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Weekly Highlights for 2-16-2012

Departmental/Bureau News

New USGS Website Describes Research of the Arctic and Subarctic Landscape
A new research group has been established at the USGS Alaska Science Center (ASC) that focuses on the study of the Arctic and Subarctic landscape, with an emphasis on Alaska. Benjamin Jones is the lead investigator at the ASC and is involved with several interdisciplinary, collaborative research projects in Alaska with a number of Federal, State, and Local agencies as well as researchers in academia. The primary objective of this research program is to gain an understanding of landscape change in the recent (last 50 years) and distant (last 20,000 years) past. The Cold Regions Lake and Landscape Research Group website contains information pertaining to ongoing projects, recent highlights, field photos from around Alaska, and a series of Geotagged Lake and Landscape Oblique Aerial Photos that can be used for ground-truthing remotely sensed landcover mapping efforts, developing baseline information for future change detection studies, and better understanding landscape-scale patterns and processes. Ultimately, these studies will provide information that land and resource managers can use to better inform their decision making process. To learn more visit
Contact: Mark Shasby Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7065

New Publication Provides Reference for Future Studies on Avian Keratin Disorder
USGS Alaska Science Center scientists Caroline Van Hemert and Colleen Handel are co-authors of a paper to be published in the February issue of the Journal of Morphology entitled "Microanatomy of passerine hard-cornified tissues: Beak and claw structure of the black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)." The microanatomy of healthy beaks and claws in passerine birds has not been well described in the literature, despite the importance of these structures in avian life. An emerging epizootic of beak deformities among wild birds in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest region of North America recently highlighted the need for additional baseline information about avian hard-cornified tissues. In this study, scientists examine the beak and claw of the Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), a common North American passerine that is affected by what has been described as "avian keratin disorder." They use light and scanning electron microscopy and high-magnification radiography to document the healthy microanatomy of these tissues and identify features of functional importance. The study also describes detailed methods for histological processing of avian hard-cornified structures and discusses the utility of special stains. Results from this study will assist in future research on the functional anatomy and pathology of hard-cornified structures and will provide a necessary reference for ongoing investigations of avian keratin disorder in Black-capped Chickadees and other wild passerine species. The abstract may be accessed at

Van Hemert, C., Handel, C. M., Blake, J. E., Swor, R. M. and O'Hara, T. M. (2012), Microanatomy of passerine hard-cornified tissues: Beak and claw structure of the black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus). Journal of Morphology, 273:226240. doi:10.1002/jmor.11023
Contact: Caroline Van Hemert Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7167

USGS Polar Bear Scientist Attending Spring North Slope Borough Fish and Game Management Committee Meeting
Alaska Science Center scientist Lily Peacock will present an overview of the USGS polar bear research program at the North Slope Borough Fish and Game Management Committee Meeting in Barrow, AK on February 22. The committee includes members from villages across the North Slope, and makes recommendations on subsistence issues. They meet several times a year, and polar bears and their management are among the high priority topics considered.
Contact: Lily Peacock Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7000

Public Presentation on Yukon- Kuskokwim Delta Waterfowl
USGS Alaska Science Center wildlife biologist Joel Schmutz will present a public talk sponsored by the Anchorage Audubon Society entitled "Disease, Floods, and Competition: The Life of 4 Goose Species in America's greatest nesting area: the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta" on February 16. The talk highlights four species of geese: Cackling Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, Emperor Geese, and Black Brant found on the Yukon- Kuskokwim Delta and discusses how differences in body size among species affects what plants they eat, where they nest, and their behavior.
Contact: Joel Schmutz Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7186

Press Inquiries/Media

Research Geographer, Benjamin Jones, has recently been featured on the cover of a new book called "Responses to Coastal Erosion in Alaska in a Changing Climate: A Guide for Coastal Residents, Business and Resource Managers, Engineers, and Builders" by Orson P. Smith and Mikal K. Hendee, as he conducts field surveys near Drew Point in northern Alaska.
Contact: Yvette Gillies Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7039


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