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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: 681
Date published: March 14, 2017
Status: Active

Analyzing the Gut Microbiome of Urban Canada Geese

The Challenge: The Canada Goose Branta canadensis was historically a highly migratory species.  However, this species has recently established resident populations in urban, suburban, and agricultural areas in many parts of the U.S., including the Chesapeake Bay region.  The enormous success of these populations has led to consideration of this species as a nuisance, largely due to its...

Date published: March 14, 2017
Status: Active

Evaluation of Potential Offshore Wind Projects in the Northeastern U.S. on Endangered Roseate Terns: Who is at Risk and When?

The Challenge: Terns in coastal areas of the Northeastern US likely will be impacted by construction and operation of offshore wind turbines. The “Cape Cod & Islands” (CCMA) area of Massachusetts is a particularly important area for the endangered Northwest Atlantic Roseate Tern (ROST) population as most ROSTs from throughout the breeding range (Nova Scotia to Long Island, New York)...

Date published: February 2, 2017
Status: Active

Aquatic Experimental Laboratory (AXL)

Aquatic invertebrates are a key component of freshwater ecosystems, and an understanding of aquatic invertebrate taxonomy is central to freshwater science. The U.S. Geological Survey Aquatic Experimental Lab (AXL) at the Fort Collins Science Center has developed the North American Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Digital Reference Collection (NAAMDRC) to provide users with a graphic tool to aid in...

Contacts: David Walters, Ph.D., Robert E Zuellig, Ph.D., Boris Kondratieff
Date published: February 2, 2017
Status: Active

Island Restoration, Sea Level Rise, and Waterbirds in Chesapeake Bay

The Challenge: For several decades, the US Army Corps of Engineers, along with numerous state and federal partners, have been creating and restoring islands with dredged materials from navigation channels in the Bay. Natural resources management goals have guided restoration plans for these islands since the mid 1990’s. The USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center has been the only USGS science...

Date published: February 2, 2017
Status: Active

Productivity of Species of Concern – Least Tern and Common Tern on Poplar Island Restoration Site

The Challenge: Concern has been raised over productivity of two important tern species that have colonized Poplar Island Environmental Restoration Project (PIERP): the Maryland state-listed Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) and Common Tern (Sterna hirundo). Over the 14 year monitoring period at PIERP (beginning 2002), hatching and fledging success of these species has been variable, believed to...

Date published: February 1, 2017
Status: Active

Using Advanced Technology to Enhance Research at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PWRC) - a Public-Private Partnership

The Challenge: Threats such as habitat loss, increased severity of storm events, and emerging diseases are affecting wildlife populations, with particular concern for threatened and migratory species. Surveys for measuring populations and breeding productivity for various species have been utilized for many years; however, they can be intrusive leading to aggressive behavior of adults or even...

Date published: January 24, 2017
Status: Active

Natural Resources Conservation in East Africa

The U.S. Agency for International Development‘s regional mission in East Africa (USAID/EA) and contributing USAID bilateral missions in the region have partnered with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s International Technical Assistance Program (DOI-ITAP) to strategically leverage DOI expertise as it pertains to wildlife poaching and wildlife trafficking.

Date published: January 17, 2017

Ecological Drought in Riparian Ecosystems

Drought is killing riparian trees along many rivers in the western United States. The cause can be increasing temperature or decreasing precipitation, flow or water-table elevation. At multiple locations we are relating water availability to physiological measurements of tree survival and water stress, such as ring width, carbon stable isotope ratio and branch hydraulic conductivity. These...

Date published: January 10, 2017

What Ancient Egyptian Shrew Mummies Reveal About Small Mammal Responses to Climate Change

The Challenge: Ancient Egyptians mummified animals for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was as votive offerings to certain deities. Among the six species of shrews that have been identified as mummies, one is now extinct, one is no longer occurs in Egypt, and the remaining four have more restricted distributions in the country. One of the latter species also exhibits significantly...

Date published: January 3, 2017

How Mammals Move: Locomotory Function in the Soricidae

The Challenge: The postcranial skeletons of mammals exhibit tremendous variation in form that partly relates to phylogeny (who a particular species is related to) and partly to locomotory function (how that species moves through its environment). Understanding the contributions of these two factors is important because phylogenetic characters assist in working out evolutionary relationships,...

