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The USGS Ecosystems Mission Area, the biological research arm of the Department of the Interior (DOI), provides science to help America achieve sustainable management and conservation of its biological resources. This work is done within the broader mission of the USGS to serve the Nation with science that advances understanding of our natural resources and inform land and water stewardship.
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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Evaluating the pathogenicity and replication of a novel aquareovirus that infects the endangered fountain darter, Etheostoma fonticola
Evaluating the pathogenicity and replication of a novel aquareovirus that infects the endangered fountain darter, Etheostoma fonticola
Freshwater mussels of the family Unionidae, also known as naiads, pearly mussels, freshwater clams, or unionids, are a diverse group of bivalve mollusks that are distributed on every continent except Antarctica. Approximately 300 species are known from the United States, with most of this diversity residing in rivers of the Southeast where many endemic taxa have evolved.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
The degree to which eelgrass on river deltas provides critical habitat for estuarine fishes, especially out‐migrating juvenile salmon, is an important scientific and management issue that bears on efforts to conserve and restore both eelgrass and fish.
DATA RELEASE - Spatial distribution and risk analysis data for diamond-backed terrapins relative to crab trapping, Savannah Coastal Refuge Complex, USA - Data
The data collected during the systematic inventory of diamond-backed terrapins includes information on terrapin detection in tidal creeks on refuges, crab pot numbers and locations, and a variety of environmental-, location-, and observer-related variables to examine the effects of both environmental conditions and observer bias on terrapin detection.
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...
Principal components of climate variation in the Desert Southwest for the time periods 1980-2010, 2040-2070 (RCP8.5) and (RCP4.5) - data release
Five principal components are used to represent the climate variation in an original set of 12 climate variables reflecting precipitation and temperature gradients. The dataset provides coverage for four regions (the Sonoran Desert, Mojave Desert, Colorado Plateau, and Southern Great Basin) and two time periods: current climate (defined as the 1980-2010 normal period) and future climate (...
Climate Distance Mapper is a spatial decision-support tool designed to help land managers match seed sources with restoration sites. Plant populations are commonly adapted to local climate gradients and frequently exhibit a home-site advantage. For this reason, climate information may serve as a proxy for local adaptation in restoration designs. Climate Distance Mapper allows users to rank the...
DATA RELEASE - Occurrence records and vegetation type data used for species distribution models in the western United States - Data
These data are species distribution information assembled for assessing the impacts of land-use barriers, facilitative interactions with other species, and loss of long-distance animal dispersal on predicted species range patterns for four common species in pinyon-juniper woodlands in the western United States.
These data were compiled for monitoring and analyzing the amount of windblown (aeolian) sediment at 100 cm height near Moab, UT. Big Springs Number Eight (BSNE) field aeolian passive sediment traps are summarized by location and time period in shapefiles. Shapefiles also include attributes used to analyze patterns in the aeolian transport.
DATA RELEASE - Climate, hydrology and riparian vegetation composition data, Grand Canyon, Arizona - Data
These data were compiled for monitoring riparian vegetation change along the Colorado River. This file contains data recorded at 42 sandbars between Lees Ferry and Diamond Creek, AZ, which are annually sampled for both geomorphic and vegetation change. Field data contained here were collected from 2012 to 2016 in September and October of each year.
Wildlife Health Bulletins are distributed to natural resource/conservation agencies to provide and promote information exchange about significant wildlife health threats.
DATA RELEASE - Simulated Soil Water Potential in National Parks and Monuments of the Southern Colorado Plateau, 1915-2099—Data
These data were simulated using the SOILWAT model and were intended to characterize soil-water conditions at different ecological sites on the southern Colorado Plateau. The sites simulated correspond with Inventory and Monitoring plots established by the National Park Service’s Southern Colorado Plateau Network.
DATA RELEASE - The influence of water temperature on salmonid recruitment and adult size in tailwaters across western North America—Data
These data were used to examine drivers behind changes in water temperature downriver of dams across the western U.S. from 1995-2015 and the influence of such changes on rainbow trout recruitment and rainbow and brown trout adult length.
