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Interest is booming in renewable energy sources, especially in the areas of wind, solar, and biofuels. Such energy sources have huge benefits, including diversification of the nation’s energy portfolio, new jobs, and potential reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Yet these energy sources sometimes have adverse effects on ecosystems and wildlife.

Our Research Portfolio

Our Research Portfolio

USGS has over 100 research projects designed to help understand and reduce potential negative interactions of wildlife with energy development.

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America's Last Grasslands

America

Which prairie flowers are best for bees? USGS scientists and partners are studying the effects of biofuel production on pollinators.

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Research by Species

USGS supports the U.S. goal to increase energy production from renewable sources by conducting research into minimizing or mitigating any negative effects of the expanding energy infrastructure on wildlife.

Bats

Condors

Eagles

Grassland and Wetland Birds

Seabirds

Desert Tortoise

Pollinators

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News

Date published: July 27, 2016

Videos Reveal Birds, Bats and Bugs near Solar Project Power Towers

Video surveillance is the most effective method for detecting animals flying around solar power towers, according to a study of various techniques by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System facility in southeastern California.

Date published: May 6, 2016

Happy Mother’s Day to Moms of All Species

USGS wishes to honor all mothers, of all species. Many of our research findings have and are shedding light on the lives of non-human moms.  

As our nation’s energy portfolio continues to grow, it is critical that energy development be guided by the best science available to ensure the coexistence of new power technologies and wildlife. USGS is in a unique position to provide that science through focused research on three main goals: understanding risks, measuring impacts, and developing solutions.

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Date published: October 31, 2018
Status: Active

Wildlife Tracking/Telemetry

USGS scientists use tracking/telemetry tags to determine the occurrence and local movement patterns of wildlife. Because energy development often takes place in critical wildlife habitats, scientists can study these wildlife patterns to help guide project siting and operational decisions to areas and practices that present the lowest risk to energy development and wildlife.

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 31, 2018
Status: Active

Management Support Tools

USGS scientists build broadly applicable management support tools to assist resource managers and the industry in siting of energy development and selection of off-site mitigation areas.

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 31, 2018
Status: Active

Demographic and Population Models

USGS scientists are currently developing models for species of interest that can be overlaid with maps showing areas of potential energy. These models, or map overlays, identify areas of biological strengths and weaknesses or high- and low-quality habitat and can identify opportunities for conservation—areas of high-quality habitat where energy-generating potential is low—and areas of...

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 30, 2018
Status: Active

Conservation Planning

Conservation planning tools, such as those listed below, have been developed by USGS scientists to assist resource managers in prioritizing areas for future energy development.

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 30, 2018
Status: Active

Fish Migration

 As hydropower dams age and require critical upgrades, USGS hydrologists, engineers and fish biologists work together to design the next generation of dams and operational protocols that improve passage for migratory fish and cause fewer negative effects on upstream and downstream ecosystems.  

Date published: October 30, 2018
Status: Active

Adaptive Management

USGS scientists conduct a combination of short- and longterm biological research, survey and monitoring, data analysis and applications, new tool and technology development and application, decision support, and adaptive management to address energy and wildlife management issues.

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 30, 2018
Status: Active

Population Effects

USGS science is helping to understand the potential population effects for a number of wildlife species. Scientists are also developing risk assessment tools to guide energy development to locations where it will have minimal impact on wildlife. 

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 30, 2018
Status: Active

Monitoring and Detection

USGS scientists collect data and develop tools and techniques to minimize potential negative effects of new energy development. These tools are critical for supporting management efforts to monitor and improve effectiveness of how facilities are located, built, and operated.

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 30, 2018
Status: Active

Mitigation and Compensation

USGS supports the U.S. goal to increase energy production from clean, renewable sources by conducting research into minimizing or mitigating potential negative effects of an expanding renewable energy infrastructure. USGS scientists collect data and develop tools and techniques to minimize potential negative effects of new energy development. Monitoring protocols and habitat-use models are...