Date published: December 20, 2016
Status: Active

Survival and Recruitment of Common Eiders in the Gulf of Maine

The Challenge: Common eider numbers are declining throughout most of their range. The cause of this decline is not know, but poor recruitment, declining food resources, hunting, poor survival are possible causes. Research goals of this project focus on understanding the effects of hunting and predation on survival and recruitment rates of American common eiders (Somateria mollissima) in the...

Contacts: Daniel McAuley
Date published: December 20, 2016
Status: Active

Survival of American Woodcock During Fall Migration

The Challenge: Research goals of this project are to: determine survival rates of American woodcock (Scolopax minor) during fall migration; determine survival in relation to weather along the migration route; determine age and sex-specific timing of migration and passage of woodcock through the Mid-Atlantic States. Analyses are ongoing to determine timing of passage of birds across Cape May,...

Contacts: Daniel McAuley
Filter Total Items: 2,914
Year Published: 2017

Long-term forest productivity: Chapter 11

No abstract available.

Olson, Deanna H.; Van Horne, Beatrice; Bormann, Bernard T.; Perakis, Steven S.; Darbyshire, Robyn; Hatten, Jeff
Bormann, B.T., Perakis, S.S., Darbyshire, R., Hatten, J., 2017, Chapter 11 - Long-term Forest Productivity In Olson, D.H., Van Horne, B., eds., People, Forests, and Change: Washington, D.C., Island Press, p. 344.

Year Published: 2017

Aquatic-riparian systems: Chapter 14

 No abstract available.

Olson, Deanna H.; Johnson, Sherri L.; Anderson, Paul D.; Penaluna, Brooke E.; Dunham, Jason B.
Olson, D.H., Johnson, S.L., Anderson, P.D., Penaluna, B.E., Dunham, J.B., 2017, Chapter 14 - Aquatic-Riparian Systems In Olson, D.H., Van Horne, B., eds., People, Forests, and Change: Lessons from the Pacific Northwest: Washington, D.C., Island Press, p. 344.

Year Published: 2017

Enhancing public trust in Federal forest management: Chapter 18

No abstract available.

Nelson, Michael Paul; Gosnell, Hannah; Warren, Dana R.; Batavia, Chelsea; Betts, Matthew; Burton, Julia; Davis, Emily Jane; Schulze, Mark; Segura, Catalina; Friesen, Cheryl Ann; Perakis, Steven S.
Nelson, M.P., Gosnell, H., Warren, D.R., Batavia, C., Betts, M.G., Burton, J., Davis, E.J., Friesen, C.A., Perakis, S.S., Schulze, M., Segura, C., 2017, Chapter 18 - Enhancing Public Trust in Federal Forest Management In Olson, D.H., Van Horne, B., eds., People, Forests, and Change: Washington, D.C., Island Press, p. 344.

Year Published: 2017

Subsequent-year recaptures at winter sites in three species of shrubland sparrows (Emberizidae)

The tendency by individual birds to return to winter sites in subsequent years can be important in assessing the potential influence of habitat changes during the nonbreeding period. We recaptured five Brewer's (Spizella breweri), seven sagebrush (Artemisiospiza nevadensis), and three black-throated (Amphispiza bilineata) sparrows from 1–3...

Knick, Steven T.; Leu, Matthias; Hanser, Steven E.

Year Published: 2017

Developing approaches for linear mixed modeling in landscape genetics through landscape-directed dispersal simulations

Dispersal can impact population dynamics and geographic variation, and thus, genetic approaches that can establish which landscape factors influence population connectivity have ecological and evolutionary importance. Mixed models that account for the error structure of pairwise datasets are increasingly used to compare models relating genetic...

Row, Jeffrey R.; Knick, Steven T.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Lougheed, Stephen C.; Fedy, Bradley C.
Row JR, Knick ST, Oyler-McCance SJ, Lougheed SC, Fedy BC. Developing approaches for linear mixed modeling in landscape genetics through landscape-directed dispersal simulations. Ecol Evol. 2017;00:1–11. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2825

Year Published: 2017

Improved supervised classification of accelerometry data to distinguish behaviors of soaring birds

Soaring birds can balance the energetic costs of movement by switching between flapping, soaring and gliding flight. Accelerometers can allow quantification of flight behavior and thus a context to interpret these energetic costs. However, models to interpret accelerometry data are still being developed, rarely trained with supervised datasets,...

