Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

August 4, 2023

FORT researchers will be presenting at the 2023 Ecological Society of America (ESA) Conference in Portland, OR from August 6-11. The theme of this year's meeting is "ESA for All Ecologists" in which ESA aims to promote collaboration between academic ecologists and private- or public-sector ecologists.

Jill Baron is organizing the following Special Session:

Is Your Science Actionable: How Ecology Is Used in Integrated Science Assessments (ISAs). 

August 9, 2023. 8:00AM – 9:30AM PDT.

Session Highlights: The session will include an introduction to the Clean Air Act amendments, EPA’s Integrated Science Assessments (ISAs), and how the ISAs are used to inform decisions on U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Examples will be presented of how research can be specifically designed to achieve maximum impact in informing air pollution effects. The session will include a discussion of strengths and limitations of approaches used to assess causality of air pollution effects on organisms and ecosystems, confounders of causal determination, legacy effects of pollutants, the role of changing climate on organism or ecosystem response to air pollutants, and the severity of air pollution effects such as tipping points in ecosystem response. We will allow at least one half-hour for discussion, moderated by members of the Policy Section. Full Abstract.

Photo of Jill Baron, on a raft surrounded by mountains.
FORT Ecologist, Jill Baron.

The following FORT scientists will be presenting their research:

Near or far: At what spatial scales does vehicular traffic affect sage-grouse populations In Wyoming.

August 8, 2023. 8:30AM – 8:45AM PDT.

Presenter: Richard Inman, Ecologist

Overview: Road networks and their associated vehicular traffic negatively impact populations of many terrestrial species by causing habitat degradation, functional habitat loss, and direct mortality. The cumulative and long-term impacts of vehicular traffic on sage-grouse populations are largely unknown, yet very little sage-grouse habitat in Wyoming remains untouched by road infrastructure. We used the estimates of traffic volume in a multi-scale Bayesian hierarchical modeling framework to 1) assess how traffic has impacted sage-grouse population growth rates, 2) identify the spatial scales at which these effects are most evident, and 3) identify what levels of traffic result in sage-grouse population declines. We find that effects of traffic volume tend to be detrimental to population growth rates, and that these effects are local. Areas that experienced rapid growth in development also experienced the greatest declines in sage-grouse population abundance. Full Abstract.


Rich Inman, wearing a gray blazer and dark blue button down shirt. Rich is smiling, with greenery behind him.
FORT Ecologist, Richard Inman

Multidecadal understory vegetation dynamics in a type-converted ponderosa pine forest

August 9, 2023. 8:15AM – 8:30AM PDT.

Presenter: Andreas Wion, Ecologist

Overview: Dry mixed conifer and ponderosa pine forests of the western United States are at a heightened risk for type-conversion following combined drought and high severity fire, but relatively little is known about the ecology of type-converted forests, or how seed treatments affect native vegetation recovery over the long-term. In this talk, we explore the drivers and dynamics of vegetation type conversion in a former ponderosa pine forest. We documented a 23-year period of change in understory vegetation dynamics at 49 transects following the 1996 Dome fire and subsequent reburn in the 2011 Las Conchas fire in northern New Mexico. Over time, conifer regeneration decreased while shrub and grass cover increased markedly. Seeded plots showed initial, modest increases in total plant cover in the first two years post-fire, favoring non-native seeded grasses at the expense of native grass and forb cover. However, seeded species declined in abundance in later years, and smooth brome, a contaminant in the seed mix, became dominant at most plots. Reburning led to rapid recovery of smooth brome populations while reducing native-grass cover by half, suggesting these changes may be long lasting, and further management may be required to control this species. Full Abstract.

A Fire burns along the ground in a ponderosa pine forest in New Mexico
Prescribed burn in a ponderosa pine forest, New Mexico.

Challenges and benefits of using habitat models for rare plants to inform public lands decisions in the western U.S.

August 9, 2023. 10:45AM – 11:00AM PDT.

Presenter: Ella Samuel, Biologist

Overview: Our goal was to better understand how Bureau of Land Management (BLM) staff currently use habitat models to inform their planning and decision making, as well as to understand the challenges and potential benefits associated with that use. In 2022, we conducted 12 semi-structured interviews with BLM staff who analyze rare plants in a variety of environmental impact analyses. Top challenges that interviewees faced in using models related to data organization and access, model quality, and institutional capacity. Participants also experienced benefits associated with using models; models improved understanding of species habitat or distribution, helped assess potential impacts to rare plants, informed restoration or conservation actions, and increased objectivity in decision analyses. Interviewees believed that models could be used more in planning and decision making, and identified avenues that could make it easier to use models. These findings will inform future conversations with model developers to identify how model inputs, processes, and outputs can be improved to facilitate greater use of habitat models by resource managers in their planning and management decisions on public lands. Full Abstract.

