar System – Ganymede – has finally claimed a spot on the map.
A group of scientists led by Dr. Geoffrey Collins of Wheaton College (Norton, MA) has produced the first global geologic map of Ganymede, Jupiter’s seventh moon. The map, which was published by the U. S. Geological Survey, technically illustrates the varied geologic character of Ganymede’s surface, and is the first complete global geologic map of an icy, outer-planet moon. The geologic map of Ganymede is available for download online.
"After Mars, the interiors of icy satellites of Jupiter are considered the best candidates for habitable environments for life in our Solar System," said USGS Astrogeology Science Center director Laszlo Kestay. "This geologic map will be the basis for many decisions by NASA and partners regarding future U.S. missions under consideration to explore these worlds."
Since its discovery in January 1610, Ganymede has been the focus of repeated observation, first by Earth-based telescopes, and later by fly-by missions and spacecraft orbiting Jupiter. These studies depict a complex icy world whose surface is characterized by the striking contrast between its two major terrain types; the dark, very old, highly cratered regions, and the lighter, somewhat younger (but still ancient) regions marked with an extensive array of grooves and ridges.
"Three major geologic periods have been identified for Ganymede that involve the dominance of impact cratering, then tectonic upheaval, followed by a decline in geologic activity," said USGS research geologist Dr. Ken Tanaka.
The Ganymede geologic map is unique from other planetary geologic maps because it represents, for the first time, named geologic time periods for an object in the outer solar system.
Surface features, such as furrows, grooves, and impact craters, were characterized using a global image mosaic produced by the USGS. This image mosaic combines the best images from NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 missions (acquired in 1979) as well as the Galileo orbiter (1995-2003).
"The highly detailed, colorful map confirmed a number of outstanding scientific hypotheses regarding Ganymede’s geologic history, and also disproved others," said USGS scientist Baerbel Lucchitta, who has been involved with geologic mapping of Ganymede since 1980. "For example, the more detailed Galileo images showed that cryovolcanism, or the creation of volcanoes that erupt water and ice, is very rare on Ganymede."
The Ganymede global geologic map will enable researchers to compare the geologic characters of other icy satellite moons, because almost any type of feature that is found on other icy satellites has a similar feature somewhere on Ganymede.
"The surface of Ganymede is over half as large as all the land area on Earth, so there is a wide diversity of locations to choose from," said map lead and Wheaton geology professor Geoff Collins. "Ganymede also shows features that are ancient alongside much more recently formed features, adding historical diversity in addition to geographic diversity."
The new geologic map of Ganymede is just one of many cartographic products that help drive scientific thought. The production of these products has been a focal point of research at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center since its inception in the early 1960s. USGS began producing planetary maps in support of the Apollo moon landings, and continues to help establish a framework for integrating and comparing past and future studies of extraterrestrial surfaces. In many cases, these planetary geologic maps show that, despite the many differences between bodies in our Solar System, there are many notable similarities that link the evolution and fate of our planetary system together.
Amateur astronomers can observe Ganymede (with binoculars) in the evening sky this month, as Jupiter is in opposition and easily visible.
An online video, Rotating Globe of Ganymede Geology, is available for viewing.
The project was funded by NASA through its Outer Planets Research and Planetary Geology and Geophysics Programs.
The mission of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center is to serve the Nation, the international planetary science community, and the general public’s pursuit of new knowledge of our Solar System. The Team's vision is to be a national resource for the integration of planetary geosciences, cartography, and remote sensing. As explorers and surveyors, with a unique heritage of proven expertise and international leadership, USGS astrogeologists enable the ongoing successful investigation of the Solar System for humankind.To present the best information in a single view of Jupiter's moon Ganymede, a global image mosaic was assembled, incorporating the best available imagery from Voyagers 1 and 2 and Galileo spacecraft. This image shows Ganymede centered at 200 West Longitude. This mosaic (right) served as the base map for the geologic map of Ganymede (left). (High resolution image)
BLACKSBURG, VA. – Recording bats' echolocation "calls" is the most efficient and least intrusive way of identifying different species of bats in a given area, providing insight into some populations that have been decimated by white-nose syndrome.This new research by scientists from Virginia Tech, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army is published in the Journal of Ecology and the Natural Environment.
White-nose syndrome, an unprecedented disease of cave hibernating bats caused by a cold-loving fungus, has caused the deaths of more than six million bats. It has spread from central New York to at least 22 states and five Canadian provinces since 2006. In addition to the endangered Indiana bat, populations of the formerly abundant little brown bat and northern long-eared bat have experienced severe disease-related declines, particularly in the Northeast and central Appalachians.
