USGS - science for a changing world

Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Impact of UMESC Science: USGS Partnership and Birds Helping Wisconsin DNR Assess Contaminated Areas of Concern

Clean air, clean water and healthy landscapes are foundations of Wisconsin's economy, environment and quality of life. These assets are protected and enhanced for a sustainable future in Wisconsin through early planning and consultation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' (WDNR), strong, sound regulations, cost sharing and partnerships.

Andrew Fayram, WDNR Water Resources Management Specialist: “The tree swallow toxicity work undertaken by Chris and Tom Custer at USGS has been instrumental in evaluating the status of the 'reproductive and animal deformities beneficial use impairment' in Wisconsin Areas of Concern.  This work is one of the primary components of the targets developed for several AOCs.  Not only does their work provide an understanding of the current level of impairment of individual Wisconsin AOCs but also provides a broader context within AOCs throughout the Great Lakes.  We appreciate their willingness to continue to work with us and are hopeful that our partnership can continue.”


In 2010, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) began to focus on cleaning up and restoring the Great Lakes through a task force of 11 federal agencies guided by an action plan addressing five urgent issues. One of those issues was cleaning up over 30 toxic hotspots designated as "Areas of Concern" (AOC) in the U.S. and Canada. Over the past 30 years releases of toxic pollutants have declined, however there still may be a legacy of contamination in sediments and continuing inputs from rivers and air that are problematic. The US Environmental Protection Agency has been working with federal and state agencies, organizations, and businesses to address the remediation and restoration of these AOCs.

The USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center scientists have been providing assistance to these agencies and the Task Force by examining the effects of contaminants across a range of AOCs to address the outstanding questions about contaminant effects on wildlife populations. Scientists have been evaluating wildlife exposure and effects of pollutants largely left from previous practices (legacy contaminants) including pesticides (for example, DDT), industrial contaminants (dioxins and PCBs), trace metals (lead and mercury), and petroleum. In addition to legacy pollutants, chemicals of emerging concern, such as flame retardants and stain repellants are also under evaluation. Tree swallows, double-crested cormorants, black-crowned night-herons, and gulls have been used as sentinels or indicator species of these contaminant exposures.

Several states around the Great Lakes are interested in assessing the effects of contaminant exposure on wildlife, including the WDNR. Two of 14 Beneficial Use Impairments can be assessed using the information provided by this study. USGS scientists have examined Wisconsin AOCs in Green Bay, Sheboygan, Milwaukee, and portions of the St. Louis River. The information provided by these investigations will be used to guide the WDNR and other agencies to determine exposures and effects, evaluate trends, and monitor cleanup and remediation actions.

For additional information on tree swallows as indicators of contamination exposure please visit webpage: http://www.umesc.usgs.gov/wildlife_toxicology/glri_project80.html


To learn more about research in Wisconsin AOCs, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7eYAyVKKBE


Milwaukee, WI AOC. Tree swallow in nest box opening

Milwaukee, WI AOC.  Tree swallow in nest box opening


Milwaukee, WI AOC, Lakeshore Park nest boxes 2010

Milwaukee, WI AOC, Lakeshore Park nest boxes 2010


Checking nest boxes at Green Bay, WI AOC

Checking nest boxes at Green Bay, WI AOC 



Milwaukee Health Department warning at Milwaukee, WI AOC

Milwaukee Health Department warning at Milwaukee, WI AOC

Great Lakes tree swallow study locations 2010 through 2013

Great Lakes tree swallow study locations 2010 through 2013


Tree swallow nest boxes at Sheboygan River, WI AOC

Tree swallow nest boxes at Sheboygan River, WI AOC


Tree swallow nest boxes at St. Louis River AOC, Duluth, MN

Tree swallow nest boxes at St. Louis River AOC, Duluth, MN

Science impact archive

 

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://www.umesc.usgs.gov/science_impacts.html
Page Contact Information: Contacting the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Page Last Modified: June 25, 2014