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USGS Webinar: Using The National Map Services to Enable your Web and Mobile Mapping Efforts

April 17, 2014 - 07:00
Summary: Are you a developer, firm, or organization using mobile or web applications to enable your users?  The USGS has publicly available geospatial services and data to help you

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Brian Fox ( Phone: 303-202-4140 ); Rob Dollison ( Phone: 703-648-5724 );



Screen shot of a mobile mapping service integrating USGS topographic data; hiking and biking trails south of Golden, Colo. (larger image)

Are you a developer, firm, or organization using mobile or web applications to enable your users?  The USGS has publicly available geospatial services and data to help you!  

The USGS’ National Geospatial Technical Operations Center (NGTOC) will be hosting a 30 minute Webinar on “Using The National Map services to enable your web and mobile mapping efforts” on the 30th of April at 9am Mountain Time.  

This webinar will feature a brief overview of services, data, and products that are publicly available, a quick overview on how SingleTracks.com (http://www.singletracks.com/) a leading private firm is leveraging this public data to benefit their users, and a Question & Answer session with a USGS developer to help you get the most out of the national geospatial services.

“This is the first webinar from NGTOC to bring developers and users together for some demonstrations and starting some dialog”, said Brian Fox, the NGTOC Systems Development Branch Chief.  “Using this webinar format, we can simultaneously improve the awareness of USGS geospatial services and develop a better understanding of what users and developers need to make our data and services more available and usable.” 

To access the webinar, you’ll need to activate Adobe WebEx and call into the toll free conference number 855-547-8255 and use the security code: 33220038.  The webinar will display through WebEx. Direct link: http://bit.ly/OhNDx5 or browse the selections for that date and time. The WebEx and audio bridge will be live 15 prior to the start time.

To ensure that you have the appropriate players installed for this WebEx enabled Webinar: https://usgs.webex.com/usgs/systemdiagnosis.php

A simultaneous closed caption option will be available at: http://recapd.com/w-a5791c. The session will also be recorded and posted to the webinar website shortly after conclusion.

To find out more about this webinar conference, go to: http://ngtoc.usgs.gov/webinars.html

Elevated Levels of Mercury Found in Fish in Western U.S. National Parks

April 16, 2014 - 08:40
Summary: Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans

Contact Information:

Susan Kemp ( Phone: 541-750-1047 ); Jeffrey Olson ( Phone: 202-208-6843 );



WASHINGTON. — Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans.

The information about mercury, and its appearance in protected areas considered to be relatively pristine and removed from environmental contaminants, is in a recently published scientific report from the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service.

The study of mercury in fish is the first of its kind to incorporate information from remote places at 21 national parks in 10 western states, including Alaska. Western parks were selected for this study because of the significant role that atmospheric mercury deposition plays in remote places, and the lack of broad-scale assessments on mercury in fish in remote areas of the west.

Mercury concentrations in fish sampled from these parks were generally low, but were elevated in some instances. This study examines total mercury in fish, of which 95 percent is in the form of methylmercury, the most dangerous form to human and wildlife health.

Mercury is harmful to human and wildlife health, and is among the most widespread contaminants in the world. It is distributed at a global scale from natural sources, such as volcanic eruptions and from human sources such as burning fossil fuels in power plants. Mercury is distributed at local or regional scales as a result of current and historic mining activities. These human activities have increased levels of atmospheric mercury at least three fold during the past 150 years. 

“Although fish mercury concentrations were elevated in some sites, the majority of fish across the region had concentrations that were below most benchmarks associated with impaired health of fish, wildlife, and humans. However, the range of concentrations measured suggest that complex processes are involved in driving mercury accumulation in these environments and further research is needed to better understand these processes, and assess risk,” said USGS ecologist Collin Eagles-Smith, the lead author of the publication. 

Between 2008 and 2012, NPS resource managers collected more than 1,400 fish from 86 lakes and rivers, and USGS scientists measured mercury concentrations in fish muscle tissue. Sixteen fish species were sampled, with a focus on commonly consumed sport fish found across the study area such as brook, rainbow, cutthroat, and lake trout. Smaller prey fish consumed by birds and wildlife were also sampled.

Scientists compared fish mercury concentrations among sites within an individual park, as well as  from one park to other parks, and identified areas with elevated mercury levels. They also compared the mercury concentrations in the fish to a range of health benchmarks including human health guidelines established by the EPA for fish consumption, and wildlife risk thresholds that indicate the potential for toxicity and impairment in fish and fish-eating birds.

