Weekly Highlights for 9-20-2012
I. Departmental/Bureau News
A. Upcoming Events
No Upcoming Events highlights for this week
The National Water Data Conference will be held in Portland, Oregon on September 24-27. The conference is a mix of training opportunities and formal conference presentations geared toward USGS personnel involved in hydrologic data collection. Jeff Conaway will be presenting a seminar on measuring, monitoring, and modeling streambed scour at bridges. The seminar will focus on data collection techniques and processing and opportunities for other science centers to develop projects studying streambed scour at bridges. Further information including the agenda and abstracts can be found at: http://water.usgs.gov/usgs/orh/data/conferences/2012dataconference.html.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7041
USGS Alaska Science Center biologist Lee Tibbitts will travel to James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu, Hawaii the last week of September to collaborate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, on a field study of the demography and movements of a recently-established wintering population of Bristle-thighed Curlews. This migratory shorebird breeds only in Alaska and spends the winter on islands and atolls throughout Oceania. Curlews are a Species of Conservation Concern throughout their range due mostly to their small population size and anthropogenic threats to wintering islands. Plans are to assess age structure, breeding origin, and local and migratory movements of the birds via molt scores, genetic analyses, and remote-tracking, respectively. Information gained will help guide the James Campbell Refuge with prioritizing future management actions. Additionally, the accessibility of the Oahu population offers a unique opportunity to learn more about the wintering biology of this elusive species.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7038
USGS Alaska Science Center biologist Tyrone Donelly and geneticist Andy Reeves will travel to the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska Peninsula this week to continue a long-term sampling effort there for avian viruses. Past research by the Alaska Science Center determined that the Alaska Peninsula was a hot spot for Eurasian forms of low pathogenic avian influenza. Additionally, several isolates of avian paramyxovirus were also obtained from waterfowl that migrate through Izembek Lagoon. Genetic studies by the Alaska Science Center seek to determine if avian paramyxoviruses are transmitted across international flyways (between Alaska and Eurasia) similarly to avian influenza. Izembek Lagoon is also a fall staging area for the Emperor Goose, an endemic waterfowl species of Beringia that has suffered long-term reduced population levels in Alaska. Disease has recently emerged as a possible factor in reduced population levels in this species as more than 90 percent of Emperor Geese harbor antibodies to avian influenza—twice the rate of other sympatrially breeding geese. Similarly, Emperor Geese had more than twice the infection rate with blood parasites as other geese and this rate is much higher than observed 15 years ago in the same study location according to research by Alaska Science Center wildlife biologist Joel Schmutz and geneticist Andrew Ramey. The continued sampling of wild birds at Izembek will inform future surveillance programs, monitor changes in virus populations over time, and inform how disease may constrain wildlife populations.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7094
USGS Alaska Science Center research biologists Layne Adams and Dave Gustine captured and recollared male and female caribou in Denali National Park, Alaska, September 9-15. Information gathered during these captures will assist in continuing to census the population annually, and estimate calf production, calf recruitment, female and male survival, as well as herd composition. Research on the population dynamics of the Denali Caribou Herd by the Alaska Science Center has been supported by the National Park Service since 1983 and represents the longest and most consistent effort of its kind on caribou anywhere in North America.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7094
On September 10, USGS Alaska Science Center geologists examined an area in the southwest Talkeetna Mountains that is important to understanding the development of the Cook Inlet Basin. The area, near Hatcher Pass and the Independence Mine State Park, is important because it is crossed by one of the largest active faults in the Cook Inlet basin, the Castle Mountain Fault. It is also the site of gold mineralization and active gold mining and the tectonic history of the area is pertinent to development of coal-, oil- and gas-bearing basin sediments in upper Cook Inlet. The trip was designed to introduce three recent hires to Talkeetna Mountains geology, both to provide context for their major project work in the western Alaska Range and as an opportunity for team-building.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7444