Sur, Maitreyi; Suffredini, Tony; Wessells, Stephen M.; Bloom, Peter H.; Lanzone, Michael J.; Blackshire, Sheldon; Sridhar, Srisarguru; Katzner, Todd
Sur M, Suffredini T, Wessells SM, Bloom PH, Lanzone M, Blackshire S, et al. (2017) Improved supervised classification of accelerometry data to distinguish behaviors of soaring birds. PLoS ONE 12(4): e0174785. https:// doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0174785

Year Published: 2017

Science framework for conservation and restoration of the sagebrush biome: Linking the Department of the Interior’s Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy to long-term strategic conservation actions, Part 1. Science basis and applications

The Science Framework is intended to link the Department of the Interior’s Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy with long-term strategic conservation actions in the sagebrush biome. The Science Framework provides a multiscale approach for prioritizing areas for management and determining effective management strategies within the...

Chambers, Jeanne C.; Beck, Jeffrey L.; Bradford, John B.; Bybee, Jared; Campbell, Steve; Carlson, John; Christiansen, Thomas J; Clause, Karen J.; Collins, Gail; Crist, Michele R.; Dinkins, Jonathan B.; Doherty, Kevin E.; Edwards, Fred; Espinosa, Shawn; Griffin, Kathleen A.; Griffin, Paul; Haas, Jessica R.; Hanser, Steven E.; Havlina, Douglas W.; Henke, Kenneth F.; Hennig, Jacob D.; Joyce, Linda A; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Kulpa, Sarah M; Kurth, Laurie L; Maestas, Jeremy D; Manning, Mary E.; Mayer, Kenneth E. ; Mealor, Brian A.; McCarthy, Clinton; Pellant, Mike; Perea, Marco A.; Prentice, Karen L.; Pyke, David A.; Wiechman , Lief A. ; Wuenschel, Amarina
Chambers, J.C.; Beck, J.L.; Bradford, J.B.; Bybee, J.; Campbell, S.; Carlson, J.; Christiansen, T.J.; Clause, K.J.; Collins, G.; Crist, M.R.; Dinkins, J.B.; Doherty, K.E.; Edwards, F.; Espinosa, S.; Griffin, K.A.; Griffin, P.; Haas, J.R.; Hanser, S.E.; Havlina, D.W.; Henke, K.F.; Hennig, J.D.; Joyce, L.A.; Kilkenny, F.M.; Kulpa, S.M.; Kurth, L.L.; Maestas, J.D.; Manning, M.; Mayer, K.E.; Mealor, B.A.; McCarthy, C.; Pellant, M.; Perea, M.A.; Prentice, K.L.; Pyke, D.A.; Wiechman, L.A.; Wuenschel, A. 2017. Science framework for conservation and restoration of the sagebrush biome: Linking the Department of the Interior’s Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy to long-term strategic conservation actions. Part 1. Science basis and applications. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-360. Fort Collins, CO: U.S Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 213 p.

Year Published: 2017

Monitoring protocols: Options, approaches, implementation, benefits

Monitoring and adaptive management are fundamental concepts to rangeland management across land management agencies and embodied as best management practices for private landowners. Historically, rangeland monitoring was limited to determining impacts or maximizing the potential of specific land uses—typically grazing. Over the past several...

Karl, Jason W.; Herrick, Jeffrey E.; Pyke, David A.
Karl, J.W., Herrick, J.E., Pyke, D.A., 2017, Monitoring protocols- Options, approaches, implementation, benefits In Briske, D.D., ed., Rangeland Systems: Cham, Switzerland, Springer, p. 527-567, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-46709-2_16.

Year Published: 2017

Effects of experimental removal of barred owls on population demography of northern spotted owls in Washington and Oregon—2016 progress report

Evidence indicates that competition with invasive barred owls (Strix varia) is causing rapid declines in populations of northern spotted owls (S. occidentalis caurina), and that the long-term persistence of spotted owls may be in question without additional management intervention. A pilot study in California showed that removal of barred owls in...

Wiens, J. David; Dugger, Katie M.; Lewicki, Krista E.; Simon, David C.
Wiens, J.D., Dugger, K.M., Lewicki, K.E., and Simon, D.C., 2017, Effects of experimental removal of barred owls on population demography of northern spotted owls in Washington and Oregon—2016 progress report: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2017-1040, 23 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20171040.

