Science Center Objects

These are Geneva Chong's past projects.

Dynamics and long-term monitoring of bunchgrass and shrub-steppe communities in Yellowstone National Park

The ability to analyze the causes and direction of range vegetation community change is hampered by outdated methodology and the lack of adequate replication among community types on Yellowstone’s northern ungulate winter range. USGS Rapid Response funds ($5,000; 2006-2007) were received for an assessment of archived data; a pilot study to calibrate Parker transect data with data from a modern, multi-scale plot; and a field assessment of the existing design. Further investigation into archived data and communication with Pamela Sikkink revealed that she had completed most of the proposed work during her PhD research, and we re-directed our efforts to assisting Roy Renkin, NPS, in submission of an expanded proposal to the National Park Service (decision pending).


Plant species composition and structure: development of an inventory and monitoring system for Jackson area sage-grouse habitat quality to quantify current conditions, potential winter habitat, and effects of future management actions

The Upper Snake River Basin Sage-Grouse Working Group recognizes multiple information needs, and a consistent view is that no active management can be attempted to improve habitat without information on the current status of potential habitat, particularly winter habitat, which is theorized to be the limiting factor for Jackson area sage-grouse. An inventory and monitoring system for habitat quality, combined with a classification of potential winter habitat from remotely sensed data could provide an initial step to address the identified information needs. For example, questions regarding interactions between habitat and snow (depth and density) would be served by baseline information on plant species composition (native and non-native) and structure (e.g., aerial cover, height, bare ground). These initial data in turn can be correlated with spatial data (e.g., maps and remotely sensed information) to develop probability maps for items of interest (e.g., estimates of the amount of exposed Artemisia spp with varying depths of snow). This project was funded by the Upper Snake River Basin Sage-grouse Working Group, and the research focused on three demonstration study areas of interest to Agency managers: the Blacktail Burn (Grand Teton National Park), Breakneck Flats (Bridger-Teton National Forest), and Boucher Hill/North Gap lek site (National Elk Refuge). On-going analyses show that, during a moderate snow year, sage-brush protruding through the snow can be identified on Landsat imagery with > 70% accuracy, but sage-grouse observation locations do not overlap all areas with potentially exposed sage-brush. This work appears as appendices in the Upper Snake River Basin Sage-Grouse Management Plan

Mancos shale landscapes: science and management of black shale terrains (a regional partnership project of the Central Region Mineral Resources Team)

This interdisciplinary investigation of biologic, geologic and hydrologic characteristics of the Mancos Shale portion of the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area (NCA) is facilitating the collection, management, and analysis of spatial information for resource management with funding from the USGS Central Region and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Management issues include interactions between disturbance, biology, geology and hydrology and the effects of those interactions on salinity and sediment in the Upper Colorado River watershed. Data collection and development of data management and analysis tools are ongoing in cooperation with Bureau of Land Management cooperators.

Intensive sampling of soil properties (at multiple depths) and vegetation revealed tremendous spatial variability across the Mancos Shale portion of the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. Non-visible biological soil crusts were present in nearly every surface soil sample (97%), which has implications for soil nutrient and water holding capacity and interactions between disturbance and vegetation. In addition, a petition to increase the critical habitat for the endangered clay-loving buckwheat (Eriogonum pelinophilum) is directing analyses to determine what site characteristics may allow establishment and reproduction.


Multi-scale, interdisciplinary investigation of coalbed methane development in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming

This interdisciplinary investigation of land surface change and biologic, geologic and hydrologic effects of coalbed methane (CBM) development is providing resource managers, land owners, and developers with information to improve the management of land and water impacted by CBM development with funding from the USGS Central Region (2004-2007) and the Bureau of Land Management, Buffalo Field Office (2007-2008). The addition of water (a by-product of gas extraction) to the land surface combined with surface disturbance associated with development provides ideal conditions for non-native plant species. Restoration efforts need to be guided by data from inventory and monitoring of pre- and post-disturbance sites. Annual variation in weather (precipitation and temperature) likely have strong effects on vegetation reclamation success, and large scale measures of greenness (NDVI) could be used to bracket expectations of success (natives) and focus control efforts (non-natives). A USGS Mendenhall post-doc will begin examining the interactions of co-produced water with arid, saline soils in fiscal year 2009. 

Recently completed projects: Interactions between fuel treatments, fire severity and non-native plant species

Pre-wildfire fuel treatments (thinning, prescribed burning, and combinations) had variable effects on non-native plant species establishment following wildfire at regional (western US) scales. However, in at least one area (Cerro Grande burn, New Mexico), thinning resulted in significantly more non-native plant cover one season post-fire. In Colorado and New Mexico, more severe fire resulted in greater cover of non-native plant species. Post-fire seeding on the Cerro Grande burn resulted in greater cover of non-native species. In general, post-fire seeding does not usually achieve desired stabilization and often results in the undesirable establishment of non-natives.