"Acoustic sampling is a noninvasive sampling technique for bats, and its use often allows for the detection of a greater number of bat species in less time than traditional sampling methods such as netting," said study co-author W. Mark Ford, a USGS scientist at the Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Virginia Tech. "Low population numbers make netting both time and cost prohibitive. Netting also has low capture rates for WNS affected species. Moreover, acoustic sampling minimizes the handling of bats, which lessens the chance of unintended cross-contamination and exposure to the white-nose fungus from one bat to another or from equipment and personnel to uninfected bats."
Using acoustic bat detectors, researchers were able to assess the presence of bats by identifying their calls. Field work was conducted at Fort Drum in New York, which, with it's mix of wetlands, mature forests, newly regenerating sites and a large river corridor, provides optimal habitat for both little brown bats and Indiana bats. Before white-nose syndrome affected the bats locally in 2008, these bat species were abundant, Ford noted.
"These species have not been eliminated, but because of white-nose syndrome they occur in low numbers," said Ford. "Acoustic sampling allows us to sample for affected bat species and determine where on the landscape they are and what habitats they continue to use. At Fort Drum, these data are critical for the Army's land managers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's regulators in working together to conserve endangered and declining bat species while providing range conditions necessary for the military mission."
Managers are seeking the most effective and least intrusive monitoring and survey techniques available for these populations to fulfill stewardship and regulatory requirements, and study authors explored the use of acoustic sampling as an alternative method to determine the presence of bats.
"The studies of bat ecology and management at Fort Drum have been a collaborative effort between USGS, the Department of Defense, U.S. Forest Service, Virginia Tech and West Virginia University since 2003," said Ford. "This long term data collection effort made the study particularly useful for managers, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which, because of white-nose syndromes devastating effects, announced a proposed rule to list the northern long-eared bat as an endangered species in 2013."
"Effect of passive acoustic sampling methodology on detecting bats after declines from white- nose syndrome" by L.S. Coleman, W.M. Ford, C.A. Dobony and E.R. Britzke, is published in the current issue of the Journal of Ecology and the Natural Environment.
Additional Contact: Larry Moore, 303-202-4019, email@example.com
Newly released US Topo maps for Washington now feature segments of the Pacific Crest and Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trails. Several of the 1,446 new US Topo quadrangles for the state now display parts of the Trails along with other improved layers.
These trails are two of 11 National Scenic Trails in the U.S.
"Recreationists love maps and the Washington State US Topo maps will provide great planning and navigation tools for hikers and equestrians using the PCT," said Beth Boyst, U.S. Forest Service Pacific Crest Trail Program Manager. "'Plan ahead and prepare' for the trip is the corner stone of 'Leave No Trace' principles of backcountry travel."
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is a treasured pathway through some of the most scenic terrain in the nation. Beginning in southern California at the Mexican border, the PCT travels a total distance of 2,650 miles through California, Oregon, and Washington until reaching the Canadian border. The PCT is one of the original National Scenic Trails established by Congress in the 1968 National Trails System Act and fifty-four percent of the trail lies within designated wilderness.
"The Pacific Northwest Trail travels through rugged, remote wilderness areas and downtown Main Streets in gateway communities," says Matt McGrath, the Pacific Northwest Trail Program Manager for the U.S. Forest Service. "These new maps will improve recreational experiences by better connecting visitors to the varied opportunities available along the PNT."
The Pacific Northwest Trail begins near the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park and travels more than 1,200 miles through Montana, Idaho, and Washington before reaching its western terminus at the Pacific Ocean near Cape Alava. The Trail was designated by Congress as a NST in the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009.
The USGS partnered with the National Forest Service to incorporate the two trails onto the Washington US Topo maps. These two NST's join the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin as being featured on the new Topo maps. The USGS hopes to eventually include all National Scenic Trails in The National Map products.
As with all US Topo map updates, the replaced maps will be added to the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection and are also available for download.
To download US Topo maps: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/
The National Trails System was established by Act of Congress in 1968. The Act grants the Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture authority over the National Trails System. The Act defines four types of trails. Two of these types, the National Historic Trails and National Scenic Trails, can only be designated by Act of Congress. National scenic trails are extended trails located as to provide for maximum outdoor recreation potential and for the conservation and enjoyment of nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, and cultural qualities of the area through which such trails may pass.
There are 11 National Scenic Trails:
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail
- Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail
- Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
- North Country National Scenic Trail
- Ice Age National Scenic Trail
- Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
- Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
- Florida National Scenic Trail
- Arizona National Scenic Trail
- New England National Scenic Trail
- Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail
St. Petersburg, Fla. – A newly developed computer model holds the promise of helping scientists track and predict where oil will go after a spill, sometimes years later. U.S. Geological Survey scientists developed the model as a way of tracking the movement of sand and oil found along the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The new tool can help guide clean-up efforts, and be used to aid the response to future oil spills.
