Mission Areas


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The Ecosystems Mission Area provides impartial science information and tools to the Nation’s natural resource managers, with particular focus on the science needs of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and DOI bureaus to manage species, lands and priority ecosystems; fulfill treaty obligations; respond to and reduce threats to natural resources; and manage mineral and energy resources.


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Filter Total Items: 809
Date published: May 20, 2018
Status: Active

Invasive Reptiles

Invasive species have negatively impacted many ecosystems. Invasive reptiles are an increasing problem across the United States. Tracking the establishment and spread of existing and new invasive species is critical to effectively manage invasive species. USGS scientists are developing new tools, particularly molecular techniques, to assist in the early detection of, and rapid response to, ...

Contacts: Earl Campbell
Date published: May 18, 2018
Status: Active

Report Mortality Events and Submit Specimens

Find all required forms, instructions, and guidelines for submitting specimens to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC).

Date published: May 17, 2018
Status: Active

Asian Carp

The negative effects of invasive Asian carp to the Nation’s waterways are far reaching and have potential to expand and intensify. USGS is delivering data, tools and technologies to partners to keep these invasive fish out of the Great Lakes and other aquatic ecosystems and control them where they occur in the Ohio River and Mississippi River Basins.

Contacts: Earl Campbell
Date published: May 10, 2018
Status: Active

Seabirds and Forage Fish Ecology

Alaska's coastal and offshore waters provide foraging habitat for an estimated 100 million birds comprising more than 90 different species; from loons and seaducks that nest inland, to petrels and puffins that breed on islands off shore. All these birds depend on the sea to provide a wide variety of food types— from clams, crabs and urchins nearshore— to krill, forage fish, and squid offshore...

Date published: May 10, 2018
Status: Active

Land Treatment Exploration Tool

The Land Treatment ExplorationTool provides a practical resource for managers who are planning restoration and rehabilitation actions on public lands. The tool generates a variety of spatial products while being user friendly for all levels of GIS expertise, even to those with little or no experience.

Date published: May 10, 2018
Status: Active

Joint Ecosystem Modeling: Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow Marl Prairie Indicator

Marl prairie is the most diverse freshwater vegetation community in the Greater Everglades and provides the only suitable habitat for the federally endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow (CSSS; Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis).

Date published: May 10, 2018
Status: Active

Joint Ecosystem Modeling: EverSnail

EverSnail, developed in collaboration with the University of West Florida, is an age- and size-structured spatially-explicit landscape model of native apple snails (Pomacea paludosa).

Date published: May 10, 2018
Status: Active

Joint Ecosystem Modeling: Alligator Production Probability Model

Because the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is a keystone species of the Everglades ecosystem, managers need a way to quantitatively assess the effects of alternative restoration scenarios on alligators.

Date published: May 7, 2018
Status: Active

Sea turtle nesting on Eglin Air Force Base property, Cape San Blas, Florida

The Northwestern Atlantic population of loggerhead sea turtles is one of the largest in the world. Genetic studies have divided this population into 5 management units including a genetically distinct group that nests throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico (GoM).

Date published: May 2, 2018
Status: Active

Remote Sensing

USGS is using remote sensing of Fisheries and Aquatic Communities to monitor and assess fish populations and aquatic communities.

Date published: May 2, 2018
Status: Active

Data Visualization

USGS aquatic scientists are developing data visualization tools to assist
natural resource managers in decision‐making and adaptive management.

Date published: May 2, 2018
Status: Active

Statistical Modeling

The USGS is incorporating different species and aquatic communities into statistical models to begin developing tools that quantify relationships between flow and total ecosystem services provided by river systems for human benefit. 

Filter Total Items: 30,677
Year Published: 2019

Assessing effects of nonnative crayfish on mosquito survival

Introductions of nonnative predators often reduce biodiversity and affect natural predator–prey relationships and may increase the abundance of potential disease vectors (e.g., mosquitoes) indirectly through competition or predation cascades. The Santa Monica Mountains (California, U.S.A.), situated in a global biodiversity hotspot, is an area of...

Bucciarelli, Gary M.; Suh, Daniel; Davis Lamb, Avery; Roberts, Dave; Sharpton, Debra; Shaffer, H. Bradley; Fisher, Robert N.; Kats, Lee B.