The Land Treatment Exploration Tool is designed for resource managers to use when planning land treatments. The tool provides useful summaries of environmental characteristics of planned treatment areas and facilitates adaptive management practices by comparing those characteristics to other similar treatments within a specified distance or area of interest. ...
The NWHC developed the Wildlife Health Information Sharing Partnership – event reporting system (WHISPers) to increase public awareness of wildlife disease events and promote collaboration and data sharing among wildlife professionals. It is a partner driven tool that provides a dynamic, timely, searchable web-based system for visualizing and accessing data on wildlife disease events nationwide.
Interactive map of the distribution of quagga mussels in North America. This map is provided by the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species program.
Interactive map of the distribution of zebra mussels in North America. This map is provided by the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species program.
In September 1960, the 86th Congress passed Public Law 86-686 to facilitate cooperation between the Federal government, colleges and universities, the States, and private organizations for Cooperative Unit Programs of research and education relating to fish and wildlife, and for other purposes. The Cooperative Research Units originated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the mid 1930s
Suisun Marsh is a critical habitat for wintering and breeding waterbirds in California. USGS is working with the California DWR to examine the trends in bird decline and to assess the habitat factors driving long-term survival of waterfowl, rails, and other birds in this important area.
This U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Western Ecological Research Center (WERC) story map details how partners are using science and management to maintain and establish new bird nesting colonies in support of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
In this Year in Review report, you will find details on staffing, vacancies, research funding, and other pertinent information. You will also see snapshots of Unit projects with information on how results have been or are being applied by cooperators. That is the essence of what we do: science that matter.
The Clinch-Powell River Basins Spanning Virginia and Tennessee
Movement ecology of reintroduced migratory Whooping Cranes
No abstract available.Teitelbaum, Claire S.; Converse, Sarah J.; Fagan, William F.; Mueller, Thomas
Reproduction and reproductive strategies relevant to management of Whooping Cranes ex situ
Due to the small population size (∼400 birds) and continuing threats to wild Whooping Cranes (Grus americana), an ex situ (captive) population is maintained to contribute to the recovery of the species. The goals of the captive breeding program are to provide opportunity for research and birds for reintroduction. However, reproduction...Songsasen, Nucharin; Converse, Sarah J.; Brown, Megan
Population dynamics of reintroduced Whooping Cranes
Because of the small size and restricted range of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo Population, reintroduction is a prominent element of the recovery effort to ensure persistence of Whooping Cranes (Grus americana). A fundamental objective of all Whooping Crane reintroduction efforts is the establishment of a self-sustaining population. Therefore...Converse, Sarah J.; Servanty, Sabrina; Moore, Clinton T.; Runge, Michael C.
Whooping Cranes past and present
The Whooping Crane (Grus americana), endemic to North America, is the rarest of all crane species. It is believed that in the early 1800s, the Whooping Crane was widespread in North America, though it was never very abundant. Whooping Crane numbers decreased precipitously as westward migration of Euro-American settlers converted ...French, John B.; Converse, Sarah J.; Austin, Jane E.
Reproductive failure in the Eastern Migratory Population: The interaction of research and management
The reintroduction of the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) has shown the most promise of any effort to date toward the establishment of a self-sustaining population. However, reproduction – including both nest success and chick survival – has been a major challenge. Here, we review the research and...Converse, Sarah J.; Strobel, Bradley N.; Barzen, Jeb A.
GenEst user guide—Software for a generalized estimator of mortality
GenEst (Generalized Estimator) is a software tool for estimating the total number of individuals arriving in an area during a specific time period when their detection probability is unknown but estimable. Its development was motivated by the need to accurately estimate the total number of bird and bat fatalities occurring at wind and solar energy...Simonis, Juniper; Dalthorp, Daniel; Huso, Manuela; Mintz, Jeffrey; Madsen, Lisa; Rabie, Paul; Studyvin, Jared
GenEst statistical models—A generalized estimator of mortality
IntroductionGenEst (a generalized estimator of mortality) is a suite of statistical models and software tools for generalized mortality estimation. It was specifically designed for estimating the number of bird and bat fatalities at solar and wind power facilities, but both the software (Dalthorp and others, 2018) and the underlying statistical...Dalthorp, Daniel; Madsen, Lisa; Huso, Manuela; Rabie, Paul; Wolpert, Robert; Studyvin, Jared; Simonis, Juniper; Mintz, Jeffrey
Batrachochytrium salamandriovrans (Bsal) in Appalachia—Using scenario building to proactively prepare for a wildlife disease outbreak caused by an invasive amphibian chytrid fungus
Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), a pathogenic chytrid fungus, is nonnative to the United States and poses a disease threat to vulnerable amphibian hosts. The Bsal fungus may lead to increases in threatened, endangered, and sensitive status listings at State, Tribal, and Federal levels, resulting in financial costs associated with...Hopkins, M.C.; Adams, M.J.; Super, P.E.; Olson, D.H.; Hickman, C.R.; English, P.; Sprague, L.; Maska, I.B. ; Pennaz, A.B.; Ludwig, K.A.