Following the Deepwater Horizon spill, denser-than-water conglomerates of sand and oil have been found in the surf zone, ranging in size from less than a millimeter to mats up to a few meters in size. The surf zone is where waves break as they approach the shore. The USGS study looked at conglomerates several centimeters thick – known as "surface residual balls," or "SRBs", which continue to emerge in some beach locations more than three years after the first oil reached the shoreline.
Applying the model to movement of SRBs along the coast of Alabama and western Florida showed that normal wave conditions, less than 1.5 to 2 meters, will not move centimeter-sized SRBs alongshore. However, tropical storms, or winter storms can mobilize and redistribute these SRBs alongshore.
The numerical model indicated that inlets trap SRBs, where they could accumulate over time. The model also suggests that when larger SRBs are found they are more likely to have been formed locally when the oil came ashore, rather than being transported from a different location along the coast.
Published this week in Marine Pollution Bulletin, the report also shows that SRBs are likely to be covered and uncovered by sand that is relatively easily moved by waves and currents in the surf zone.
"SRBs are dense enough to rest on the seafloor, rather than floating. Because sand grains are smaller and more mobile than the larger SRBs, under non-storm conditions when the SRBs themselves are not moving, they can be buried and exhumed by mobilized sand," said P. Soupy Dalyander, a research oceanographer and lead author of the study.
In addition to providing guidance for the Deepwater Horizon clean-up effort, the USGS methodology has broader potential application.
"The techniques developed here can be applied to evaluate the potential alongshore movement of SRBs in other locations or from any future spill where large quantities of oil and sand mix in the surf zone", said Dalyander.
PASADENA, Calif. — Earthquake activity in the New Madrid Seismic Zone in the central United States does not seem to be slowing down. In a new study published in the journal "Science," seismologists Morgan Page and Susan Hough of the U.S. Geological Survey investigate whether current quakes in the region could be aftershocks of large earthquakes that occurred 200 years earlier.
Using extensive computer modeling of aftershock behavior, they show that the dearth of moderate (Magnitude 6) earthquakes following the series of large earthquakes in 1811-1812, combined with the high rates of small earthquakes today, is not consistent with the long-lived aftershock hypothesis.
A debate has swirled in recent years, fueled in part by past studies suggesting that continuing New Madrid seismic activity could be the tail end of a long-lived aftershock sequence following the 1811-1812 earthquakes. If modern activity is an aftershock sequence, the argument goes, then there is no evidence that stress is currently building in the zone. Instead, Page and Hough conclude that the current level of activity must be the signature of active, ongoing processes that continue to generate stress in the region –stress that we expect will eventually be released in future large earthquakes. In other words, the New Madrid Seismic Zone is not dead.
The New Madrid Seismic Zone in the central United States produced 4 large earthquakes with magnitudes upwards of 7 over the winter of 1811-1812. Over the last two centuries, small quakes have continued to occur in the zone at a higher rate than elsewhere in the central United States. Geologic evidence also shows that large earthquake sequences occurred there in about 1450 A.D. and 900 A.D.Recent earthquakes in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (CEUS-SSC catalog, 1990-2008). (Larger image) A timeline of earthquakes in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (top) differs significantly from a typical aftershock sequence (bottom). A new study shows that earthquakes occurring today in the region are not aftershocks of the 1811-1812 earthquakes. Rather, they are evidence that stress is continuing to accumulate. Data source: CEUS-SSC catalog. (Larger image)
The USGS, in cooperation with other Federal agencies, has posted new Idaho US Topo quadrangles (1,193) and New Mexico quads (1,980 maps) which include Public Land Survey System (PLSS). These are added to the growing list of states west of the Mississippi River to have PLSS data added to US Topo maps.
"It is a privilege to support production of the US Topo maps, as I am an extensive user of these products,” said Kristin Fishburn, a geographer with the USGS. “The capability to turn layers on and off combined with the continuous enhancements in content makes the maps particularly useful for a recreational user. I'm excited to peruse the new Idaho and New Mexico maps."
The PLSS is a way of subdividing and describing land in the United States. All lands in the public domain are subject to subdivision by this rectangular system of surveys, which is regulated by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Other selected states will begin getting PLSS map data during the next respective revision cycle.
The new design for US Topo maps improves readability of maps for online and printed use, while retaining the look and feel of the traditional USGS topo map. Map symbols are easy to read when the digital aerial photograph layer imagery is turned on.
