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History of the Western Ecological Research Center (WERC)

A photo of plains and yellow flowers in the Great Basin.

Within the Department of the Interior (DOI), the National Biological Survey (NBS; ‘Survey’ soon after changed to ‘Service’) was established in 1993 via a transfer of certain biological research functions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Minerals Management Service, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, U.S. Geological Survey, and Bureau of Reclamation. The mission of NBS was to provide objective scientific understanding and technologies needed to support sound management and conservation of our Nation’s biological resources. The California Science Center, presently the Western Ecological Research Center, or ‘WERC,’ was established to assemble the multiple DOI research functions in California, Nevada, and Arizona under an umbrella, regional research organization. In 1996, NBS was transferred into the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and renamed the Biological Resources Division (BRD). In 2010, USGS reorganized and established the Ecosystems Mission Area that comprises the majority of programs formerly under BRD. At that time, the Arizona research function was transferred from WERC to the Southwest Biological Science Center.

The Western Ecological Research Center is one of 16 Centers of the USGS Ecosystems Mission Area. The Center is headquartered on the campus of California State University Sacramento and was aptly known as the ‘center without walls.’ Rather than a centralized infrastructure common to many USGS research organizations, WERC located its scientists at or near ecosystems aligned with their expertise. The dispersed structure of WERC is designed for on-the-ground, high quality scientific response to priority resource issues. The Center's field stations, located in California and Nevada bioregions, form the core of its science program. The Center’s stations and substations, often co-located with or near DOI partners, were founded on the principle of customer service, and WERC’s research, monitoring, and information transfer programs are shaped by the needs of Congress, the President, and DOI. The scientists of WERC actively seek partner input and participation at all phases of research projects.