Year Published: 2019

Potential responses of the Lower Missouri River Shovelnose Sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) population to a commercial fishing ban

We developed an age‐structured population matrix model to perform population viability analysis for Lower Missouri River (LMR) shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus). We investigated potential effects of the commercial fishing moratorium put in place to help protect the similar‐appearing pallid sturgeon (S. albus). The model applies...

Green, Nicholas S.; Wildhaber, Mark L.; Albers, Janice L.
Green, N.S., Wildhaber, M.L., and Albers, J.L., 2018, Potential responses of the Lower Missouri River Shovelnose Sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) population to a commercial fishing ban, Journal of Applied Ichthyology, Online First, 20 May 2018

Year Published: 2019

Assessment of chronic low‐dose elemental and radiological exposures of biota at the Kanab North uranium mine site in the Grand Canyon watershed

High‐grade U ore deposits are in various stages of exploitation across the Grand Canyon watershed, yet the effects of U mining on ecological and cultural resources are largely unknown. We characterized the concentrations of Al, As, Bi, Cd, Co, Cu, Fe, Pb, Hg, Mo, Ni, Se, Ag, Tl, Th, U, and Zn, gross alpha and beta activities, and U and Th...

Cleveland, Danielle; Hinck, Jo Ellen; Lankton, Julia S.

Year Published: 2019

Drivers of chaparral type conversion to herbaceous vegetation in coastal Southern California

AimIn Southern California, native woody shrublands known as chaparral support exceptional biodiversity. However, large‐scale conversion of chaparral into largely exotic herbaceous cover is a major ecological threat and serious conservation concern. Due to substantial uncertainty regarding the causes and extent of this vegetation change, we aimed...

Syphard, Alexandra D.; Brennan, Teresa J.; Keeley, Jon E.

Year Published: 2019

Carbon storage potential in a recently created brackish marsh in eastern North Carolina, USA

Carbon (C) sequestration through accumulated plant biomass and storage in soils can potentially make wetland ecosystems net C sinks. Here, we collected GHG flux, plant biomass, and litter decomposition data from three distinct vegetation zones (Spartinaalterniflora, Juncus roemerianus and Spartina patens) on a 7-...

Shiau, Yo-Jin; Burchell, Michael R.; Krauss, Ken W.; Broome, Stephen W.; Birgand, Francois

Year Published: 2019

Mortality of little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus carissima) naturally exposed to microcystin-LR

We describe a die-off of little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus carissima) associated with acute intoxication with microcystin-LR in 2016 at Scofield Reservoir in Utah. High levels of this cyanotoxin in water from the reservoir and gastrointestinal content of bats supported this diagnosis.

Isidoro Ayza, Marcos; Jones, Lee C.; Dusek, Robert J.; Lorch, Jeffrey M.; Landsberg, Jan H.; Wilson, Patrick; Graham, Stephanie

Year Published: 2019

Global dynamics of a mutualism–competition model with one resource and multiple consumers

Recent simulation modeling has shown that species can coevolve toward clusters of coexisting consumers exploiting the same limiting resource or resources, with nearly identical ratios of coefficients related to growth and mortality. This paper provides a mathematical basis for such as situation; a full analysis of the global dynamics of a new...

Wang, Yuanshi; Wu, Hong; DeAngelis, Donald L.

Year Published: 2019

Amendments fail to hasten biocrust recovery or soil stability at a disturbed dryland sandy site

In most drylands, biological soil crusts (biocrusts), an assemblage of lichens, bryophytes, fungi, green algae, and cyanobacteria, are critical to healthy ecosystem function. However, they are extremely sensitive to disturbance and attempts to facilitate their recovery have had variable success. In this study, we applied soil amendments designed...

Chandler, David G.; Day, Natalie; Madsen, Matthew D.; Belnap, Jayne

Year Published: 2019

Evaluating the relationship among wetland vertical development, elevation capital, sea-level rise and tidal marsh sustainability

Accelerating sea-level rise and human impacts to the coast (e.g., altered sediment supply and hydrology, nutrient loading) influence the accumulation of sediment and organic matter, and thereby impact the ability of coastal tidal wetlands to maintain an elevation consistently within the vegetation growth range. Critical components of marsh...

Cahoon, Donald R.; Lynch, James C.; Roman, Charles T.; Schmit, John Paul; Skidds, Dennis E.