A small, light purple flower with sage-green leaves set against a brown background.
Parachute Penstemon (Penstemon debilis) is a federally threatened plant species that occurs in Colorado.

Challenges and opportunities for analyzing cumulative environmental effects in project planning for public lands management.

August 9, 2023. 2:00PM – 2:15PM PDT.

Presenter: Tait Rutherford, Biologist

Overview: A core component of federal environmental impact assessments is cumulative effects, which are the potential environmental effects of a proposed action in combination with other past, present, and future actions on the landscape. Despite substantial case law, scientific literature, and policy about cumulative effects, analyses have remained persistently challenging and contentious. We partnered with the Bureau of Land Management to characterize current practice of cumulative effects analysis. While most analyses considered cumulative effects, few included analytical details, such as specifying the geographic and temporal scope of the analysis or citing supporting literature. Analyses infrequently quantified potential cumulative effects. The most comprehensive analyses in our sample focused on the cumulative effects of oil and gas development on air quality and climate change in Colorado. These findings provide insights into the kind of action-specific data, science, and methods needed to help decision makers understand how individual proposed projects may lead to cumulative effects to resources and ecosystems. Full Abstract.

Photo of Tait Rutherford, wearing a brown hat and smiling. There are brown grasses in the background.
FORT Biologist, Tait Rutherford

Initiating, developing, and accelerating interdisciplinary science in the Colorado River Basin: Case studies from the Actionable and Strategic Integrated Science and Technology (ASIST) initiative.

August 9, 2023. 5:00PM – 6:30PM PDT.

Presenter: Adrian Monroe, Ecologist

Overview: Amidst widespread and historic drought, the Colorado River Basin (CRB) is experiencing increased demand and competition for natural resources and greater risk from natural hazards, all compounded by a changing climate. The Actionable and Strategic Integrated Science and Technology (ASIST) Initiative was launched in 2020 by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to accelerate interdisciplinary science and application of advanced information management technology to address complex stakeholder-driven needs in the CRB. In a poster presentation, Dr. Monroe will highlight work by the ASIST Initiative with three projects representing interdisciplinary science from multiple USGS Mission Areas: the Saline Lakes Ecosystems Integrated Water Availability Assessments (IWAAs), the Decision Support Tool for Science-based Restoration of Mined Lands, and the Prioritizing Restoration of Sagebrush Ecosystems Tool (PReSET). Full Abstract.

Adrian Monroe - FORT Ecologist, photo for news item
FORT Ecologist, Adrian Monroe

Variability in tree seed production at the core and margin of species ranges.

August 10, 2023. 1:45PM – 2:00PM PDT.

Presenter: Ian Pearse, Ecologist

Overview: Masting is an important component of forest demography and has wide-ranging effects on animal populations and ecosystem processes. However, there is substantial unexplained variation in the long-term patterns of seed production among populations. Here, we develop the environmental stress hypothesis to explain intraspecific variation in long-term seed production. We present case studies from three groups of species (pines, oak, and spruce), and we use these to explore how environmental conditions and geographic placement within range affect long-term seed production of individuals and populations. Finally, we assess whether there are commonalities in geographic and environmental trends in long-term seed production. We found that in a well-studied oak species and a dryland pine, there were strong environmental correlates of both the variability and mean of long-term seed production. However, this pattern was not universal among all species studied. The environmental gradient hypothesis accounts for a substantial portion of intraspecific variation in long-term seed production in some tree species, and other factors likely contribute to geographic differences in seed production in other tree species. Full Abstract. 

Ian Pearse Staff Profile Photo
FORT Ecologist, Ian Pearse.

An Information Toolkit to Coproduce Actionable Science for Public Land Management 

August 10, 2023. 1:30PM – 3:00PM PDT.

Presenter: Ella Samuel, Biologist

Overview: Coproduction is a highly collaborative approach to conducting science that focuses on developing actionable products to inform natural resource management. Our goal was to develop an information toolkit for researchers and resource managers with an interest in coproducing actionable science. We created a suite of tools that provide guidance for project teams to manage coproduced research projects, share information about these projects with partners and the public, and problem solve in the coproduction context. The toolkit can help scientists and managers work together to develop research products that are relevant and usable for public lands decision making. This talk was recently added to the Special Session on Climate Adaptation Science: Defining a New Field of Science and Practice.

Cloudscape in a BLM wilderness study area.
BLM wilderness study area. Photo courtesy of BLM.


Get Our News

These items are in the RSS feed format (Really Simple Syndication) based on categories such as topics, locations, and more. You can install and RSS reader browser extension, software, or use a third-party service to receive immediate news updates depending on the feed that you have added. If you click the feed links below, they may look strange because they are simply XML code. An RSS reader can easily read this code and push out a notification to you when something new is posted to our site.