Other re-design enhancements and new features:
- New shaded relief layer for enhanced view of the terrain
- Military installation boundaries, post offices and cemeteries
- New road classification
- A slight screening (transparency) has been applied to some features to enhance visibility of multiple competing layers
- New PDF legend attachment
- Metadata formatted to support multiple browsers
US Topo maps are created from geographic datasets in The National Map, and deliver visible content such as high-resolution aerial photography, which was not available on older paper-based topographic maps. The new US Topo maps provide modern technical advantages that support wider and faster public distribution and on-screen geographic analysis tools for users.
The new digital topographic maps are PDF documents with geospatial extensions (GeoPDF®) image software format and may be viewed using Adobe Reader, available as a no-cost download.
These new quads replace the first edition US Topo maps for Idaho and New Mexico. The replaced maps will be added to the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection which are also available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website.
US Topo maps are updated every three years. The initial round of the 48 conterminous state coverage was completed in September of 2012. Hawaii and Puerto Rico maps have recently been added. More than 400 new US Topo maps for Alaska have been added to the USGS Map Locator & Downloader, but will take several years to complete.
For more information, go to: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/Santa Fe, New Mexico 2013 US Topo quadrangle, with orthoimage off. (Larger image) Santa Fe, New Mexico 2013 US Topo quadrangle, showing PLSS data with contour, orthoimage and woodland layers off. Note: "US Topo maps are not legal documents. The PLSS information shown on these maps is for general reference purposes only, and should not be used to determine legal boundaries or land ownership. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the authoritative source for PLSS information at the federal level, and the US Topo representation is derived from BLM GIS data files. The management of these data is not completely uniform throughout the country." (Larger image)
THREE RIVERS, Calif, — Trees do not slow in their growth rate as they get older and larger — instead, their growth keeps accelerating, according to a study published today in the journal Nature.
"This finding contradicts the usual assumption that tree growth eventually declines as trees get older and bigger," says Nate Stephenson, the study's lead author and a forest ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "It also means that big, old trees are better at absorbing carbon from the atmosphere than has been commonly assumed."
An international team of researchers compiled growth measurements of 673,046 trees belonging to 403 tree species from tropical, subtropical and temperate regions across six continents, calculating the mass growth rates for each species and then analyzing for trends across the 403 species. The results showed that for most tree species, mass growth rate increases continuously with tree size — in some cases, large trees appear to be adding the carbon mass equivalent of an entire smaller tree each year.
"In human terms, it is as if our growth just keeps accelerating after adolescence, instead of slowing down," explains Stephenson. "By that measure, humans could weigh half a ton by middle age, and well over a ton at retirement."
This continuously increasing growth rate means that on an individual basis, large, old trees are better at absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon that is absorbed or "sequestered" through natural processes reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and can help counter-balance the amount of CO2 people generate.
However, the researchers are careful to note that the rapid absorption rate of individual trees does not necessarily translate into a net increase in carbon storage for an entire forest.
"Old trees, after all, can die and lose carbon back into the atmosphere as they decompose," says Adrian Das, a USGS coauthor. "But our findings do suggest that while they are alive, large old trees play a disproportionately important role within a forest’s carbon dynamics. It is as if the star players on your favorite sports team were a bunch of 90-year-olds."
The study was a collaboration of 38 researchers from research universities, government agencies and non-governmental organizations from the United States, Panama, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Colombia, Argentina, Thailand, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Spain. The study was initiated by Stephenson and Das through the USGS Western Mountain Initiative and the USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis.
Accompanying Information for Press Release
- TABLE 1: Continent/Sample Size/Species Breakdown
- TABLE 2: List of Institutions Contributing to the Study
Secretary Jewell Lauds President's Intent to Nominate Suzette Kimball to Serve as Director of the U.S. Geological Survey
Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 );
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today praised President Obama's intent to nominate Dr. Suzette M. Kimball to serve as the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Interior’s chief science agency. Kimball has led the agency in an acting capacity since February 2013.
“USGS brings critical, impartial information to bear on some of the most complex issues facing our nation today – from the impacts of climate change to natural hazards and their threats,” said Jewell. “With her scientific expertise and decades of public service, Suzette is an excellent choice to lead this agency. During her time at USGS, Suzette has proven herself to be a smart, thoughtful and collaborative leader, and a strong advocate for using science to inform our understanding of our world and provide tools to solve natural resource challenges.”
If confirmed by the U. S. Senate, Kimball would lead the science agency of more than 8,000 scientists, technicians and support staff in more than 400 locations across the United States. The USGS mission is to provide reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.