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 29, 2018
Status: Active

Deterrent Technologies

USGS scientists are testing bird and bat deterrent devices (such as ultrasonic acoustic deterrents) as well as operational management strategies that can cost-effectively reduce wildlife fatalities while allowing wind operators to generate this carbon-free energy.

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 29, 2018
Status: Active

Migration and Movement

USGS assists state fish and wildlife agencies, land and wildlife managers, and other stakeholders by producing applied science-based tools to guide wind and solar energy development to locations where it will have minimal impact on wildlife. As a basis for these tools, USGS researchers study the movement and migration of wildlife.

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 29, 2018
Status: Active

Fatality Estimation

USGS has made significant strides in addressing research needs identified by resource managers and industry to understand wildlife interactions with turbines, estimate causes and magnitude of fatalities, develop wildlife and mortality survey protocols, assess population effects, describe migrations and movement patterns, and develop potential mitigation measures. USGS also has developed tools...

Contacts: Mona Khalil

USGS scientists collect data and develop tools and techniques to minimize potential negative effects of new energy development.Monitoring protocols and habitat-use models are providing the basis for understanding how wildlife can be affected by energy development, supporting permitting and siting of new facilities, and guiding strategies for mitigation.

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Date published: September 7, 2018

Statistical Tools for Wind and Solar Energy Development and Operations

Solar and wind power development is increasing exponentially in the United States. However, these energy sources may affect wildlife, either directly from collisions with the turbine blades or photovoltaic arrays or indirectly from loss of habitat and migration routes. An important component to understanding the effects of these renewable energy projects on wildlife is accurate and precise...

Date published: May 2, 2016

Evidence of Absence Webinar

This video describes a statistical software package called "Evidence of Absence" that can be used to provide evidence of compliance with incidental take permits. It will be useful to wildlife managers and wind energy operators to estimate, with reasonable certainty, that a certain number of birds or bats have been killed at wind energy facilities, even when no carcasses are found.

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Year Published: 2018

Occupancy modeling species–environment relationships with non‐ignorable survey designs

Statistical models supporting inferences about species occurrence patterns in relation to environmental gradients are fundamental to ecology and conservation biology. A common implicit assumption is that the sampling design is ignorable and does not need to be formally accounted for in analyses. The analyst assumes data are representative of the...

Irvine, Kathryn M.; Rodhouse, Thomas J.; Wright, Wilson J.; Olsen, Anthony R.
Irvine, KM, Rodhouse, TJ, Wright, WJ, Olsen, AR. 2018. Occupancy modeling species-environment relationships with non-ignorable survey designs. Ecological Applications. 28(6):1616-1625.

Year Published: 2018

Collision and displacement vulnerability to offshore wind energy infrastructure among marine birds of the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf

Marine birds are vulnerable to collision with and displacement by offshore wind energy infrastructure (OWEI). Here we present the first assessment of marine bird vulnerability to potential OWEI in the California Current System portion of the U.S. Pacific Outer Continental Shelf (POCS). Using population size, demography, life history,...

Kelsey, Emily C.; Felis, Jonathan J.; Czapanskiy, Max; Peresksta, David M.; Adams, Josh
Emma C. Kelsey, Jonathan J. Felis, Max Czapanskiy, David M. Pereksta, Josh Adams, Collision and displacement vulnerability to offshore wind energy infrastructure among marine birds of the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf, Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 227, 2018, Pages 229-247, ISSN 0301-4797, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.08.051.

Year Published: 2018

U.S. Geological Survey energy and wildlife research annual report for 2018

USGS scientists provide scientific information and options that land and resource managers and private industries can use to make decisions regarding the development of energy resources while protecting the health of ecosystems. Studies focus on delivering information to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the impacts of energy infrastructure on fish and...

Khalil, Mona
Khalil, Mona, ed., 2018, U.S. Geological Survey energy and wildlife research annual report for 2018 (ver. 1.1, October 2018): U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1447, 102 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/cir1447.

