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USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program

Recent News

Recent News - stories from the last 14 days.

For information about a story, contact Ann Tihansky (202) 208-3342.

Coral collected from reef near polluted groundwater seeps, A, shows more erosion than coral collected away from seeps, B, in these CT scans and photographs. cm = centimeterPolluted groundwater threatens coral reefs

Coral reefs already stressed by ocean acidification are particularly vulnerable to polluted groundwater, according to a recent study by USGS geologist Nancy Prouty and colleagues. Rising atmospheric CO2 is causing a gradual decrease in ocean pH, making it more difficult for corals to grow calcium carbonate skeletons and enhancing rates of dissolution and bioerosion—the breakdown of coral by other organisms. The authors show that polluted groundwater discharging onto coral reefs off west Maui, Hawai‘i, further lowers seawater pH and exposes corals to nitrate concentrations 50 times higher than normal. Such land-based pollution could contribute to the collapse of coastal coral reef ecosystems sooner than predicted just on the basis of ocean acidification. The study was published in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, featured on AGU’s GeoSpace blog, and reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and the Associated Press. Contact: Nancy Prouty,, 831-460-7526

posted: 2017-11-17

Photo shows two polar bears rummaging around the eroding coastal bluffs of Barter Island in northern Alaska in July of 2016. The bears triggered a motion-activated camera. Photo courtesy of Bruce Richmond, USGS.ABC News speaks to USGS researchers about Arctic coastal change

USGS scientists Li Erikson and Ann Gibbs spoke by phone with producers from ABC News on November 2 about permafrost, coastal erosion, and changing sea-ice conditions at Barter Island on Alaska’s Arctic coast. Durrell Dawson and Doug Vollmayer were making an ABC News television documentary about polar bears and their habitat in Alaska and wanted to learn more about Arctic coastal change described on the USGS web site. The documentary, which features polar bear researchers from the USGS Alaska Science Center, is currently scheduled to air Tuesday, November 21. Contact: Li Erikson,, 831-460-7563

See a larger version of the polar bear photo.

posted: 2017-11-16

USGS researcher announced as judge for Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition

XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world's grandest challenges. XPRIZE announced in a press release the identities of the independent international judging panel that will choose the winners of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition. The panel consists of experts in seafloor mapping, data analysis, marine and drone technologies, and underwater discoveries: Victor Abbott, Ph.D., formerly of the University of Plymouth; Aida Alvera Azcarate, Ph.D., University of Liege; Douglas Au, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute; Catherine Ball, Ph.D., Remote Research Ranges; Christina Kellogg, Ph.D., United States Geological Survey; David Mearns, Blue Water Recoveries; and Shah Selbe, National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

posted: 2017-11-16

USGS Research Microbiologist interviewed by American Society for Microbiology

During the National Microbiome Data Collaborative (NMDC) workshop, held at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM)'s headquarters, ASM communications staff interviewed Christina Kellogg (SPCMSC Research Microbiologist) about the purpose of the NMDC workshop, her role on the Microbiome Interagency Working Group (MIWG), and the recent release of a USGS fact sheet showcasing USGS microbiome research. The interview will appear in a blog post on the society's website.

For more information:

posted: 2017-11-16

3D point cloud images looking at the Mud Creek slide, first image from airplane photo and second from drone.LA Times story about Big Sur landslide features quotes, imagery from USGS

USGS geologists Jon Warrick (Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center) and Kevin Schmidt (Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center) are quoted in a November 9 Los Angeles Times story titled “Highway 1 was buried under a massive landslide. Months later, engineers battle Mother Nature to fix it.” The story takes readers to Mud Creek on California’s Big Sur coast, where millions of tons of rock and dirt slid toward the ocean last May. It details some of the steps that the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is taking to stabilize the slide and rebuild the road. Among the illustrations are 3D images of the landslide constructed by Warrick. He and Schmidt have been studying slides along the Big Sur coast and sharing their findings with Caltrans. Contact: Jon Warrick,, 831-460-7569

Learn more about the USGS project, Remote Sensing Coastal Change.

View a larger version of this animation.

posted: 2017-11-15

Gerry Hatcher, left, and Shawn Harrison work on their video camera station atop a hotel in Santa Cruz, California. Photo by Shawn Harrison, USGSEyes on the Coast—Video Cameras Help Forecast Coastal Change

Coastal communities count on beaches for recreation and for protection from large waves, but beaches are vulnerable to threats such as erosion by storms and flooding. Whether beaches grow, shrink, or even disappear depends in part on what happens just offshore. How do features like shifting sandbars affect waves, currents, and the movement of sand from the beach to offshore and back? USGS scientists have installed video cameras pointed at beaches on the coast of western Florida and central California. They’re analyzing the videos to measure features of the beach and ocean so they can improve coastal-change forecasts.

Read the USGS News article from November 8, 2017.

posted: 2017-11-14

USGS Researcher represents DOI/USGS at National Microbiome Data Collaborative Workshop

Christina Kellogg, Research Microbiologist (SPCMSC) was invited to participate in the National Microbiome Data Collaborative Workshop hosted by the American Academy of Microbiology in Washington, DC, from November 9–10, 2017. The workshop brings together subject matter experts from the Federal, academic, and private sectors to review current practices and infrastructure regarding microbiome data, and then seeks to work together to discuss the development needs to best structure and organize a National Microbiome Data Collaborative.