The USGS Director also serves as Science Advisor to the Secretary of the Interior, overseeing activities of the Department’s Strategic Science Group and chairing the team of nine bureau science advisors.
Before assuming the USGS Acting Director position last year, Kimball served as the Deputy Director from 2010 to 2013; as the Associate Director for Geology from 2008 to 2010; as the Director of the Eastern Region from 2004 to 2008; and as the Eastern Regional Executive for Biology from 1998 to 2004. She was previously Acting Director from January to November 2009.
As Deputy Director, Kimball had executive leadership responsibility to execute scientific and administrative functions supported by USGS’s budget in excess of $1.1 billion. Kimball also led USGS’s international activities and represented all North American geological surveys on international mapping endeavors.
As Associate Director for Geology, International and Climate Programs, Kimball was responsible for the development and strategic design of those important programs, and for programmatic performance metrics, budget initiatives and representation to the Department, OMB, Congress, other federal agencies and academic partners.
Before working at USGS, Kimball served at the National Park Service as the Southeast Associate Regional Director and Regional Chief Scientist from 1993 to 1998. From 1991 to 1993, she was Research Coordinator in the Global Climate Change Program at the National Park Service; an Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia; and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Center for Coastal Management and Policy and Associate Marine Scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.
Kimball served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1983 to 1986 as a Coastal Engineering Research Center Chief and a Program Manager for Barrier Islands Sedimentation Studies. From 1979 to 1983, she served as a Research Coordinator and a Research Assistant at the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia.
Kimball received a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences/Coastal & Oceanographic Processes from the University of Virginia (1983); an M.S. in Geology/Geophysics from Ball State University (1981); and a B.A. from the College of William and Mary.
Kimball has authored more than 75 technical publications on issues dealing with coastal ecosystem science, coastal zone management and policy, and natural resource exploration, evaluation and management. She has delivered more than 50 invited professional presentations and 70 conference presentations. Her numerous professional appointments and offices include serving on the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine, Roundtable on Environmental Health, Research and Medicine; NAS Roundtable on Science & Technology for Sustainability and U.S. National Committee for Geosciences of the NAS Board on International Scientific Organizations.
Kimball has twice received the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executive Leadership and the Secretary's Gold Award for Executive Leadership.
In a case study of dams on the upper Missouri River, USGS researchers have demonstrated that an upstream dam is still a major control of river dynamics where the backwater effects of a downstream reservoir begin. In light of this finding, the conventional understanding of how a dam can influence a river may have to be adjusted to account for the fact that effects of river dams can interact with one another.
"We have known for a long time that dams have dramatic effects on river form and function," said Jerad Bales, acting USGS Associate Director for Water. "In the past, however, the effects of dams generally have been studied individually, with relatively little attention paid to how the effects could interact along a river corridor."
One of the greatest modifications of rivers by humans has been the construction of dams that provide valuable services such as irrigation, hydroelectric power, navigation, flood protection, and recreational opportunities. Hundreds of thousands of dams have been built worldwide, beginning for the most part in the 20th century.
The downstream effects of river dams have been well documented by previous researchers. In the presence of a dam, it can often take hundreds of kilometers for a river to adjust to its natural state. The upstream impacts of dams have also been widely considered, particularly sedimentation of reservoirs. These effects may extend upstream for many kilometers.
"In addition to documenting dramatic changes to a section of the Missouri River during the 2011 floods," Bales continued, "the unique contribution of this important study is development of a conceptual model that establishes a framework for future studies of the many rivers affected by dams in series."
Working with historical aerial photography, streamgage data, and cross sectional surveys in a careful analysis of the Garrison (N.D.) and Oahe (S.D.) dams on the Missouri River, the USGS researchers propose a conceptual model of how interacting dams might affect a river's physical characteristics (geomorphology). This model applies to dams on large rivers and divides the river into various zones of predictable behavior (Figure 1).
The researchers also conducted a geographic analysis of dams along 66 major rivers (as listed in a standard professional reference) in the contiguous United States to determine how often dams occur in a series. Of the rivers analyzed, 404 dams were located on the main stem of 56 of the rivers. Fifty of these rivers had more than one dam on the river creating a total of 373 possible interacting dam sequences.
The results from this work indicate that more than 80% of large rivers may have interactions between their dams. Given this widespread occurrence, the USGS investigators suggest that dam interaction is prevalent and should be the focus of additional research.
The study was published in the journal Anthropocene (Oct. 2013).
Figure 1. Conceptual model of how two dams in a sequence may interact.