Year Published: 2019

Phenology of hatching, emergence, and end-of-season body size in young-of-year Coho Salmon in thermally contrasting streams draining the Copper River Delta, Alaska

Phenology can be linked to individual fitness, particularly in strongly seasonal environments where the timing of events have important consequences for growth, condition, and survival. We studied the phenology of Coho Salmon hatching and emergence in streams with contrasting thermal variability, but in close geographic proximity. Following...

Campbell, Emily Y.; Dunham, Jason B.; Reeves, Gordon H.; Wondzell, Steve M.

Year Published: 2019

Vertical zonation and niche breadth of tidal marsh plants along the Northeast Pacific coast

The distribution patterns of sessile organisms in coastal intertidal habitats typically exhibit vertical zonation, but little is known about variability in zonation among sites or species at larger spatial scales. Data on such heterogeneity could inform mechanistic understanding of factors affecting species distributions as well as efforts to...

Janousek, Christopher N.; Thorne, Karen M.; Takekawa, John Y.

Year Published: 2019

Landscape pivot points and responses to water balance in national parks of the southwest US

A recent drying trend that is expected to continue in the southwestern US underscores the need for site‐specific and near real‐time understanding of vegetation vulnerability so that land management actions can be implemented at the right time and place.We related the annual integrated normalized difference vegetation index (iNDVI), a proxy for...

Thoma, David P.; Munson, Seth M.; Witwicki, Dana L.

Filter Total Items: 694
Horned Puffin, one of the species affected by a recent seabird die-off in the Pribilof Islands, AK
August 26, 2016

Horned Puffin, near Chisik Island in Lower Cook Inlet, Alaska

Horned Puffin, one of the species affected by a recent seabird die-off in the Pribilof Islands, AK. Near Chisik Island in Lower Cook Inlet, Alaska

August 26, 2016

First Days - Harlequin Ducks

This ridiculously cute video of baby Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) shows their first day outside the egg (about 20 hours old). Scientists at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center are training ducks to respond to sounds — just like a hearing test given to kids during elementary school — to learn more about their ability to hear underwater. This will inform the

August 25, 2016

E2 East Transect – 2016

Permanent Site: E2 East Transect; Depth: 14.3 Meters (46.8 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 0.9 Kilometers (0.5 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 5 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.15653002,-123.56130401; Site Description: This is one of our deeper sites. Substrate is mainly gravel/cobble with an occasional boulder. A few brown acid kelps (Desmarestia spp. at 0:06 

August 25, 2016

E2 West Transect – 2016

Permanent Site: E2 West Transect; Depth: 14.6 Meters (47.8 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 0.9 Kilometers (0.5 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 5 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.15653002, -123.56197605; Site Description: This is one of our deeper sites. Substrate is mainly gravel/cobble with scattered boulders. A few small red and brown seaweeds, mainly acid kelp

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 25, 2016

Tarantula Hawk

Tarantula hawk wasps sting and paralyze tarantulas to feed their young. USGS Ecologist Todd Esque captured this video of a tarantula hawk wasp dragging a tarantula through the desert in Mexico. 

August 24, 2016

J1 West Transect – 2016

Permanent Site: J1 West Transect; Depth: 9.8 Meters (32.3 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 6.6 Kilometers (4.1 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 5 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.13607725,-123.48002186; Site Description: This site is medium depth. Substrate is mainly a gravel/sand mixture. Both red (0:25 seconds) and brown seaweed growth is dense and appears to be

August 24, 2016

D2 West Transect – 2016

Permanent Site: D2 West Transect; Depth: 12.8 Meters (41.9 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 0.3 Kilometers (0.2 Miles); Pre/Post Dam Removal: 5 years post-dam removal Lat/Long: 48.15233001,-123.56896603; Site Description: This site is right off the mouth of the river. Substrate is mainly gravel with some cobble. Dead clam shells are scattered everywhere (2:14 seconds).

August 23, 2016

GP2 East Transect – 2016

Permanent Control Site: GP2 East Transect; Depth: 13.2 Meters (43.4 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 18.8 Kilometers (11.7 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 5 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.12781102,-123.31645664; Site Description: This site was established as the eastern control. Substrate is mainly a gravel sand mixture. A few large boulders are located off

August 23, 2016

GP1 West Transect – 2016

Permanent Control Site: GP1 West Transect; Depth: 7.9 m (25.9 feet); Distance from river mouth: 19.0 Kilometers (11.8 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 5 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.11852521,-123.31605203; Site Description: This site was established as the eastern control. Depth is medium-shallow. Substrate is mainly a gravel/sand/cobble mixture surrounding

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.