Multi-state occupancy models of foraging habitat use by the Hawaiian hoary bat Lasiurus cinereus semotus
Multi-state occupancy modeling can often improve assessments of habitat use and site quality when animal activity or behavior data are available. We examine the use of the approach for evaluating foraging habitat suitability of the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus) from classifications of site occupancy based on flight...Gorresen, Paulo Marcos; Brinck, Kevin W.; DeLisle, Megan A.; Montoya-Aiona, Kristina; Pinzari, Corinna A.; Bonaccorso, Frank
Long-term impacts of exotic grazer removal on native shrub recovery, Santa Cruz Island, California
A combination of overgrazing and exotic species introduction has led to the degradation of habitats worldwide. It is often unclear whether removal of exotic ungulates will lead to the natural reestablishment of native plant communities without further management inputs. I describe here my return to sites on Santa Cruz Island, California, 12 years...Yelenik, Stephanie G.
Resiliency of biological soil crusts and vascular plants varies among morphogroups with disturbance intensity
Background and aimsDisturbance affects the ability of organisms to persist on a site, and disturbance history acts as a filter of community composition. This is true for vascular plants and morphological groups of biocrusts, which respond differently to disturbance. Although functioning arid ecosystems include both groups, filtering of...Condon, Lea A.; Pyke, David A.
Evidence for geographic variation in life-cycle processes affecting phenology of the Lyme disease vector Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae) in the United States
The seasonal activity pattern of immature Ixodes scapularis Say (Acari: Ixodidae) varies geographically in the United States, which may affect the efficiency of transmission cycles of pathogens transmitted by this species. To study the factors that determine seasonality, a multiyear study at seven sites across the geographic range of...Ogden, Nicholas H.; Pang, Genevieve; Ginsberg, Howard S.; Hickling, Graham J.; Burke, Russell L.; Beati, Lorenza; Tsao, Jean I.
GenEst, a generalized estimator of wildlife mortality at renewable energy facilities.
SSR_pipeline: Computer Software for the Identification of Microsatellite Sequences from Paired-End Illumina High-Throughput DNA Sequence Data
SSR_pipeline is a flexible set of programs designed to efficiently identify simple sequence repeats (SSRs; for example, microsatellites) from paired-end high-throughput Illumina DNA sequencing data.
Software to Estimate Bird and Bat Fatality at Wind Farms
The InVEST tool allows researchers to evaluate relationships between land management actions and wild bee populations.
Tool to Evaluate Wildlife Fatalities at Wind-Power Facilities
USGS wildlife biologists holding a juvenile salt marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris). The species is listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
The flathead catfish, which is native to the Mississippi Basin, has been sighted in the Carolinas and could be spread by Hurricane Florence's floodwaters. It could affect the abundance of popular native fish like bass. Credit: Eric Engbretson, USFWS, public domain.
Can you hear the difference between the non-native Cuban treefrog and two common Louisiana native treefrogs? Cuban treefrogs’ call is distinctive. Biologist Paul Moler of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recorded them in South Florida. Credit: Paul Moler, used with permission.
Map of Alaska showing probability (%) of change occurrence. Insets show fire boundaries from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Large Fire Database and Landsat 8 imagery (bottom right; 2016) north of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Squirrel treefrogs are also native to Florida and Louisiana. Hear them calling from ditches, puddles and other ephemeral pools of water. Credit: Paul Moler, used with permission.