Year Published: 2017

Optimization of a Plaque Neutralization Test (PNT) to identify the exposure history of Pacific Herring to viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV)

Methods for a plaque neutralization test (PNT) were optimized for the detection and quantification of viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV) neutralizing activity in the plasma of Pacific Herring Clupea pallasii. The PNT was complement dependent, as neutralizing activity was attenuated by heat inactivation; further, neutralizing activity was...

Hart, Lucas; Mackenzie, Ashley; Purcell, Maureen K.; Thompson, Rachel L.; Hershberger, Paul
Hart, L.M., A. MacKenzie, M.K. Purcell, R.L. Powers, and P.K. Hershberger. 2017. Optimization of a plaque neutralization test (PNT) to identify the exposure history of Pacific Herring to virual hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV). J. Aquat. Anim. Health 29(2): 74-82.

Year Published: 2017

Facilitating adaptation in montane plants to changing precipitation along an elevation gradient

Montane plant communities throughout the world have responded to changes in precipitation and temperature regimes by shifting ranges upward in elevation. Continued warmer, drier climate conditions have been documented and are projected to increase in high-elevation areas in Hawai‘i, consistent with climate change effects reported in other...

Hess, Steve C.; Leopold, Christina
Leopold, C. R., and S. C. Hess. 2017. Facilitating adaptation in montane plants to changing precipitation along an elevation gradient. Hawai`i Cooperative Studies Unit Technical Report HCSU-TR080, University of Hawai'i at Hilo, Hilo. Available: https://dspace.lib.hawaii.edu/handle/10790/2977

Year Published: 2017

Pacific Island landbird monitoring report, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, 2015-2016: Tract groups 1 and 2

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) was surveyed for landbirds and landbird habitat from February through April 2015 and February through April 2016. This information provides the second datum in the time-series of Pacific Island Network (PACN) monitoring for long-term trends in landbird distribution, density, and abundance. Initial PACN...

Judge, Seth; Camp, Richard J.; Sedgwick, Daniel; Squibb, Carine; Hart, Patrick J.
Judge, S.W., R.J. Camp, D.E. Sedgwick, C.L. Squibb, and P.J. Hart. 2017. Pacific Island landbird monitoring report, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, 2015-2016: Tract groups 1 and 2. Natural Resource Report. NPS/PACN/NRR—2017/1407. National Park Service. Fort Collins, Colorado. Available: https://irma.nps.gov/DataStore/Reference/Profile/2239426

Filter Total Items: 680
Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum
December 31, 2015

USGS Volunteer Student at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum

The Smithsonian Natural History Museum offers hands-on learning experiences.

December 31, 2015


The Eastern, migratory population of monarch butterflies has declined by about 80 percent over the last decade.


Pallid sturgeon
December 31, 2015

Pallid Sturgeon

The pallid sturgeon is an endangered riverine sturgeon with historical distribution restricted to parts of the Yellowstone, Missouri, Mississippi, and Atchafalaya Rivers. Although rare, pallid sturgeon in the lower Mississippi River appear to be naturally recruiting, and information about habitat use is important to conserve this species. This study seeks to provide

Image: Endangered Hawaiian Hoary Bat
December 31, 2015

Hawaiian Hoary Bats Hunting Insects

The sound of Hawaiian hoary bats hunting insects.

Attribution: Ecosystems
A Cuban treefrog on a palm frond
December 23, 2015

A Cuban treefrog sighted in New Orleans

Non-native Cuban treefrogs have established a breeding population in New Orleans, Louisiana, the first such population on the U.S. mainland outside Florida. The treefrogs were discovered at the Audubon Zoo shortly after a shipment of palm trees from Florida were planted in the zoo's elephant enclosure in 2016. USGS scientist Brad Glorioso confirmed the presence of a

two ARMI field tech display discarded mylar balloons
October 29, 2015

Discarded mylar balloons on display

Anna Ormiston and Jesi Hessong, student contractors with the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, or ARMI, display several discarded mylar balloon collected by field teams working in and around the Capital Region National Parks in the summer of 2015. They collected a total of 71 balloons.

October 21, 2015

What's the Big Idea?—Using Weather Equip. to Monitor Animal Movement

Robb Diehl, research ecologist at the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, explains how he uses remote sensing technology — particularly weather radar — to better understand  how flying animals affect human activities.

Producer: Jacob Massey, USGS
Camera: Paul Laustsen, USGS


Sampling for alpine insects above the stream in Glacier National Park.
September 21, 2015

Sampling for alpine insects above the stream in Glacier National Park.