The diagram correlates the river zones created by large dams (shown on left) to the morphological features (described on right) that each zone influences.Conceptual model of how two dams in a sequence may interact. (High resolution image)
USGS Water National Research Program
Earlier spring nesting related to climate change could negatively affect the survival of pelican chicks at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, N.D., according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report.
USGS scientists found that American white pelicans are migrating north to a large nesting colony at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge about 16 days earlier in the springtime than they did 45 years ago. The earlier migration is likely spurred by warmer spring temperatures on the pelicans’ wintering grounds and along their migration route, but ideal post-hatching weather conditions have not advanced at the nesting colony. Now, vulnerable pelican chicks face a higher risk of encountering life-threatening wet and cold conditions.
Chase Lake is a refuge for the largest American white pelican colony in North America, so declining chick survival rates at this refuge could be especially damaging. On average, over 26,000 adult pelicans nested annually at Chase Lake between 2004 and 2008.
"Given that nearly half of the entire pelican breeding population nests at fewer than 10 colonies in the northern plains, maintaining good productivity at these colonies is important to the health of the species," said Marsha Sovada, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. "Increased mortality of chicks at Chase Lake is a conservation concern."
The study found that while spring temperatures in the northern plains have progressively increased since 1965, the timing of severe weather in the Chase Lake area has not changed during this period. Because pelican eggs are hatching earlier than in the past, the chicks are at their most vulnerable stage of growth—between two and three weeks old—during a time when extreme cold and wet weather is more likely.
Researchers observed significant loss of chicks to exposure in four of five years (2004–2008) of field study. For example, at Chase Lake in June 2008, about 80 percent of the pelican chicks between two and three weeks old died of exposure during a period of severe weather.
The study was published today in the journal PLOS ONE, and is available online.
For more information on pelican population dynamics in the Northern Plains, please visit the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center website.
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Heidi Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );
Several significant earthquakes occurred in 2013, including two magnitude 8.0 or greater temblors according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Seventeen earthquakes reached magnitude 7.0-7.9 and two in the range of 8.0-8.9.
The USGS measured 1194 quakes magnitude 5.0 or larger in 2013. This is a number that changes annually; in 2012, 1558 quakes magnitude 5.0 or larger were measured, and in 2011, 2495.
Earthquakes were responsible for about 1400 deaths in 2013, with 825 having perished in the magnitude 7.7 Pakistan event on Sept. 24, as reported by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Deadly quakes also occurred in the Philippines, Iran, China, Indonesia, the Santa Cruz Islands and Afghanistan.
The biggest earthquake in the United States and the 6th largest quake of 2013 was a magnitude 7.5 in Craig, Alaska on Jan. 5. Several quakes below magnitude 5.0 rattled Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Arkansas throughout the year. An unusual seismic event happened near Chicago, Ill. on Nov. 4; a magnitude 3.2 rockburst that occurred within seconds after a routine explosion at a quarry.
The USGS estimates that several million earthquakes occur throughout the world each year, although most go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small magnitudes. On average, the USGS National Earthquake Information Center publishes the locations for about 40 earthquakes per day, or about 14,500 annually. USGS publishes worldwide earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.5 or greater or U.S. earthquakes of 2.5 or greater. On average, 18 of these earthquakes have a magnitude of 7.0 or higher each year.
To monitor earthquakes worldwide, the USGS National Earthquake Information Center receives data in real-time from about 1,000 stations in 85 countries, including the 150-station Global Seismographic Network, which is jointly supported by the USGS and the National Science Foundation and operated by the USGS in partnership with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) consortium of universities. Domestically, the USGS partners with 13 regional seismic networks operated by universities; these networks provide detailed coverage for the areas of the country with the highest seismic risk.
Earthquakes pose significant risk to 75 million Americans in 39 States. The USGS and its partners in the multi-agency National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program are working to improve earthquake monitoring and reporting capabilities via the USGS Advanced National Seismic System. More information about ANSS can be found on the ANSS website.
Editor’s note: Reporters interested in accompanying the scientists as they install the seismic arrays between Jan. 9 and 13 should call Thomas Pratt at 206-919-8773 or Martin Chapman at 540-392-5396 to coordinate opportunities.
Reston, Va. – Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Virginia Tech will install a 20-station seismic network in the central Virginia area beginning Jan. 8. The new sensors – each about the size of a soda can – will provide information to help the researchers study the background seismicity in the area and any continuing aftershocks of the Aug. 23, 2011 earthquake near Louisa and Mineral, Va.
More than 450 aftershocks have been recorded since that magnitude 5.8 earthquake, which was felt from central Georgia to central Maine, and west to Detroit and Chicago. It is estimated that approximately one-third of the U.S. population could have felt the earthquake, which damaged the Washington National Cathedral and the Washington Monument.
