USGS Brown Treesnake Laboratory and Rapid Response Facility - Guam

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USGS scientists and staff associated with the Brown Treesnake Project are co-located at the Guam National Wildlife Refuge at the northern end of Guam in the western Pacific Ocean. Project staff work on developing and testing control tools for invasive brown treesnakes, as well as understanding their impacts on Guam's ecosystems. Project staff also lead the multi-agency Brown Treesnake Rapid Response Team, which responds to invasive snake sightings throughout the Pacific and trains personnel from cooperating agencies to increase the capacity of the team. The Brown Treesnake Project partners include DOI Office of Insular Affairs, USDA National Wildlife Research Center and Wildlife Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and State and Island governments.

The purpose of the Brown Treesnake Laboratory and Rapid Response Facility is to allow scientists to improve containment, control, and management of the invasive Brown Treesnake through research and early detection on Guam and other susceptible areas. Early detection programs include training courses designed to build skills in effectively responding to snake sightings in the Marianas and other Pacific islands.

The Brown Treesnake Laboratory houses USGS scientists, affiliated personnel, and cooperators interested in research on topics important for containment, control, management, and detection of the invasive Brown Treesnakes on Guam. The introduction of the Brown Treesnake to Guam and its subsequent invasion had devastating effects on Guam’s biodiversity, precipitating the extinction of many of Guam’s native bird species. Recovery Guam’s unique biota necessitates control of the Brown Treesnake on Guam. Much of the research conducted by USGS scientists is directed towards improving methods for Control and Landscape-Scale Suppression of the Invasive Brown Treesnake by developing, testing, and validating control tools and by improving understanding of the species’ biology, ecology, and behavior for control purposes.

Research based out of the Brown Treesnake Laboratory also focuses on methods to improve Brown Treesnakes detectability and associated uncertainty. Individuals vary in their detectability as a function of multiple factors including sex, size, habitat, and prey availability, and this variation has meaningful implications for control measures and early detection of populations in new locations. As control of invasive species is often most effective if it occurs early in the invasion process, a multiagency Rapid Response Team (RRT) led by USGS was established in 2002. When a credible snake sighting occurs on an island not known to have Brown Treesnakes the RRT aims to detect if an incipient population of Brown Treesnakes is present. The RRT incorporates research results from USGS Invasive Reptiles Projects, such as means to improve snake detectability at low densities, effectiveness of control tools in rodent-rich environments, and predicting movements of snakes translocated accidentally to maximize the likelihood of capture success. The RRT also conducts training courses on Guam for team members stationed elsewhere. Training courses include extensive visual searching to improve searchers ability to see snakes based on USGS research outcomes on optimal search patterns.

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