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April Science Picks — Leads, Feeds and Story Seeds


Geography, the science of place, is an integrating discipline and a pivotal study element in all the natural sciences. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will deliver more than 80 professional presentations - papers, panel discussions, software demonstrations, and posters during the world’s largest gathering of geographers, the 103rd annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) in San Francisco, California, April 17- 21 This April edition of Science Picks provides a compilation of the USGS science that will likely be seen during the annual meeting, and then some... Photos and Web links are available to enhance your story. If you would like to receive Science Picks via e-mail, would like to change the recipient or no longer want to receive it, please e-mail
For a complete list of USGS sessions and workshops go to

April Highlights

-Global Project - Effects of Sea-level Rise on Population
-Permafrost, Carbon Modeling and Ecosystem Processes in the Yukon River Basin
-Geospatial Technology - Reconstructing the Human Environment as a Response to Humanitarian Crises or Natural Disasters
-Deep in the Last Frontiers of Unexplored America a New Genus is Found
-New Decision-Support Tool - Reducing Society’s Risks from Natural Hazards using Financial Theory
-Using GIS to Visualize Community Vulnerability to Tsunamis
-A New Way to Monitor Border Settlements along the U.S.-Mexico Border
-New USGS Technique Makes Mapping More Realistic
-Way Down Upon the Suwannee River... an Information Gateway
-Out of Sight, on EarthNow!
-Landsat In Orbit ... It Keeps Going and Going
-Everyday is Earth Day at USGS


Global Project — Effects of Sea-level Rise on Population:
During the last century, scientists say the ocean rose one to two millimeters per year. They also say that within the next century, if nothing is done to modify New Orleans’ existing infrastructure, some areas of the city that did not flood as a result of Hurricane Katrina will likely flood in a future storm due to subsidence and sea-level rise. This isn’t just a local problem. Complete melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets could lead to a sea-level rise of about 80 meters, while melting of all other glaciers could lead to a sea-level rise of only half a meter. Scientists are running simulations that provide information on global trends of rising water that help us to identify broad areas where large numbers of people could be affected. USGS scientists are modeling the effects of global sea-level rise on human population using new map techniques. To learn how it works, check out, or contact E. Lynn Usery at (573) 308-3837 or

Permafrost, Carbon Modeling and Ecosystem Processes in the Yukon River Basin:
Scientists generally agree that global warming at high latitudes produces major changes to the permafrost and hydrological systems. Regional impacts at high latitudes are accelerated as carbon stores become mobilized in the degrading permafrost and exported to the ocean or atmosphere. USGS and Canadian natural resource agencies are working together to evaluate surface ecosystem processes, to model surface performance, and to quantify carbon, water and energy budgets over large areas. Scientists will first map the Yukon River Basin using radar imaging technologies to assess impacts of climate change on human settlements, physical infrastructure, and ecosystems of both countries. Learn more at, or for more information, contact Larry Tieszen at (605) 594-6056 or

Geospatial Technology — Reconstructing the Human Environment as a Response to Humanitarian Crises or Natural Disasters:
Geospatial Technology and data have aided, or could be used to aid, the process of reconstruction in many post-disaster situations. USGS scientists will discuss the particularities of reconstruction projects in the United States, the Middle East, and Central America, focusing during 20-minute-talks, on the requirement for reliable, accessible, and current data in order to deal with the complexities of the human environment. Case studies address the use of Geospatial Technology in both natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, and humanitarian crises, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Improving the Accessibility to Earthquake Data, Geologic Hazard Maps and Post-Earthquake Damage Information in the San Francisco Bay Area Using Google Earth,
Development of Geospatial Datasets for Natural Resource Assessments and Reconstruction Activities in Iraq,
Digital terrain modeling of the projected water level increase at the Kajakai Reservoir, Afghanistan,
Evaluation of Challenges to Sustainable GIS Technology in Post Hurricane Mitch Central America,
For more information, contact Emily Phillips at (703) 648-6047 or or Pete Chirico at 703-648-6950 or

Deep in the Last Frontiers of Unexplored Underground America a New Genus is Found:
Just when you think there was nothing left to discover, caves in Grand Canyon, Ariz., reveal something new. These caves are home to a new genus of eyeless, pigmentless millipede. USGS and BLM scientists collected specimens that led to the discovery of two new millipede species in caves on opposite sides of the Grand Canyon, which were subsequently determined to be an entirely new genus. The Grand Canyon millipedes are “essentially living fossils” and provide researchers with another piece of the puzzle of understanding cave ecosystems. For more information, contact J. Judson Wynne at (928) 556-7466 or, or Stephanie Hanna at (206) 331-0335 or