The 20-station network will be placed in locations from Charlottesville in the west, to east of Richmond, and for about 40 miles in a north-south direction centered along Interstate 64.
During the installations, USGS and Virginia Tech crews will place a seismometer and
electronic data logger at each site; at some sites a solar panel will be installed to power the equipment. In locations where sensors are being installed on private property, the landowners have volunteered their sites. The installations are expected to be completed by Jan. 13.
The seismic network will record tiny ground vibrations caused by earthquakes, and the science team will use the data to better understand earthquakes in the Central Virginia Seismic Zone. Network sensors will also help determine if the earthquakes align with specific faults by increasing the number of earthquakes detected and improving the accuracy of the locations.
Additional information about the earthquakes in Virginia is available online.
For more information about the USGS earthquake hazard program please visit http://earthquake.usgs.gov/.
Heidi Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );
Enough strain may be currently stored in an earthquake zone near the island of Guadeloupe to cause a magnitude 8 or larger earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Caribbean, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.
USGS and French researchers studying the plate boundary in the Lesser Antilles region—the area where 20 of the 26 Caribbean islands are located—estimate that enough unreleased strain may have accumulated offshore of Guadeloupe to potentially create a magnitude 8.0-8.4 earthquake. A magnitude 7.5-8.5 quake in 1843 killed several thousand people in Guadeloupe, and a similar quake in the future could cause several tens to several hundreds of fatalities, and hundreds of millions to billions of U.S. dollars in damages. The paper was recently published in the Geophysical Journal International.
"Perception that a mega quake can occur in the Caribbean is low because none have been observed over the past century, and the rate at which the tectonic plates converge is fairly slow," said USGS scientist Gavin Hayes, lead author of the paper. "Nevertheless, we show that enough unreleased strain may have accumulated on the subduction zone since the 19th century to generate a mega quake in the future."
The impacted areas in Guadeloupe are of concern because these islands are popular with tourists.
The shaking hazard from the scenario earthquake is predominantly limited to Guadeloupe, though other islands could be affected by earthquake hazards from more local sources. Because of the thrusting style of the earthquake modeled, a tsunami could result, which would significantly impact Guadeloupe and would be hazardous in other areas around the Caribbean. The impact of the tsunami would likely be fairly minimal on the east coast of the U.S.
Based on historic strain release computations and previous research, the research team modeled several scenario earthquakes in the 7.5-8.5 magnitude range, using a variety of potential earthquake rupture areas and utilizing the USGS ShakeMap and PAGER software packages. Strong ground shaking during the scenario earthquake would likely cause loss of life and costly damages.
By using the Earth's magnetic field, combined with new innovative technology, oil and gas drilling companies are increasing oilfield productivity while reducing development costs and environmental impacts.
An article in the fall 2013 issue of Oilfield Review highlights this technology and its applications across the world. It also discusses the public-private collaboration between the U.S. Geological Survey and partners to successfully implement the technology.
These days, multiple reservoirs of oil and gas can be accessed from a single platform by drilling vertically and then horizontally. Drill operators need to know which way their drill bits are going to maximize oil production and avoid collisions with other wells. One way to accomplish this important task is to install a magnetometer—a sort of modern-day "compass"—in a drill-string instrument package that follows the drill bit.
The USGS plays a unique role by monitoring the geomagnetic field every single second at magnetic observatories throughout the country. Through a process called geomagnetic referencing, simultaneous measurements of the magnetic field in the drill hole are combined with those from magnetic observatories at the Earth’s surface to produce a highly accurate estimate of the drill bit position and direction.
The Earth's magnetic field changes all the time across the world as a result of factors like periodic daily tides or rapid magnetic storms that are related to the 11-year sunspot solar cycle. And at high latitudes, such as in northern Alaska or the North Sea, the geomagnetic field can be very active and can change dramatically during magnetic storms.
"Drill-bit positioning requires directional accuracy of a fraction of a degree, and this can be accomplished with advanced technology and expert understanding of the Earth's dynamic magnetic field," said Carol A. Finn, USGS Geomagnetism Group Leader. "USGS operational systems measure the magnetic field on a continuous basis. These data are provided as a service to research scientists, civilian and defense government agencies, and to customers in the private sector, including the oil and gas drilling industry."
The USGS Geomagnetism Program monitors variations in the Earth's magnetic field through a network of 14 ground-based observatories around the United States and its territories. There are many customers for geomagnetism data, since the variable conditions of space weather can interfere with radio communication, GPS systems, electric power grids, the operation and orientation of satellites, and even air travel as high altitude pilots and astronauts can be subjected to enhanced levels of radiation.
