Western Ecological Research Center (WERC)

Species Management Research Program

WERC scientists study the ecology of sensitive species, including threatened and endangered animals and plants. Their research supports the recovery and conservation of iconic species like the Greater Sage-grouse, Giant garter snake, Southern sea otter, and Desert tortoise, and inform critical decision-making by Department of the Interior (DOI) as well as other resource managers. WERC’s projects detect environmental threats that could affect the health of vulnerable species. Habitat loss, invasive species, and contaminants are some of the stressors that can change the way ecosystems function and affect the species that depend on them. Explore the projects below to learn more about how WERC scientists meet the needs of land and resource managers across California and Nevada, as well as international and indigenous lands.

Filter Total Items: 42
Date published: March 13, 2020
Status: Active

Marbled Murrelet Surveys off the Central California Coast

Since 2017, the U.S. Geological Survey Western Ecological Research Center has continued long-term at-sea surveys of federally threatened Marbled Murrelets in central California.

Date published: September 4, 2019
Status: Active

Seabird Vulnerability Assessment for Renewable Energy Projects

The WERC seabird studies team has developed a new framework for quantifying seabird species vulnerability to wind infrastructure in the California Current region of the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf. This tool supports marine resource-use planning by identifying sites where seabirds are most vulnerable and predicts how different species may be affected by wind-energy infrastructure.

Date published: April 3, 2018
Status: Active

Assessing heat stress in migrating Yukon River Chinook Salmon

We will examine evidence of heat stress in Yukon River Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) using heat shock proteins and gene expression.

Date published: February 22, 2018
Status: Active

Avian Ecology and Multi-Species Habitat Use in Pacific Coast Estuaries

Waterbirds such as shorebirds, waders, and ducks depend on healthy and productive estuaries to “fuel up” for long distance migrations along the Pacific Flyway.   Estuarine ecosystems include a mosaic of managed, natural, and restoring wetlands...

Date published: October 30, 2017
Status: Active

Polar Bear Health and Disease Diagnostics

In 2012, scientists noticed that nearly a third of polar bears sampled in a study in Alaska were suffering from hair loss and poor health. Drs. Lizabeth Bowen and A. Keith Miles of WERC used new technology to track down and identify the factors responsible for driving disease in Alaskan polar bears.

Date published: October 30, 2017
Status: Active

Developing Physiological Diagnostics for the Desert Tortoise

The Mojave desert tortoise is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and faces threats from habitat loss, predators, and disease. Drs. Lizabeth Bowen and A. Keith Miles with WERC are designing new methods to determine the type and influence of stressors present in the environment for the tortoise and other wildlife.

Date published: October 30, 2017
Status: Active

Ashy Storm-Petrel Range and Colony Attendance Behavior

Together with Federal and non-profit partners, WERC's Josh Adams and team are using cutting-edge technology to study the range and population attendance patterns of the Ashy Storm-petrel, an elusive seabird found throughout a large portion of the California Coastal National Monument. Their research will inform management and conservation for this species and other seabirds that use California’...

Date published: October 30, 2017
Status: Active

Ecology and Conservation of Reptiles

This project improves our understanding of the ecology of reptiles in California and evaluates methods of managing landscapes and these imperiled species. In particular, Dr. Brian Halstead examines the distribution and demography of reptiles to understand factors that affect where they are found and how populations change. He further explores the relationships of reptiles with their abiotic...

Contacts: Brian Halstead
Date published: October 30, 2017
Status: Active

Wildland Fire Science in Forests and Deserts

Fuel conditions and fire regimes in western forests and deserts have been altered due to past land management, biological invasions, and recent extreme weather events and climate shifts. These changes have created extreme fire risk to local and regional communities, threatening their economic health related to wildland recreation, forest production, livestock operations, and other uses of...

Contacts: Matthew Brooks
Date published: October 30, 2017
Status: Active

Waterfowl Ecology in California and the Pacific Flyway

The Suisun Marsh and Central Valley in California offer some of the world’s most important wetland habitats for waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway. Mike Casazza and USGS WERC biologists are providing the science to support and evaluate waterfowl populations and habitat management in North America.

Contacts: Michael Casazza
Date published: October 30, 2017
Status: Active

Waterbird Breeding Ecology and Management

The San Francisco Bay is designated as a site of hemispheric importance to shorebirds and annually supports over one million waterbirds. Within the USGS WERC waterbird breeding ecology program, Dr. Josh Ackerman and partners are studying habitat selection, movements, and factors influencing waterbird nest success and chick growth and survival. 

Contacts: Josh T Ackerman
Date published: October 30, 2017
Status: Active

Southwestern Desert Ecology of At-risk Species and their Habitats

The southwestern desert region is home to many sensitive species. Species are at-risk due to past, present, and future changes to the landscape. WERC’s Dr. Todd Esque, field researchers, and collaborators are using models, monitoring plans, and decision-support tools to provide land managers with the resources they need to answer questions about how environmental change influences plants,...

Contacts: Todd Esque