Before You Hit the Beach, Check the (Bacteria) Forecast: Just a few weeks ago, USGS announced the development of a new tool for predicting water safety at several test beaches in Ohio that might be applied to beaches across the nation. Using models to forecast E. coli, an indicator of contamination that can make swimmers ill, scientists have reduced the time needed to evaluate the test beaches from 18 hours to within 2 hours of data collection, giving beachgoers current information, not yesterday's information. During the study, scientists found that sand in the swash zone, the part of the beach that is washed by waves or tides where young children are likely to play, contained significantly higher levels of E. coli than sediments in deeper water.
Dust from the Towers: In the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, USGS received a request from EPA and U.S. Public Health Service to help characterize and map the dusts deposited by the World Trade Center collapse. Once commercial aviation resumed, USGS scientists boarded the first available flights to New York. Within a week of the attacks, they had acquired state-of-the-art satellite imagery over lower Manhattan, and were on the ground in New York sampling the dusts. By Sept. 27, they had characterized many of the dust samples, and released results of their work to emergency responders.