RestoreNet locations are testing commonly used restoration techniques, including pitting, mulching, and above-ground micro sites. Here, pits have filled with water, illustrating how this technique increases soil moisture by capturing rainwater. The project will illustrate which techniques work to establish plants depending on local conditions (like soil type) and climate...
RestoreNet locations are testing commonly used restoration techniques, including pitting, mulching, and above-ground micro sites. Here, metal crosses create an above-ground microsite that can increase soil moisture by providing shade and collecting debris under some conditions. The project will illustrate which techniques work to establish plants depending on local...
RestoreNet locations are testing commonly used restoration techniques, including pitting, mulching, and above-ground micro sites. This photo shows the mulching treatment, which can increase soil moisture and lead to higher plant survival under some conditions. The project will illustrate which techniques work to establish plants depending on local conditions (like soil...
USGS scientists are documenting the distribution of three mid-sized mammalian carnivores – or mesocarnivores –in the Klamath Network Parks using remote cameras and hair snares. Little is known about the status of Pacific fishers, Pacific martens, and Sierra Nevada red foxes living in the Klamath Network, which include Crater Lake National Park, Lassen Volcanic National...
Gradients of N deposition, S deposition, mean annual temperature, and mean annual precipitation across the conterminous U.S. Panels are the a) mean total N deposition from 2000–2012, b) mean total S deposition from 2000–2012, c) mean annual temperature from 2000–2014, and d) mean annual precipitation form 2000–2014. Deposition data are from the TDEP product  and...
USGS’ preliminary storm trackers show potential for subtle damage in natural areas
Do you eat fruits and vegetables? What about nuts? If so, you can thank an insect pollinator, usually a honey bee. These small insects play a major role in pollinating the world’s plants, including those we eat regularly. They also increase our nation’s crop values each year by more than 15 billion dollars.
A recently published paper on the global status of turtles and their ecological roles generated quite a bit of media interest.
Potential reintroduction of the endangered California Condor to parts of its historic range in the Pacific Northwest would benefit from information on possible threats that could challenge recovery efforts. Exposure to environmental contaminants is a key limiting factor for condor recovery in its southern range.
With labs that rival those of your favorite crime scene investigator and tech that would make even the most resourceful problem-solving secret agent jealous, the USGS is developing and using tools that help answer some of the most pressing questions being asked by wildlife, natural resource, and land managers. Here are just a few:
Many amphibians are either too small or too slow to avoid an oncoming car. For some populations of the Federally threatened Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus canorus), this has meant increased mortality from vehicle strikes in addition to other threats from disease, drought, and habitat loss.
A new genetic analysis of invasive pythons captured across South Florida finds the big constrictors are closely related to one another. In fact, most of them are genetically related as first or second cousins, according to a study by wildlife genetics experts at the U.S. Geological Survey.
The U.S. Geological Survey is celebrating the achievements of Dr. Craig D. Allen, who was recently named an Ecological Society of America (ESA) fellow for making exceptional contributions to a broad array of ecology. Dr. Allen, a research ecologist with the USGS Fort Collins Science Center, joins 27 other newly-initiated ESA fellows from academia, public and private sectors. Fellows are elected for life.
SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS, CA — Last week, biologists from the USGS Western Ecological Research Center (WERC) and partnering agencies released hundreds of endangered, mountain yellow-legged frog tadpoles back to their historic habitat in southern California.
A new statistical approach to disease surveillance may improve scientists’ and managers’ ability to detect chronic wasting disease earlier in white-tailed deer by targeting higher-risk animals. This approach can also provide financial and personnel savings for agencies that are required to monitor for wildlife diseases, including the National Park Service, or NPS.
Bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles provide vital but often invisible pollination services that support terrestrial wildlife and plant communities, and healthy watersheds.
No one has a crystal ball to foresee what will happen during the 2018 hurricane season that begins June 1, but NOAA forecasters say there’s a 75 percent chance this hurricane season will be at least as busy as a normal year, or busier.
Ecosystems provides scientific information and decision support to meet Interior’s shared responsibility to manage land and species, fulfill treaty obligations, develop energy and mineral resources on Interior lands, and supply water for irrigation and other human needs. Our main Interior Department partners are listed below. Additional partners are listed throughout our web pages.