Year Published: 2018

Elevated aeolian sediment transport on the Colorado Plateau, USA: The role of grazing, vehicle disturbance, and increasing aridity

Dryland wind transport of sediment can accelerate soil erosion, degrade air quality, mobilize dunes, decrease water supply, and damage infrastructure. We measured aeolian sediment horizontal mass flux (q) at 100 cm height using passive aspirated sediment traps to better understand q variability on the Colorado Plateau. Measured q‘...

Nauman, Travis; Duniway, Michael C.; Webb, Nichloas P.; Belnap, Jayne
Nauman, T.W., Duniway, M.C., Webb, N.P., and Belnap, J., 2018, Elevated aeolian sediment transport on the Colorado Plateau, USA-- the role of grazing, vehicle disturbance, and increasing aridity: Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, online, https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.4457.

Year Published: 2018

Field evaluation of carbon dioxide as a fish deterrent at a water management structure along the Illinois River

Construction of a water management structure (WMS) in the levee surrounding The Nature Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve (Havana, Illinois, USA) created a new hydrological connection and potential aquatic invasive species pathway between the Illinois River and a large conservation wetland complex. Site managers need a control tool that deters the...

Cupp, Aaron R.; Smerud, Justin R.; Tix, John; Schleis, Susan M.; Fredricks, Kim T.; Erickson, Richard A.; Amberg, Jon J.; Morrow, William S.; Koebel, Carolyn M.; Murphy, Elizabeth A.; Vishy, Chad; Blodgett, K. Douglas
Cupp, A.R., Smerud, J.R., Tix, J.A., Schleis, S.M., Fredricks, K.T., Erickson, R.A., Amberg, J.J., Morrow, W.S., Koebel, C., Murphy, E.A., Vishy, C., Blodget, K.D. 2018. Field evaluation of carbon dioxide as a fish deterrent at a water management structure on the Illinois River. Management of Biological Invasions. 9(3):299-308. DOI: 10.3391/mbi.2018.9.3.12.

Year Published: 2018

Broad‐scale occurrence of a subsidized avian predator: reducing impacts of ravens on sage‐grouse and other sensitive prey

Expanding human enterprise across remote environments impacts numerous wildlife species. Anthropogenic resources provide subsidies for generalist predators that can lead to cascading effects on prey species at lower trophic levels. A fundamental challenge for applied ecologists is to disentangle natural and anthropogenic influences on species...

O'Neil, Shawn T.; Coates, Peter S.; Brussee, Brianne E.; Jackson, Pat J.; Howe, Kristy B.; Moser, Ann M.; Foster, Lee J.; Delehanty, David J.
O'Neil, S. T., Coates, P. S., Brussee, B. E., Jackson, P. J., Howe, K. B., Moser, A. M., Foster, L. J. and Delehanty, D. J. (2018), Broad‐scale occurrence of a subsidized avian predator: reducing impacts of ravens on sage‐grouse and other sensitive prey. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. . doi:10.1111/1365-2664.13249

Year Published: 2018

The influence of spatiotemporally decoupled land use on honey bee colony health and pollination service delivery

Societal dependence on insects for pollination of agricultural crops has risen amidst concerns over pollinator declines. Habitat loss and lack of forage have been implicated in the decline of both managed and native pollinators. Land use changes in the Northern Great Plains of the US, a region supporting over 1 million honey bee colonies...

Smart, Matthew; Otto, Clint R. V.; Carlson, Benjamin; Roth, Cali
Matthew D Smart et al 2018 Environ. Res. Lett. 13 084016

Year Published: 2018

Evaluation of sockeye salmon after passage through an innovative upstream fish-passage system at Cle Elum Dam, Washington, 2017

Executive SummaryThe Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology), working with the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Workgroup (composed of representatives of the Yakama Nation; Federal, State, county, and city governments; environmental organizations; and irrigation districts), developed...

