North American ospreys typically migrate long distances to their wintering grounds in the tropics, yet very little is known about the wintering ecology of these birds. USGS and other researchers used satellite telemetry from 1997–2013 to determine the time ospreys spent on wintering grounds. Scientists also examined wintering area characteristics and space use of ospreys from the East Coast, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest.
Ecosystems - Wildlife
Wolves (Canis lupus) are on the endangered species list in several states. This long-term study uses Very High Frequency (VHF) and Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) radio collars to elucidate several aspects of wolf ecology and behavior. The backbone of the project is the monitoring of the wolf population trajectory over the long term. Members of 8–12 wolf packs in a standard study area are located weekly by GPS and/or aerial VHF tracking, and each year in winter the numbers in each pack are aerially counted.
Energy and Minerals
High spatial resolution imagery from the National Agricultural Imagery Program (NAIP) was used to capture the landscape disturbance related to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and other forms of hydrocarbon extraction activity throughout the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2010. Specific topological features such as well pads, pipelines, and roads were digitized and developed into a temporal geographic information system (GIS) database to characterize the spatial footprint of unconventional (hydraulic fracturing) and conventional oil and gas development.
Since 2007, the USGS has been supporting the U.S. Department of State (DoS), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Kimberley Process to stem the flow of conflict diamonds into the international market. Conflict diamonds are rough diamonds that rebel movements sell to finance wars against legitimate governments. The Kimberley Process is a joint Government, industry, and civil society initiative to prevent such gemstones from entering the mainstream rough diamond market.
Until recently, a spatially explicit dataset illustrating the 21st century mining footprint for the conterminous United States did not exist. Through collaboration between the USGS Western Geographic Science Center, USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, and SUNY Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management, surface mines within the United States have now been mapped for 2001 and 2006.
At the Deer Creek study site in Nevada County, California, the USGS Western Remote Sensing and Visualization Center (WRSVC) has utilized tripod-mounted lidar to quantify the eroded volume of mercury-contaminated sediment associated with historical gold mining from a discrete section of cutbank for three periods between 2010 and 2013. The eroded volumes were combined with laboratory analyses of mercury concentration and grain-size distribution in the sediment to estimate the amount of mercury mobilized by Deer Creek for the various periods.
At the Humbug Creek/South Yuba River study site in northern California, the USGS Western Remote Sensing and Visualization Center (WRSVC) has utilized tripod-mounted lidar to quantify the eroded and deposited volumes of mercury-contaminated sediment from 2011 to 2013. A mass balance of the measured erosion and deposition volumes provides an estimate of the amount of contaminated sediment transported below a historical high water mark.
The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is being developed for deserts in southern California to protect species like the golden eagle while simultaneously allowing for growing renewable energy development. To understand how golden eagles may be impacted by renewable energy projects, researchers used global positioning system-global system for mobile communications (GPS-GSM) telemetry to measure year-round golden eagle movements.
Hazards - Earthquakes
A detailed aerial survey of the 35-km-long, 6.9 magnitude Borah Peak earthquake rupture that occurred in 1983 is being conducted by USGS scientists from the Geologic Hazards Science Center (GHSC) in Golden, Colorado, in collaboration with researchers from the USGS Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Project Office, the Colorado School of Mines, and Utah Valley University. Photographs collected from a tethered balloon and a UAS system during the project will be processed to derive a high-resolution (~5 cm), three-dimensional model of the Borah Peak rupture.
The magnitude 6.0 South Napa earthquake produced the largest and most extensive coseismic surface rupture of any documented California earthquake of similar magnitude. While most of the fault displacement occurred along a single fault trace, as much as 25% of the total fault slip occurred on at least five additional traces across a zone more than 2 km wide. Most of the secondary fault slip was of small displacement (