For more information:

posted: 2017-11-09

USGS Researcher co-leads NSF RAPID project to assess risk of waterborne disease in post-hurricane Caribbean island

Sunny Jiang (Professor and Chair, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Irvine) and Christina Kellogg (Research Microbiologist, SPCMSC) will be conducting field research in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands from Nov 17–29, 2017 as part of an NSF-funded project titled "Microbial Risk Assessment of Disease Burden in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands Post Hurricanes Irma and Maria." St. Thomas was devastated by back-to-back category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, in September. Managing waterborne and water-related diseases is one of the most critical factors in the months after hurricane-induced natural disasters. The project will provide much needed water quality data and disease risks on a tropical island in post-hurricanes conditions through: 1) Sanitary and water infrastructure surveys; 2) Surveys of residents' water-use behavior and water-related activities; 3) Quantification of microbial pathogens in water samples from cisterns and coastal waters; 4) Quantiative microbial risk assessment of disease burdens through exposure assessment and dose-response models. Efforts are being made to connect with and establish collaborations with researchers at the University of the Virgin Islands to extend the scope of this work.

posted: 2017-11-09

Bathymetry of the Arctic Ocean, with black rectangle delineating study area. White star marks site where sample in photograph was collected. Its cut surfaces show layers in Fe-Mn crust. Each square in scale beneath sample is 1 centimeter.Seafloor mineral deposits record unique history of the Arctic Ocean, show unusual enrichment in rare metal scandium

Little is known about seafloor mineral deposits in the Arctic Ocean, an ocean dominated by shallow areas of continental shelf and deep basins with limited circulation. USGS scientists and colleagues published the first comprehensive paper on this subject, “Deep-water ferromanganese-oxide deposits reflect the unique characteristics of the Arctic Ocean,” in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (G-cubed). They found that Arctic ferromanganese (Fe-Mn) deposits are highly enriched in the rare metal scandium, for which there is no land-based mine. Scandium is in great demand to amalgamate with aluminum to make light, fuel-efficient aircraft. Arctic Fe-Mn deposits have additional unique characteristics, reflecting the Arctic Ocean’s history. Growth-layer analyses show that over time Arctic Fe-Mn deposits are becoming more like those in other oceans. Contact: James Hein,, 831-460-7419

posted: 2017-11-07

3D map of Mud Creek slide derived from video footage collected by drone on October 12, 2017.Video shot from drones yields details about changing landslide on California's Big Sur coast

On October 12, USGS drones collected video footage of the Mud Creek landslide, which buried California State Highway 1 under a third-of-a-mile-wide mass of rock and dirt on May 20. USGS scientists have been monitoring the slide by transforming photos shot from an airplane into 3D maps. They applied the same software to the October 12 drone footage, producing detailed views of how the slide mass has changed. The scientists share their findings with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to help that agency assess the slide and plan reconstruction of Highway 1. USGS will continue collecting drone footage of the Mud Creek landslide to supplement broader coverage provided by photos shot during airplane flights along the central California coast. View provisional imagery from the October drone flights. Contact: Jonathan Warrick,, 831-460-7569

posted: 2017-11-06

Patrick Barnard and field trip participants above Pacifica State Beach, where future large storms combined with sea-level rise could flood parts of the highway and other infrastructure.Visiting journalists view rapidly eroding coast in and near San Francisco

USGS geologist Patrick Barnard and communications officer Leslie Gordon led a coastal-erosion field trip on October 30 for journalists attending the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists in San Francisco, California. On San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, participants observed erosion that threatens the Great Highway and a $1.2 billion sewage treatment facility. In Pacifica, they saw beach-side infrastructure that could be flooded by future large storms combined with sea-level rise. Finally, they visited the Devil’s Slide promontory, where landslides closed California State Route 1 so often that it has been re-routed through tunnels. This is the most rapidly eroding segment of coast in the state, being heavily influenced by the management of sand resources in San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Contact: Patrick Barnard,, 831-460-7556, and Leslie Gordon,, 650-329-4006

posted: 2017-11-06

Susan Russell-Robinson receives the Department of the InteriorSusan Russell-Robinson Receives Interior's Highest Award

Former associate director of the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program Susan L. Russell-Robinson received the Department of the Interior’s Distinguished Service Award, the highest honorary award given to Department employees. Russell-Robinson, who retired from the USGS in July 2016 after 42 years of service, was celebrated for her great effectiveness as a scientist and a skilled, thoughtful manager. The Secretary of the Interior signed the award, and USGS Acting Associate Director John Haines presented it to Russell-Robinson on October 3. Haines lauded Russell-Robinson as an “unfailing force for good, exemplifying the guiding principles of the Survey and federal service.” Contact: John Haines,, 703-648-5464

posted: 2017-11-06

Field trip participants beside the Carmel River at the former site of the San Clemente Dam. USGS geologist Amy East is seventh from right. Credit: Tommy Williams, NOAA.Students view evidence of Carmel River recovery after California's first large dam removal

On October 14, 2017, geologist Amy East of the USGS and biologist Tommy Williams of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service led a field trip to the Carmel River for graduate students from the University of California, Berkeley. Sixteen students enrolled in the course “Restoration of Rivers and Streams” spent the day learning about the Carmel River’s response to the removal of San Clemente Dam nearly two years ago. Demolition of the 32-meter (105-foot)-high dam, completed in November 2015, was the third-largest dam removal in the U.S. so far, and the first removal of a large dam in California. East and Williams showed the students the former dam site as well as evidence of change and recovery both up- and downstream, including increased spawning habitat for steelhead. Contact: Amy East,, 831-460-7533

posted: 2017-11-06

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