August 23, 2016

GP2 West Transect – 2015

Permanent Control Site: GP2 West Transect; Depth: 13.0 Meters (42.6 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 18.8 Kilometers (11.6 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 5 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.12781102,-123.31712832; Site Description: This site was established as the eastern control. Substrate is mainly a gravel/sand/cobble mixture surrounding boulders. This year red

Filter Total Items: 286
Date published: September 1, 2015

EarthWord: Anthropogenic

Scientists use the word “anthropogenic” in referring to environmental change caused or influenced by people, either directly or indirectly.

Date published: August 24, 2015

Increasingly Severe Disturbances Weaken World’s Temperate Forests

SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON, Calif. — A new paper published today in Science magazine has synthesized existing studies on the health of temperate forests across the globe and found a sobering diagnosis. Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening some of these forests with transformation.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Date published: August 20, 2015

Ecologists Roll a Century’s Work on Food-webs into a Single Model

In a paper released today in Science, a new model presents a common mathematical structure that underlies the full range of feeding strategies of plants and animals: from familiar parasites, predators, and scavengers to more obscure parasitic castrators and decomposers. Now ecologists can view all food-web interactions through the same lens using a common language to understand the natural world.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Date published: August 19, 2015

Mercury and Selenium are Accumulating in the Colorado River Food Web of the Grand Canyon

Although the Grand Canyon segment of the Colorado River features one of the most remote ecosystems in the United States, it is not immune to exposure from toxic chemicals such as mercury according to newly published research in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

Date published: August 18, 2015

Insecticides Similar to Nicotine Found in about Half of Sampled Streams across the United States

USGS discovered insecticides known as neonicotinoids in a little more than half of both urban and agricultural streams sampled across the United States and Puerto Rico, according to a study by the agency published today inEnvironmental Chemistry.

Date published: August 10, 2015

USGS Science at Ecological Society of America’s Conference

BALTIMORE -- This year, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey will present their research at the 100th annual Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting from Aug. 9-14, 2015, in Baltimore, Maryland. The theme is "Ecological Science at the Frontier: Celebrating ESA’s Centennial." ESA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of scientists founded in 1915 to promote ecological science.

Date published: July 17, 2015

As Climate Warms Hawaiian Forest Birds Lose More Ground to Mosquitoes

ISLAND OF HAWAI‘I, Hawaii — Hawai‘i, the name alone elicits images of rhythmic traditional dancing, breathtaking azure sea coasts and scenes of vibrant birds flitting through lush jungle canopy. Unfortunately, the future of many native Hawaiian birds looks grim as diseases carried by mosquitoes are due to expand into higher elevation safe zones.

Date published: July 16, 2015

40 Years of North Pacific Seabird Survey Data Now Online

The U.S. Geological Survey today released the North Pacific Pelagic Seabird Database — a massive online resource compiling the results of 40 years of surveys by biologists from the United States, Canada, Japan and Russia. The database documents the abundance and distribution of 160 seabird and 41 marine mammal species over a 10 million-square-mile region of the North Pacific.

Date published: July 8, 2015

Power of Prediction: Avian Fatalities at Wind Facilities

The U.S. Geological Survey, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has released a study that will enable ecologists, managers, policy makers, and industry to predict the bird fatalities at a wind facility prior to it being constructed.

Date published: June 30, 2015

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Remain the Primary Threat to Polar Bears

Greenhouse gas emissions remain the primary threat to the preservation of polar bear populations worldwide. This conclusion holds true under both a reduced greenhouse gas emission scenario that stabilizes climate warming and another scenario where emissions and warming continue at the current pace, according to updated U.S. Geological Survey research models.

Date published: June 24, 2015

Past Water Patterns Drive Present Wading Bird Numbers

Wading bird numbers in the Florida Everglades are driven by water patterns that play out over multiple years according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and Florida Atlantic University.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Date published: May 20, 2015

Long-term Prognosis for Florida Manatees Improves

The risk of extinction for the endangered Florida manatee appears to be lower, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey led study.