Science Center Objects

The impacts of a changing climate on wildlife and associated ecosystems have yet to be fully determined but changes are clearly underway as are a variety of investigations to assess how we can best preserve key resources while effectively managing others.  Using a variety of tools and a combination of studies including adaptive management, long-term monitoring, mathematical modeling, and significant examination of historical datasets and museum collections, scientists are poised to improve our understanding of the natural world and an evolving physical environment.

A Red salamander (Pseudotrition ruber); climbing along the ground through some vegetation.

This photo of a  Red salamander (Pseudotrition ruber) was taken while sampling for amphibians diseases in Cherry Valley NWR. (Credit: Lindsey Pekurny, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Public domain.)

 

 

Northeast Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative

The ARMI program is based on a three-tiered approach, with extensive broad scale sampling, mid-level sampling, and intensive sampling and research at Apex Sites. Information from surveys in the Northeast will be used to determine the proportion of surveyed areas that are occupied by various species of amphibians and to estimate amphibian population sizes and trends over space and time.

 

 

 

Forest Schematic

(Public domain.)

 

 

Conservation of Rare Vegetation Communities of the Atlantic Coastal Barrier Islands

A synthesis of the role of disturbance, in all of its manifestations, on the establishment and development of the American Holly forest is required to guide future conservation measures. Because many forest fragments have already endured >30 years of chronic deer herbivory, a legitimate question of how much more impact by deer can be tolerated and still conserve the essential type and character of the maritime forest remains unanswered.

 

A hardened shoreline (rip-rap revetment)

Shorelines hardened with rocks or bulkheads have become a common site in the Chesapeake Bay. Yet, the implications of these changes are largely unknown. (Public domain.)

 

 

 

Shoreline Changes and Impacts to Natural Resources in Chesapeake Bay

Climate change and sea level rise are expected to affect many miles of shoreline in the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast in the coming years. In this scenario, federal and state agencies need to make more detailed assessments of how different watersheds and shoreline types might influence an array of ecosystem functions and components. Recently, most states are promoting “living shorelines” (soft engineering with marsh vegetation) rather than hardening methods (riprap or bulkheads) to cope with sea level rise and erosion. Not all methods can effectively be applied in all locations; therefore both field and modeling approaches are needed to determine how different shoreline types and watershed conditions influence water quality, submerged vegetation (SAV), and macrofauna, including top-level trophic waterbirds.

 

Over wash fan created by Hurricane Sandy in a protected area of Fire Island National Seashore.

Beach dune grass emerging in the background after complete burial by sand caused by the storm surge. Credit: C. R. Kilheffer  (Public domain.)

 

 

Post-Hurricane Sandy Vegetation Recovery in the Presence of a Hyper-abundant Deer Population

The primary dune along barrier island beaches protects leeward vegetation from tidal fluctuation, salt spray and storm surge.  However, storm surges like those experienced during Hurricane Sandy can obliterate the primary dune, transporting sand inland and burying existing vegetation.  The dune rebuilds naturally as recovering vegetation traps wind-blown and waterborne sand.  The rate at which the primary dune rebuilds is determined largely by abiotic factors affecting transport of sand.  In the presence of a hyper-abundant deer population, the biotic impacts of grazing, browsing and trampling might also affect vegetation and dune recovery.

Bronze reliquary for a shrew from the Late Period of ancient Egypt.

Bronze reliquary for a shrew from the Late Period of ancient Egypt. (Public domain.)

 

 

What Ancient Egyptian Shrew Mummies Reveal About Small Mammal Responses to Climate Change

Ancient Egyptians mummified animals for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was as votive offerings to certain deities. Among the six species of shrews that have been identified as mummies, one is now extinct, one is no longer occurs in Egypt, and the remaining four have more restricted distributions in the country. One of the latter species also exhibits significantly decreased body size.

 

Northern Pintail, Anas acuta

Northern Pintail, Anas acuta  (Public domain.)

 

 

 

Integrating Habitat and Harvest Management for Northern Pintails

Several blue-ribbon panels have challenged the waterfowl management world to recognize the linkages between the two primary management frameworks: harvest management under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and habitat management under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Because these two frameworks seek to manage the same populations, there needs to be better coordination, in planning, in modeling, in monitoring, and in decision-making.

 

 

Polar Bear, Ursus maritimus

(Public domain.)

 

 

 

Adaptive Management for Threatened and Endangered Species

The Challenge: Threatened and endangered species have to be managed in the face of uncertainty, but traditionally, there has been reluctance to think about adaptive management of listed species. Management agencies with responsibility for threatened and endangered species need tools to help manage in the face of uncertainty, with the hope of reducing that uncertainty.

 

 

 

North American Bird Phenology Program Card

(Public domain.)

 

 

 

North American Bird Phenology Program

The North American Bird Phenology Program (BPP) houses a data set of 6 million historical observations of over 800 bird species, documenting occurrences and migration times from the 1880s through the 1970s -- the longest and most comprehensive legacy data set on bird migration in existence. In an effort to rescue this invaluable data set, the BPP has scanned and are in the process of transcribing the records with the help of a network of online volunteers. The data is stored in a database, from which it is shared with scientists, managers, educators, and the public. Since the program was revived in 2009, nearly one million records have been transcribed.

Sea -level Rise and Marsh Grass Research

(Public domain.)

 

 

 

Improving Our Ability to Forecast Tidal Marsh Response to Sea Level Rise

Accelerations in sea-level rise and changing environmental stressors have important implications for the integrity of coastal wetlands and for efforts to restore and protect the ecosystem services they provide. Their persistence and adaptation to these stressors depends on the net effects of changes in physical processes and biotic responses. Future planning by decision makers will require scientifically sound forecasts of potential impacts, knowledge of sea-level rise thresholds, and indications of the potential effectiveness of various adaptation strategies.

 

Projected CAWR range 2050

Projected Carolina Wren range 2050 (Public domain.)

 

 

 

 

Development of Robust Bird-based Climate Change Indicator

Appropriate ecological indicators of climate change can be used to measure concurrent changes in ecological systems, inform management decisions, and project the consequences of climate change. Breeding bird distributions are predicted to be sensitive to changes in climate, and could be useful climate-change indicators. We seek to develop robust bird-based, climate-change indicators using data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), a geographically and temporally (1966 – present) extensive data set on breeding bird distributions in North America.