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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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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.
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.
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...
The field of digital soil mapping has bridged the classic theories of soil science into the modern computing age to produce high resolution maps. This body of work utilizes classic soil factorial theory (soil = f[climate, organisms, relief (topography), parent material, time] + ɛ, or ‘clorpt’). The clorpt framework has been approximated using various environmental spatial data layers to...
Integrated Ecohydrological Science in the Northern Rocky Mountains — the variability of water availability and the effects on ecosystems
Our primary goal is to better understand and characterize how stream environments and the ecosystems they support are influenced by climate change and drought in the Northern Rocky Mountains.
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.
Wind erosion of soils and dust emissions are a significant resource management challenge on the Colorado Plateau. Loss of topsoil and associated aeolian sediment (wind-driven sediment) movement can lead to reduced soil fertility as well as abrasion and burial of vegetation. Dust in the atmosphere poses a threat to human health, visual resources, and regional water supplies (due to interactions...
Measuring Suspended-Sediment Concentrations, Grain Sizes, and Bedload using Multiple Single-Frequency Acoustic Doppler Profilers and Echologgers in the Lower Chippewa River, Wisconsin.
The Upper Mississippi River (UMR) provides critical habitat for hundreds of aquatic species and provides Minnesota with a transportation link to the rest of the world. Reliable measurements of sediment are important for making decisions as part of maintaining the channel. In 2014, sediment deposition in the navigation channel caused channel closures of the UMR delaying commercial navigation...
The Sparrow Helper tool allows for the evaluation of water management scenarios by generating, plotting, and mapping hydrologic metrics across a range of time scales to predict impacts of proposed water depth changes to sparrow subpopulations.
WADEM (Wader Distribution Evaluation Modeling) is a JEM model that estimates species-specific habitat suitability across the landscape for Great Egret (Ardea alba), White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), and Wood Stork (Mycteria americana).
Drylands comprise ~35% of Earth’s terrestrial biomes, with over 1 billion people depending on these landscapes for their livelihoods. In the U.S., drylands comprise ~40% of the landmass and 83% of Department of Interior (DOI)-managed lands (excluding Alaska). Due to their vast extent nationally and globally, changes to these landscapes have the potential to affect global climate regulation. A...
This research project will reconstruct Holocene climatic conditions to better understand human adaptation and response to past environmental variability.
These data consist of species relative cover; percent cover of dead plant material, soil and rock; and a variety of broad- and local- scale environmental variables. These data relate to sample sites along the Colorado River through Grand Canyon between Lees Ferry and river mile 245. Sample sites were distributed among three geomorphic features: channel margins, debris fans, and sandbars.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
Identifying management-relevant research priorities for responding to disease-associated amphibian declines
A research priority can be defined as a knowledge gap that, if resolved, identifies the optimal course of conservation action. We (a group of geographically distributed and multidisciplinary research scientists) used tools from nominal group theory and decision analysis to collaboratively identify and prioritize information...Campbell Grant, Evan H.; Adams, Michael J.; Fisher, Robert N.; Grear, Daniel A.; Halstead, Brian J.; Hossack, Blake R.; Muths, Erin L.; Richgels, Katherine L. D.; Russell, Robin E.; Smalling, Kelly; Waddle, J. Hardin; Walls, Susan C.; White, C. LeAnn
Investigating home range, movement pattern, and habitat selection of Bar-headed Geese during breeding season at Qinghai Lake, China
The Bar-headed Goose is an important species in Asia, both culturally and ecologically. While prior studies have shown Qinghai Lake supports one of the largest breeding areas for Bar-headed Geese, little is known regarding the species movement ecology during the breeding season. In this study, we examined Bar-headed Goose home range size within...Zheng, Ruobing; Smith, Lacy M.; Prosser, Diann J.; Takekawa, John Y.; Newman, Scott H.; Sullivan, Jeffery D.; Luo, