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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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Filter Total Items: 22
Date published: October 20, 2018
Status: Active

Aquatic Species and Oil, Gas, and Coal Development

To meet a continued demand for energy, USGS scientists assess the nation's oil, natural gas and coal resources, as well as study the impacts of energy development on land, water, and the healthy ecosystems that fish and wildlife depend on.

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 19, 2018
Status: Active

Hydropower and Invasive Species

USGS interdisciplinary science directly addresses a variety of threats to hydroelectric dams by addressing damage caused by invasive species such as a variety of mussels that clog hydroelectric facilities and damage aquatic ecosystems. One important benefit of this USGS science is that it can help prevent unnecessary maintenance costs.

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 19, 2018
Status: Active

Dam Removal and River Restoration

For rivers where dams need to be removed, USGS has considerable expertise and ongoing projects in ecological management to safely remove unwanted dams and restore fisheries and other ecosystem services.

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: October 19, 2018
Status: Active

Dam Operations

Hydropower has served as a significant and reliable source of electricity to many communities and industries across the nation for more than five decades. 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...

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

Fish Passage and Behavior

Specially constructed passages that allow fish to go around dams or other barriers are key to migratory fish accessing spawning areas, nurseries and other crucial habitats. USGS helps identify the best location for these passages and is involved in designing and testing these state-of-the-art structures. The research helps key species navigate waterways and complete instinctual migratory...

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: August 28, 2018
Status: Active

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: August 1, 2018
Status: Active

Scientific Support of Salmon and Steelhead Reintroductions in Impounded River Basins of the Pacific Northwest

Salmon and steelhead populations in the Pacific Northwest were severely affected by hydropower development that occurred during the first half of the 20th century.  Impassable dams were constructed on many rivers throughout the region which prevented returning adult salmonids from accessing important habitats where spawning and rearing historically occurred.  In the past two decades...

Contacts: Tobias J Kock
Date published: July 10, 2018
Status: Active

Habitat and Landscape Alteration

USGS research on wildlife behavior, abundance, and sources of mortality are improving our understanding of the specific effects of renewable energy on wildlife and habitats. This knowledge is guiding the development of effective strategies to minimize the impact of renewable energy development on wildlife.  USGS is improving and developing software models and statistical tools that can be used...

Contacts: Mona Khalil
Date published: July 10, 2018
Status: Active

Pollinators and Biofuels

USGS scientists are studying how biofuel crops may be affecting pollinators, especially in the Northern Great Plains. Changes in land use from bee-friendly crops to biofuel crops likely impact pollinators.

Date published: July 10, 2018
Status: Active

Biofuels: Agave

USGS is collaborating with the USDA Aridland Agricultural Research Center and the University of Ohio regarding the potential for Agave biofuel production to add to our national bioenergy portfolio in marginal lands. Agave may represent a highly efficient biofuel, even under non-irrigation conditions, but the ecosystem consequences of this development on drylands (including habitat and wildlife...

Date published: November 28, 2017
Status: Active

Wind Energy and Wildlife Team (FRESC)

FRESC's Wind Energy and Wildlife Team is lead by Manuela Huso. She and her team are involved in design and analysis of post-construction fatality monitoring studies as well as deterrent and curtailment studies at several wind-power generation facilities.

Contacts: Manuela M Huso
Date published: October 27, 2016

Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative: Inventory and Long-Term Monitoring

The Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative (WLCI) addresses effects of land-use and climate changes on Southwest Wyoming’s natural resources. In partnership with twelve Federal, State, and local natural resource agencies, and non-governmental organizations– FORT and ten other USGS centers are conducting dozens of integrated science projects to assess the status of Southwest Wyoming’s...

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

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: 2017

U.S. Geological Survey—Energy and wildlife research annual report for 2017

IntroductionTerrestrial and aquatic ecosystems provide valuable services to humans and are a source of clean water, energy, raw materials, and productive soils. The Nation’s food supply is more secure because of wildlife. For example, native pollinators enhance agricultural crops, and insect-eating bats provide pest control services worth billions...

Khalil, Mona
Khalil, Mona, ed., 2017, U.S. Geological Survey—Energy and wildlife research annual report for 2017: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1435, 91 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/cir1435.

Year Published: 2016

U.S. Geological Survey—Energy and Wildlife Research Annual Report for 2016

Recent growth and development of renewable energy and unconventional oil and gas extraction are rapidly diversifying the energy supply of the United States. Yet, as our Nation works to advance energy security and conserve wildlife, some conflicts have surfaced. To address these challenges, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is conducting innovative...

Khalil, Mona
Khalil, Mona, ed., 2016, U.S. Geological Survey—Energy and Wildlife Research Annual Report for 2016: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1147, 59 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161147.

Year Published: 2016

Renewable energy and wildlife conservation

The renewable energy sector is rapidly expanding and diversifying the power supply of the country. Yet, as our Nation works to advance renewable energy and to conserve wildlife, some conflicts arise. To address these challenges, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is conducting innovative research and developing workable solutions to reduce impacts...

Khalil, Mona
Khalil, Mona, 2016, Renewable energy and wildlife conservation: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2016-3067, 4 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/fs20163067.

Year Published: 2016

Land-use change reduces habitat suitability for supporting managed honey bee colonies in the Northern Great Plains

Human reliance on insect pollination services continues to increase even as pollinator populations exhibit global declines. Increased commodity crop prices and federal subsidies for biofuel crops, such as corn and soybeans, have contributed to rapid land-use change in the US Northern Great Plains (NGP), changes that may jeopardize habitat for...

Otto, Clint R.; Roth, Cali; Carlson, Benjamin; Smart, Matthew
Otto, C. R. V., C. L. Roth, B. L. Carlson, and M. D. Smart. 2016. Land-use change reduces habitat suitability for supporting managed honey bee colonies in the Northern Great Plains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Early edition online, 6p. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1603481113.

Year Published: 2016

Evaluating the effectiveness of wildlife detection and observation technologies at a solar power tower facility

Solar power towers produce electrical energy from sunlight at an industrial scale. Little is known about the effects of this technology on flying animals and few methods exist for automatically detecting or observing wildlife at solar towers and other tall anthropogenic structures. Smoking objects are sometimes observed co-occurring with reflected...

Diehl, Robert H.; Valdez, Ernest W.; Preston, Todd M.; Wellik, Mike J.; Cryan, Paul
Diehl RH, Valdez EW, Preston TM, Wellik MJ, Cryan PM (2016) Evaluating the effectiveness of wildlife detection and observation technologies at a solar power tower facility. PLoS ONE 11(7): e0158115. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0158115

Year Published: 2016

Impacts of climate change and renewable energy development on habitat of an endemic squirrel, Xerospermophilus mohavensis, in the Mojave Desert, USA

Predicting changes in species distributions under a changing climate is becoming widespread with the use of species distribution models (SDMs). The resulting predictions of future potential habitat can be cast in light of planned land use changes, such as urban expansion and energy development to identify areas with potential conflict. However,...

Inman, Richard D.; Esque, Todd C.; Nussear, Kenneth E.; Leitner, Philip; Matocq, Marjorie D.; Weisberg, Peter J.; Dilts, Thomas E.
Inman, RD, TC Esque, KE Nussear, P Leitner, MD Matocq, PJ Weisberg, TE Dilts. 2016. Impacts of climate change and renewable energy development on habitat of an endemic squirrel, Xerospermophilus mohavensis, in the Mojave Desert, USA. Biological Conservation 200: 112-121. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.05.033

Year Published: 2016

Mortality monitoring design for utility-scale solar power facilities

IntroductionSolar power represents an important and rapidly expanding component of the renewable energy portfolio of the United States (Lovich and Ennen, 2011; Hernandez and others, 2014). Understanding the impacts of renewable energy development on wildlife is a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in compliance with Department...

Huso, Manuela; Dietsch, Thomas; Nicolai, Chris
Huso, Manuela, Dietsch, Thomas, and Nicolai, Chris, 2016, Mortality monitoring design for utility-scale solar power facilities: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016-1087, 44 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161087.

Year Published: 2016

Multi-scale connectivity and graph theory highlight critical areas for conservation under climate change

Conservation planning and biodiversity management require information on landscape connectivity across a range of spatial scales from individual home ranges to large regions. Reduction in landscape connectivity due changes in land-use or development is expected to act synergistically with alterations to habitat mosaic configuration arising from...

Dilts, Thomas E.; Weisberg, Peter J.; Leitner, Phillip; Matocq, Marjorie D.; Inman, Richard D.; Nussear, Ken E.; Esque, Todd C.
Dilts, TE, PJ Weisberg, P Leitner, MD Matocq, RD Inman, KE Nussear, TC Esque. 2016. Multi-scale connectivity and graph theory highlight critical areas for conservation under climate change. Ecological Applications. doi: 10.1890/15-0925

Year Published: 2016

Habitat selection by juvenile Mojave Desert tortoises

Growing pressure to develop public lands for renewable energy production places several protected species at increased risk of habitat loss. One example is the Mojave desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), a species often at the center of conflicts over public land development. For this species and others on public lands, a better understanding of...

Todd, Brian D; Halstead, Brian J.; Chiquoine, Lindsay P.; Peaden, J. Mark; Buhlmann, Kurt A.; Tuberville, Tracey D.; Nafus, Melia G.
Todd, BD, BJ Halstead, LP Chiquoine, JM Peaden, KA Buhlmann, TD Tuberville, MG Nafus. 2016. Habitat selection by juvenile Mojave Desert tortoises. The Journal of Wildlife Management. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.1054

Year Published: 2016

Desert tortoise annotated bibliography, 1991-2015

Introduction Agassiz’s desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, was considered a single species for 150 years after its discovery by James Cooper (1861), with a geographic range extending from southeastern California, southern Nevada, and southwestern Utah southward into northern Sinaloa, Mexico (Murphy and others, 2011). What was once G....

Berry, Kristin H.; Lyren, Lisa M.; Mack, Jeremy S.; Brand, L. Arriana; Wood, Dustin A.
Berry, K.H., Lyren, L.M., Mack, J.S., Brand, L.A., and Wood, D.A., 2016, Desert tortoise annotated bibliography, 1991–2015: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016-1023, 312 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161023.

Year Published: 2016

Effects of wind-energy facilities on grassland bird distributions

The contribution of renewable energy to meet worldwide demand continues to grow. Wind energy is one of the fastest growing renewable sectors, but new wind facilities are often placed in prime wildlife habitat. Long-term studies that incorporate a rigorous statistical design to evaluate the effects of wind facilities on wildlife are rare. We...

Shaffer, Jill A.; Buhl, Deb
Shaffer, J. A., and D. A. Buhl. 2015. Effects of wind-energy facilities on grassland bird distributions. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12569 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12569/abstract

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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

Filter Total Items: 15
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.

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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.