Kock, Tobias J.; Evans, Scott D.; Hansen, Amy C.; Perry, Russell W.; Hansel, Hal C.; Haner, Philip V.; Tomka, Ryan G.
Kock, T.J., Evans, S.D., Hansen, A.C., Perry, R.W., Hansel, H.C., Haner, P.V., and Tomka, R.G., 2018, Evaluation of sockeye salmon after passage through an innovative upstream fish-passage system at Cle Elum Dam, Washington, 2017: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018-1116, 30 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20181116.

Year Published: 2018

The influence of different deep-sea coral habitats on sediment macrofaunal community structure and function

Deep-sea corals can create a highly complex, three-dimensional structure that facilitates sediment accumulation and influences adjacent sediment environments through altered hydrodynamic regimes. Infaunal communities adjacent to different coral types, including reef-building scleractinian corals and individual colonies of octocorals, are known to...

Bourque, Jill R.; Demopoulos, Amanda W.J.
Bourque, J.R., and Demopoulos, A.W.J., 2018, The influence of different deep-sea coral habitats on sediment macrofaunal community structure and function: PeerJ, Aquatic Biology, v. 6, art. e5276, https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5276.

Year Published: 2018

Landsat time series analysis of fractional plant cover changes on abandoned energy development sites

Oil and natural gas development in the western United States has increased substantially in recent decades as technological advances like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have made extraction more commercially viable. Oil and gas pads are often developed for production, and then capped, reclaimed, and left to recover when no longer...

Waller, Eric K.; Villarreal, Miguel; Poitras, Travis; Nauman, Travis; Duniway, Michael C.
Waller, E.K., Villarreal, M.L., Poitras, T.B., Nauman, T.W., Duniway, M.C. 2018. Landsat time series analysis of fractional plant cover changes on abandoned energy development sites. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation 73, 407-419, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jag.2018.07.008

Year Published: 2018

Past role and future outlook of the Conservation Reserve Program for supporting honey bees in the Great Plains

Human dependence on insect pollinators continues to grow even as pollinators face global declines. The Northern Great Plains (NGP), a region often referred to as America’s last honey bee (Apis mellifera) refuge, has undergone rapid land-cover change due to cropland expansion and weakened land conservation programs. We conducted a trend analysis...

Otto, Clint R. V.; Zheng, Haochi; Gallant, Alisa L.; Iovanna, Rich; Carlson, Benjamin L.; Smart, Matthew; Hyberg, Skip
Otto, C. R., H. Zheng, A. L. Gallant, R. Iovanna, B. L. Carlson, M. D. Smart, and S. Hyberg. 2018. Past role and future outlook of the Conservation Reserve Program for supporting honey bees in the Great Plains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115:E7651.

Year Published: 2018

Landscape-scale wildlife species richness metrics to inform wind and solar energy facility siting: An Arizona case study

The juxtaposition of wildlife and wind or solar energy facility infrastructure can present problems for developers, planners, policy makers, and management agencies. Guidance on siting of these renewable energy facilities may help identify potential wildlife-facility conflicts with species of regulatory or economic concern. However, existing...

Thomas, Kathryn A.; Jarchow, Christopher; Arundel, Terence R.; Jamwal, Pankaj; Borens, Amanda; Drost, Charles A.
Thomas, K.A., Jarchow, C.J., Arundel, T.R., Jamwal, P., Borens, A., and Drost, C.A., 2018, Landscape-scale wildlife species richness metrics to inform wind and solar energy facility siting--an Arizona case study: Energy Policy, v. 116, p. 145-152, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2018.01.052.

Software related to the Energy and Wildlife Program is listed below.

Filter Total Items: 3
Date published: October 19, 2018

GenEst - A Generalized Estimator of Mortality

GenEst, a generalized estimator of wildlife mortality at renewable energy facilities.