The authors found that mercury levels varied greatly, from park to park and among sites within each park. In most parks, mercury concentrations in fish were moderate to low in comparison with similar fish species from other locations in the Western states. Mercury concentrations were below EPA’s fish tissue criterion for safe human consumption in 96 percent of the sport fish sampled. 

The average concentration of mercury in sport fish from two sites in two Alaskan parks exceeded EPA’s human health criterion. Mercury levels in individual fish at some parks from other states including California, Colorado, Washington, and Wyoming also exceeded the human health criterion.

Neither the USGS nor the NPS regulate environmental health guidelines. The NPS is coordinating with state officials in the 10 study states regarding potential fish consumption advisories. State fish consumption guidelines consider both the risks associated with mercury exposure and the benefits of fish consumption, such as improved cardiac health from increased omega-3 fatty acid consumption or potential reduced intake of unhealthy fats due to food substitutions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to high levels of mercury in humans may cause damage to the brain, kidneys, and the developing fetus. Pregnant women and young children are particularly sensitive to the effects of mercury.

Mercury at elevated levels can also impact wildlife. High mercury concentrations in birds, mammals, and fish can result in reduced foraging efficiency, survival, and reproductive success. Mercury concentrations in fish exceeded the most conservative fish toxicity benchmark at 15 percent of all sites, and levels exceeded the most sensitive health benchmark for fish-eating birds at 52 percent of all sites.

Mercury threatens natural resources, including wildlife, which the NPS is mandated to protect. “This is a wake-up call,” said NPS ecologist Colleen Flanagan Pritz, a co-author of the report. “We need to see fewer contaminants in park ecosystems, especially contaminants like mercury where concentrations in fish challenge the very mission of the national parks to leave wild life unimpaired for future generations."

Funding for this study was provided by the NPS Air Resources Division, USGS Contaminants Biology Program within the Environmental Health Mission Area, the Ecosystems Mission Area to the USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, and with in-kind contributions from participating parks.

More information is available in the USGS Top Story "Mercury Finds a Way—Even into the Pristine National Parks."

Lack of Vitamin B1 Killing Great Lakes Fish

April 16, 2014 - 06:00
Summary: Great Lakes fish in the salmon family that rely on the fish “alewife” as part of their diet face a major obstacle in restoring naturally reproducing populations, according to new U.S. Geological Survey research published in the journal Fish and Shellfish Immunology

Contact Information:

Christopher  Ottinger ( Phone: 304-724-4453 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



LEETOWN, W.Va. — Great Lakes fish in the salmon family that rely on the fish “alewife” as part of their diet face a major obstacle in restoring naturally reproducing populations, according to new U.S. Geological Survey research published in the journal Fish and Shellfish Immunology.

For more than a decade researchers have been trying to unravel the mystery of why Lake Trout and other salmonids that consume alewife produce spawn that die young.  Although researchers have recognized the connection between thiamine and the death of the young fish for a decade, the new study provides an additional clue; fish that survive the initial impact of thiamine deficiency are experiencing changes in immune function that resemble those occurring in humans with inflammatory diseases.

Early Mortality Syndrome, or EMS, results in embryonic mortality in salmon, steelhead trout, brown trout, lake trout, and Chinook salmon. The symptoms of EMS include loss of equilibrium, swimming in a spiral pattern, lethargy, hyper-excitability, hemorrhage and death, which occurs between hatching and first feeding.

“Vitamin B1, or Thiamine, is an essential nutrient that animals must obtain through their diet,” said Chris Ottinger, a USGS immunologist and lead author of the study. “We found that alewives, one of the main diets of many Great Lakes fish, contains an enzyme called “thiaminase” that destroys the thiamine in fish that consume them. The lack of B1 leads to Early Mortality Syndrome as well as the newly reported immune dysfunctions that may be perpetuating infectious diseases in this fish community.”

Alewives were introduced to the Great Lakes as food fish for the species such as lake trout and the introduced Pacific salmon.

“There is some debate as to whether the thiaminase that is obtained through the consumption of the alewives is coming directly from the fish or from bacteria associated with the fish,” said Ottinger. “Either way the fish that eats the alewives becomes thiamine deficient through the destruction of the thiamine they obtain in their diet resulting in EMS as well the immune dysfunctions we have demonstrated.”

Thiamine is essential for energy production in cells, normal nerve function and also is an antioxidant. Other dysfunctions associated with Great Lakes salmonids consumption of alewives include changes in behavior and reduced ability to capture prey.

"In vitro immune function in thiamine-replete and-depleted lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush)" is available online in the journal Fish & Shellfish Immunology by C. A. Ottinger, D. C. Honeyfield, C. L. Densmorea, and L. R. Iwanowicz. 

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