Internationally, the USGS magnetic observatory network is part of the global INTERMAGNET network. Domestically, the USGS Geomagnetism Program works cooperatively with government partners within the U.S. National Space Weather Program, including NOAA and the Air Force Weather Agency, and with private companies that are affected by space weather and geomagnetic activity.
Read the Oilfield Review article: Geomagnetic referencing - The real-time compass for directional drillers.
Watch a 7 minute video about the USGS Geomagnetism Program.
Read a USGS factsheet: Monitoring the Earth’s dynamic magnetic field.
Civilian volunteers are making significant additions to the U.S. Geological Survey's ability to provide accurate mapping information to the public. Using crowd-sourcing techniques, the USGS' Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) project known as The National Map Corps (TNMCorps) encourages citizen volunteers to collect manmade structures data in an effort to provide accurate and authoritative spatial map data for the National Geospatial Program’s web-based The National Map.
Structures being updated include schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations and other important public buildings.
Starting as a series of pilot projects in 2011, nearly 400 volunteers edited structures in the state of Colorado and contributed more than 6,800 edits. With approval to expand the project, the USGS began releasing the rest of the United States for editing in a phased approach in April 2013. By August of this year, volunteers were editing in every state in the country. To date, the numbers of volunteers has more than tripled, and the number of submitted edits has exceeded 25,000.The first available virtual badge, The Order of the Surveyor’s Chain, awarded to TNMCorps volunteers who collect more than 25 points. (High resolution image)
"The number of points contributed and edited by volunteers is incredible," said Kari Craun, the director of the National Geospatial Technical Operations Center. "Our challenge going forward will be to keep volunteers motivated and to make sure we have coverage in all areas of the United States. We think at least part of that motivation will come from letting volunteers -- and potential volunteers -- know how valuable the information they contribute is to the USGS and to the users of the data. So to all of those who have contributed, thank you for your time and energy!
To show appreciation of the volunteers' efforts, The National Map Corps has instituted a recognition program that awards "virtual" badges to volunteers. Each edit that is submitted is worth one point towards the badge level. The badges consist of a series of antique surveying instruments ranging from the Order of the Surveyor's Chain (25 – 50 points) to the Theodolite Assemblage (2000+ points). Additionally, volunteers are publically acknowledged (with permission) via Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
Tools on TNMCorps web site explain how a volunteer can edit any area, regardless of their familiarity with the selected structures, and becoming a volunteer for TNMCorps is easy; go to The National Map Corps web site to learn more and to sign up as a volunteer. If you have access to the Internet and are willing to dedicate some time to editing map data, we hope you will consider participating.
Status map of the U.S. showing volunteer contributions after the first set of states were authorized, April 1 – June 18, 2013.(Larger image)
Status map of the U.S. showing the progression of volunteer contributions through all 50 states, April 1 - December 15, 2013.(Larger image)
Cortland, N.Y.— Brown trout introductions could hamper the conservation of declining native brook trout populations, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.
Brook and brown trout are valuable sport fish that co-exist in many parts of the world due to stocking introductions. USGS researchers found that, in New York State, direct interactions between the two species, such as competition for food, have minor effects on diminishing brook trout populations compared to human-caused habitat disturbances. However, repeated, disproportionate stocking of brown trout in brook trout habitats could drastically decrease brook trout numbers.
"There is great potential for brown trout stocking to reduce native brook trout populations," said James McKenna, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. "But brown trout aren’t necessarily causing the current brook trout declines, and managers may be able to develop sustainable scenarios to support both fisheries."
The USGS study found that human-induced degradation (from dams and roads, among other causes) of the habitats of both species can affect the populations of either. However, because brook trout do better in forested watersheds, whereas brown trout can thrive in more agricultural environments, degraded watersheds and/or the elimination of forests may affect brook more than brown trout. Improper brown trout management could further threaten vulnerable brook trout populations.
Fisheries managers in New York use stocking to maintain brook trout—a native species—and/or brown trout—a non-native species stocked in New York for over 100 years—in some streams. Brook trout have been declining within its native range in recent decades, and there has been concern that the stocking of brown trout has caused these declines.
The report is published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management and is available online.
For more information on USGS Great Lakes ecosystem research, please visit the USGS Great Lakes Science Center website.
Interior Announces Funding for New Scientific Studies as Part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan
WASHINGTON, DC—Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that Interior’s eight regional Climate Science Centers are awarding nearly $7 million to universities and other partners for research as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution, move our economy toward clean energy sources and begin to prepare our communities for the impacts of climate change.