New Decision-Support Tool — Reducing Society’s Risks from Natural Hazards using Financial Theory:
USGS scientists are using a new kind of investment portfolio -one to reduce losses from the many natural hazards that threaten communities in Ventura County, Calif. They have developed an interactive, GIS-based decision-support system that combines the mathematics of financial-portfolio theory with geospatial natural-hazard, land-use, and socioeconomic data. The system, known as the Land Use Portfolio Model, allows users to analyze, visualize, and compare policies for reducing the risks posed by natural hazards. Regional decision makers can evaluate their investment choices on the basis of the estimated distributions of risk and return for each choice. The model considers information on hazard-event probabilities, planning-time horizons, community assets at risk, spatial-damage probabilities, and the costs and effectiveness of possible risk-reduction strategies. To learn more, see, or contact Laura Dinitz at (650) 329-4953 or

Using GIS to Visualize Community Vulnerability to Tsunamis:
Studies suggest that an earthquake along the Cascadia subduction-zone (which stretches from mid-Vancouver Island to northern California) has the potential to generate tsunami waves that would impact more than 1,000 km of coastline on the west coast of the United States and Canada. Although the predictable extent of tsunami inundation is similar for low-lying land throughout the region, population size and use of the hazard-prone land varies. To better understand the variations, USGS scientists turned to Geospatial Information Systems (GIS). By integrating tsunami-hazard data and landcover information derived from remotely sensed imagery (e.g., Landsat Thematic Mapper imagery), they were able to describe hazard-prone land in 26 communities along the Oregon coast. To find out more, contact Nathan Wood at (360) 993-8951 or

A New Way to Monitor Border Settlements along the U.S.-Mexico Border:
Colonias, unincorporated border settlements in the United States, have emerged in rural areas without the governance and services normally provided by local government. Colonia residents often live in poverty and lack adequate health care, potable water and sanitation systems. By 2001, more than 1400 colonias were identified in Texas. Cooperation with the Offices of the Texas Attorney General, Secretary of State and the Texas Water Development Board has allowed the USGS to improve colonia Geographic Information System (GIS) boundaries and develop the Colonia Health, Infrastructure and Platting Status (CHIPS) tool. CHIPS is part of a larger project involving scientists from the United States and Mexico who are merging landscape and demographic data from both countries in hopes of developing nationally integrated datasets to assess environmental health issues along the U.S.-Mexico border. To view the interactive Web maps, documentation and links, visit For more information, contact Delbert Geronimo Humberson at (512) 927-3567 or or Jean W. Parcher at (512) 927-3523 or

New USGS Technique Makes Mapping More Realistic:
A critical first step in planning for natural disasters is determining where people are located during different hours of the day to gauge who is at risk at any given time. USGS scientists have researched techniques for mapping population density relative to residential land-use to provide a more statistically accurate visual representation. Find out how the rapid population growth in the San Francisco Bay region, from 6 million in 1990 to 6.8 million in 2000, influenced the development of a mapping technique that can be applied to other geographic areas to conceptualize urban growth patterns essential for land-use planning and urban growth modeling. Learn how the technique is being used for estimating other populations exposed to natural disasters. The results of work completed for the San Francisco Bay Area, 1990-2000, and an ArcGIS extension used to automate the dasymetric mapping process are available to download as geospatial products at For more information, contact Rachel Sleeter at (650) 329-4373 or


Way Down Upon the Suwannee River… an Information Gateway:
The Suwannee River is a great place to live, canoe, or play folk music. However, due to an increasing population and pressure on water resources the basin and its estuary in the eastern Gulf of Mexico are threatened. The Suwannee Information Gateway (SIG) was developed to bring together data from Federal, State and local authorities to provide tools for modeling natural and human-induced changes in the basin. Coordinated research and management is needed to address increasing urbanization, water demands, contamination and cross-jurisdictional issues. Find out what the gateway is doing to raise awareness of the Suwannee watershed, and learn more about the visualization and mapping tools that are available to the general public. To access the gateway go to or contact Ellen Raabe at (727) 803-8747, x 3039 or

Out of Sight, on EarthNow!
The EarthNow tool displays data received from the Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 satellites as they pass over the conterminous United States. When a Landsat satellite passes within range of the ground station at the USGS EROS center, image data are downlinked and displayed in near-real time. When Landsat 5 and 7 are not in range, the most recent ten pass are displayed. For more information contact Rachel Kurtz at 605-594-6118 or

Story Seeds

Landsat In Orbit … It Keeps Going and Going:
On March 1, 2007, the Landsat 5 satellite began 24 years in orbit. This milestone is particularly impressive considering its operational lifespan was thought to be no more than three years. On April 15, 2007, Landsat 7 will complete its eighth year of operation. Landsat data is a vital component of an incredible array of research that includes wildfire mapping, crop identification, timber harvesting, desertification, climate change, habitat suitability and urban expansion. Data gathered by Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 continue to form the backbone of the 35-year-old global Landsat archive (, which contains millions of images of Earth’s terrestrial environment and is maintained at the USGS Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science. For more information contact Rachel Kurtz, at (605) 594-6118 or

Everyday is Earth Day at USGS:
On April 22, 2007, people around the globe will recognize Earth Day, but at the USGS, every day is Earth Day. Information about the Earth is just a click away at This year’s Earth Day theme, “A Call for Action on Climate Change,” provides USGS scientists a chance to share Earth science studies - hydrology, biology, geology and geography - dating back thousands of years. Watch for information about events in your area at


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