Western Ecological Research Center (WERC)


The Western Ecological Research Center (WERC) is a USGS Ecosystems Mission Area operation serving primarily California and Nevada. WERC scientists work closely with Federal, State, academic, and other collaborators to address a diverse array of high-profile topics. Topics include research on effects of wildfire, sea level rise, drought, energy development and more on federal Trust species.

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Date published: November 23, 2020

Research Spotlight: New Research Indicates that Greater Sage-Grouse are Struggling to Adapt to Wildfire-Induced Changes in the Great Basin

Research from the USGS and partners concluded that greater sage-grouse in the Great Basin often select nest sites that result in poor nest survival following wildfire. The poor quality nest sites are strongly associated with spread of invasive understory grasses and loss of shrub canopy cover.

Date published: November 5, 2020

Scientists Study Selenium Hazard in the Salton Sea Environment

In the past decade, Salton Sea water elevation has declined due to drought, lining of canals, and changes to management of the Colorado River. This has resulted in the creation of new wetlands caused by drains and rivers no longer reaching the Salton Sea.

Date published: September 18, 2020

Post-Fire Growth of Seeded and Planted Big Sagebrush – Strategic Designs for Restoring Greater Sage-grouse Nesting Habitat

Recent wildfire-induced losses of big sagebrush are outpacing natural recovery and leading to substantial losses in habitat for species such as greater sage-grouse.


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Year Published: 2021

Free-roaming horses disrupt greater sage-grouse lekking activity in the Great Basin

Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter, sage-grouse) and free-roaming horses (Equus caballus) co-occur within large portions of sagebrush ecosystems within the Great Basin of western North America. In recent decades, sage-grouse populations have declined substantially while concomitant free-roaming horse populations have...

Munoz, Diana A.; Coates, Peter S.; Ricca, Mark A.

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Year Published: 2020

Southern (California) sea otter population status and trends at San Nicolas Island, 2017–2020

The southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) population at San Nicolas Island, California, has been monitored annually since the translocation of 140 sea otters to the island was completed in 1990. Monitoring efforts have varied in frequency and type across years. In 2017, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a sea...

Yee, Julie L.; Tomoleoni, Joseph A.; Kenner, Michael C.; Fujii, Jessica; Bentall, Gena B.; Tinker, M. Tim; Hatfield, Brian B.
Yee, J.L., Tomoleoni, J.A., Kenner, M.C., Fujii, J., Bentall, G.B., Tinker, M.T., and Hatfield, B.B., 2020, Southern (California) sea otter population status and trends at San Nicolas Island, 2017–2020: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2020–1115, 38 p., https://doi.org/​10.3133/​ofr20201115.

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Year Published: 2020

Distribution of giant gartersnakes (Thamnophis gigas) in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, California, 2018–2019

SummaryWe examined the occurrence of giant gartersnakes in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, California, in 2018 and 2019. We made eight captures of seven giant gartersnakes (three females, four males) in 2018, and six captures of six giant gartersnakes (four females, two males) in 2019. Detection probabilities were exceedingly low...

Fouts, Kristen J.; Kim, Richard; Jordan, Anna C.; Fulton, Alexandria M.; Rose, Jonathan P.; Ersan, Julia S. M.; Halstead, Brian J.
Fouts, K.J., Kim, R., Jordan, A.C., Fulton, A.M., Rose, J.P., Ersan, J.S. M., and Halstead, B.J., 2020, Distribution of giant gartersnakes (Thamnophis gigas) in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, California, 2018–2019: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2020–1119, 26 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20201119.