A scientist is working to collect alpine insects by picking through moss below tiny, cold, alpine streams. This spot was below a small seep on a slope above a tributary to the Dry Fork, North of the Two Medicine area in Glacier National Park. 

Photo of remains of a southwestern pond turtle as found in the dry lake bed of Elizabeth Lake, Los Angeles California.
September 16, 2015

Remains of a southwestern pond turtle in Elizabeth Lake, California

Salt-encrusted remains of a southwestern pond turtle (Actinemys pallida) as found in the dry lake bed of Elizabeth Lake, Los Angeles County, California. Note the heavy coating of evaporites on the carcass. Most living turtles collected in 2014 had similar but varying degrees of coatings on the head, limbs and shell.

Almost all of the turtles living in a southern

Photograph of Elizabeth Lake in the fourth year of drought and two years after the Powerhouse Fire.
September 16, 2015

Photograph of Elizabeth Lake in the fourth year of drought

Photograph of Elizabeth Lake in the fourth year of drought and two years after the Powerhouse Fire. Note salt encrustation of surface and small accumulations of water remaining in the foreground and background.

Almost all of the turtles living in a southern California lake died following a large fire and years of drought, according to a new USGS report.

Filter Total Items: 322
Date published: October 25, 2010

Wildlife Health Reporting Tools May Help Prevent Human Illness

Two new tools that enable the public to report sick or dead wild animals could also lead to the detection and containment of wildlife disease outbreaks that may pose a health risk to people.

Date published: October 14, 2010

Secretary of the Interior Recognizes USGS and its Collaborators with Partners in Conservation Awards

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar selected four U.S. Geological Survey programs and their collaborators to receive a Partners in Conservation Award — The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council-USGS Water Quality Monitoring Program...

Attribution: Ecosystems
Date published: September 20, 2010

Southern Calif. Urbanization Isolates Wildlife, Promotes Inbreeding

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Urban development can isolate wildlife populations and promote inbreeding, according to a genetic study of animals in the Santa Monica Mountains by researchers at the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Date published: September 16, 2010

Raptor Gains Honorable Mention in Government Computer News Award Competition

Raptor, the new search engine of the USGS-National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII), has just been recognized and honored as one of ten 2010 Honorable Mention Winners in the 23rd Annual Government Computer News Awards for Outstanding Information Technology Achievement in Government.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Date published: September 13, 2010

Manatee Subspecies Genetically Confirmed, But Diversity Challenge Looms

Gainesville, FL. -- The first genetic study to compare nuclear DNA of endangered Antillean manatees in Belize with Florida manatees confirmed their designation as separate subspecies. Belize’s manatees, however, were found to have extremely low genetic diversity, raising questions about their long-term genetic viability.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Date published: September 7, 2010

Potomac River: Ten-fold Increase in Native Submerged Vegetation Reflects Improved Water Quality

The Potomac River in Washington, D.C. is showing multiple benefits from restoration efforts, newly published research suggests. Reduced nutrients and improved water clarity have increased the abundance and diversity of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Potomac, according to direct measurements taken during the 18-year field study.

Date published: September 3, 2010

New Report Warns of Expanding Threat of Hypoxia in U.S. Coastal Waters

A report issued today by key environmental and scientific federal agencies assesses the increasing prevalence of low-oxygen “dead zones” in U.S. coastal waters and outlines a series of research and policy steps that could help reverse the decades-long trend.

Date published: September 1, 2010

Are Wolves Saving Yellowstone’s Aspen Trees from Elk?

LARAMIE, Wy. — Previous research has claimed that the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 is helping restore quaking aspen in risky areas where wolves prowl. But apparently elk hungry for winter food had a different idea.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Date published: August 30, 2010

Climate Change Implicated in Decline of Horseshoe Crabs

LEETOWN, W. Va. — A distinct decline in horseshoe crab numbers has occurred that parallels climate change associated with the end of the last Ice Age, according to a study that used genomics to assess historical trends in population sizes.  

Date published: August 24, 2010

Rare Tadpoles Released for First Time into Wild Stream

IDYLLWILD, CALIF. — Thirty-six rare tadpoles were released into a wild steam today near Idyllwild, Calif. as part of a program aimed at giving the nearly-extinct, Southern California population of mountain yellow-legged frogs a chance of thriving in the wild again.

Attribution: Ecosystems