Southwest Biological Science Center


The Southwest Biological Science Center (SBSC) conducts quality, objective research on the lands and aquatic systems of the Southwest. This research can assist those who manage, conserve, and rehabilitate the arid regions of the nation. Click on SCIENCE in the sidebar to the left to explore SBSC science in more detail.

Terrestrial Dryland Ecology Branch

Terrestrial Dryland Ecology Branch

The Terrestrial Dryland Ecology (TDE) Branch of the SBSC studies the biology, ecology,and processes of semi-arid and arid lands (known as drylands). TDE researchers study plant-soil-water relationships and the wildlife found in drylands.

TDE Science

River Ecosystem Science Branch & GCMRC

River Ecosystem Science Branch & GCMRC

The River Ecosystem Science (RES) Branch of the SBSC, which includes the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC), studies the biology, ecology, and processes of rivers in the western United States, with an emphasis on the Southwest.

GCMRC & RES Science


Date published: July 25, 2019

USGS Press Release: Plant age drives mortality, reproductive success and population dynamics

A USGS press release was published today highlighting a paper describing possible limitations of big sagebrush restoration in the American West after wildfires.   

Date published: June 27, 2019

Why Sagebrush Re-establishment After Fire is so Difficult

Big sagebrush ecosystems are particularly sensitive to wildfires and life history information on big sagebrush is scarce and vital for restoration success.

Date published: June 21, 2019

SBSC Research on Barred and Spotted Owls Covered by Ecological Society of America

The Ecological Society of America put out a press release on a paper that investigated the relative importance of barred owl competition and habitat on northern spotted owls in an effort to assist managers. The lead author of the paper is Charles Yackulic of the USGS Southwest Biological Science Center.


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Year Published: 2020

The historical context of contemporary climatic adaptation: A case study in the climatically dynamic and environmentally complex southwestern United States

The process of adaptation can be highly dependent upon historical and contemporary factors, especially in environmentally and topographically complex regions affected by Pleistocene glaciations. Here, we investigate Hilaria jamesii (Poaceae), a dryland C4 graminoid, to test how patterns of adaptive genetic variation are linked to...

Massatti, Robert; Knowles, L. Lacey

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Year Published: 2020

Mercury and selenium concentrations in fishes of the Upper Colorado River Basin, southwestern United States: A retrospective assessment

Mercury (Hg) and selenium (Se) are contaminants of concern for fish in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB). We explored Hg and Se in fish tissues (2,324 individuals) collected over 50 years (1962–2011) from the UCRB. Samples include native and non-native fish collected from lotic waterbodies spanning 7 major tributaries to the Colorado River....

Day, Natalie; Schmidt, Travis; Roberts, James J.; Osmundson, Barbara C.; Willacker, James; Eagles-Smith, Collin

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Year Published: 2020

Bug flows: Don’t count your midges until they hatch

Usually when people hear about a “bug problem” it’s due to an undesirable overabundance of insects (think plague of locusts). In the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, however, we are faced with the opposite predicament: the river is essentially devoid of bugs. Aquatic insects are a fundamental component of a healthy river ecosystem. Most aquatic...

Metcalfe, Anya; Muehlbauer, Jeffrey; Ford, Morgan; Kennedy, Theodore