Date published: July 6, 2017

Evidence of Absence (EoA) Software and User's Guide

Software to Estimate Bird and Bat Fatality at Wind Farms

Date published: December 11, 2012

Fatality Estimator Software

Tool to Evaluate Wildlife Fatalities at Wind-Power Facilities

Multimedia related to the Energy and Wildlife Program are listed below.

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Array of photovoltaic cells and a wind energy facility
August 28, 2018

Array of photovoltaic cells and a wind energy facility

Photovoltaic, or solar, cells array at the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in the Mojave Desert and a wind energy facility in the Northeastern United States.

Image of scientist setting up a radar system in Colorado to test its efficacy in detecting birds and bats flying towards turbine
August 1, 2018

Setting up radar system near a wind energy field in Colorado.

Image of scientist setting up a radar system in Colorado to test its efficacy in detecting birds and bats flying towards spinning wind turbines.

USGS scientist Sarah Fitzgerald holds a surf scoter that has been fitted with a satellite tag.
December 31, 2017

USGS scientist holds a surf scoter that has been tagged.

USGS scientist Sarah Fitzgerald holds a surf scoter that has been fitted with a satellite tag that works by transmitting the location of the birds to satellites that are orbiting the Earth. (Jonathan Fiely, USGS)

Image from a remote camera placed in a golden eagle nest in the Mojave Desert.  The parent is feed the chick a snake.
December 31, 2017

Image from a remote camera placed in a golden eagle nest in the Mojave

Image from a remote camera placed in a golden eagle nest in the Mojave Desert.  The parent is feed the chick a snake.  

July 6, 2017

Wildlife on the Nevada National Security Site

Mountain lions, desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, and a variety of other wildlife live on and pass through the Nevada National Security Site each day. It’s a highly restricted area that is free of hunting and has surprisingly pristine areas.This 22-minute program highlights an extraordinary study on how mountain lions interact with their prey. It shows how the scientists

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Wind turbines at the Altamont Pass Wind Farm
September 8, 2016

Wind turbines at the Altamont Pass Wind Farm

The Altamont Pass Wind Far is located in northern California.

August 25, 2016

Eagle Tracking

Cell phone video of USGS biologist Diego Johnson releasing a golden eagle that had just been fitted with a tracking device.  The work is informing land managers on eagle movements in the southwest, an area of expanding renewable energy development.

August 23, 2016

Golden Eagle Flight

Golden eagles can be killed by colliding with a number of human-made objects, including wind turbines. USGS research wildlife biologist Todd Katzner describes his studies of golden eagle flight. This research is being done to model flight behavior which might help managers understand how placement of wind turbines might pose significant risks to golden eagles.

 

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A female Agassiz's desert tortoise at Joshua Tree National Park
May 6, 2016

A female Agassiz's desert tortoise at Joshua Tree National Park

A female Agassiz's desert tortoise at Joshua Tree National Park lounges in the entrance of her burrow, wearing a USGS radio.

February 8, 2016

Evidence of Absence

This is a recorded presentation describing a statistical software package called "Evidence of Absence" that can be used to provide evidence of compliance with incidental take permits. It will be useful to wildlife managers and wind energy operators to estimate, with reasonable certainty, that a certain number of birds or bats have been killed at wind energy facilities,

...
A woman and a man stand under a solar trough
July 24, 2014

Researchers at Solar site

USGS Manuela Huso and FWS Chris Nicolai at solar trough facility. A solar trough reflects the sun's rays towards a solar collector.

News related to the Energy and Wildlife Program are listed below.

Filter Total Items: 2
Date published: July 27, 2016

Videos Reveal Birds, Bats and Bugs near Solar Project Power Towers

Video surveillance is the most effective method for detecting animals flying around solar power towers, according to a study of various techniques by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System facility in southeastern California.

Date published: May 6, 2016

Happy Mother’s Day to Moms of All Species

USGS wishes to honor all mothers, of all species. Many of our research findings have and are shedding light on the lives of non-human moms.