USGS Alaska Science Center scientists David Ward, Kyle Hogrefe and Tyrone Donnelly along with scientists from US Fish and Wildlife Service and University of British Columbia recently completed a 20-day boat cruise to conduct baseline surveys of eelgrass communities along the south side of the lower Alaska Peninsula. Eelgrass is the dominant seagrass community of southwest Alaska and an important habitat and food source for numerous species, but has remained largely unmapped and described in the region. The team was transported aboard the US Fish and Wildlife Service boat, the "Arlluk", to 6 embayments along the peninsula and one offshore island, where they conducted surveys to assess the abundance, distribution and health of eelgrass beds and their associated macro-seaweed and invertebrate populations. The surveys are part of a more comprehensive project to develop a monitoring program for eelgrass at four national wildlife refuges (Alaska Peninsula, Izembek, Togiak and Yukon Delta) in southwest Alaska.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7097
USGS Alaska Science Center researchers Andrew Ramey, Craig Ely, Joel Schmutz and John Pearce, along with Daryl Heard at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, recently completed an investigation of blood parasites in tundra swans that breed throughout Alaska. Using genetic detection methods, the researchers found that parasite prevalence varied among three populations of tundra swans in Alaska (North Slope, Bristol Bay, and Alaska Peninsula) and that the genetic diversity of parasites was positively related to infection rates. Occupancy models incorporating ecological conditions on the different breeding grounds better explained the prevalence of blood parasites than those using measures of migration distance or duration. The results have important implications for understanding how parasite transmission may be affected by climate change and migration strategy. Findings of this study, funded by the Alaska Science Center's Changing Arctic Ecosystems initiative and Avian and Environmental Health program, will soon be published online in the journal PLoS ONE and can be viewed at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0045789 starting 25 September 2012.
Ramey, A. M., C. R. Ely, J. A. Schmutz, J. M. Pearce, and D. J. Heard. 2012. Molecular detection of hematozoa infections in tundra swans relative to migration patterns and ecological conditions at breeding grounds. PLoS ONE In press.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7174
USGS Alaska Science Center biologists Vanessa von Biela and Christian Zimmerman authored a new study on the stable isotope signatures and diets of young-of-year Arctic cisco (Coregonus autumnalis) from the Beaufort Sea, published September 14, 2012 online in Polar Biology http://www.springerlink.com/content/c02t667622566302/fulltext.pdf. Rapid young-of-year growth was supported by terrestrial carbon sources obtained by consuming a mixture of nearshore and offshore zooplankton. This study added to understanding of the importance of river discharge to productivity of the peripheral seas of the Arctic Ocean, which provide habitat for fishes, birds and marine mammals. The Arctic is warming faster than other parts of the earth, and concomitant shifts in the magnitude or phenology of river discharge and the delivery of terrestrial carbon may alter nearshore food webs.
Vanessa R. von Biela, Christian E. Zimmerman, Brian R. Cohn, Jeffrey M. Welker. (2012). Terrestrial and marine trophic pathways support young-of-year growth in a nearshore Arctic fish. Polar Biology http://www.springerlink.com/content/c02t667622566302/fulltext.pdf
Vanessa von Biela
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7073
II. Press Inquiries/Media
USGS Water Data Informs Emergency Managers and the Public about Potential Flooding
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) operates the most extensive network of streamgaging stations in the state, many of which form the backbone of flood-warning systems. The National Weather Service and other State and Federal agencies use USGS streamflow data provided from 120 "real-time" sites (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ak/nwis/current/?type=flow) in Alaska to provide warnings to the public. The Southcentral region of Alaska has been under a high wind and flood watch for the past week and additional storms are expected to arrive in the following week. Photos of USGS hydrologists measuring water volume at Chester Creek in Anchorage, AK may be found at http://www.adn.com/2012/09/16/2627585/rainwater-floods-chester-creek.html. For more information visit http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/water/index.php.
Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7039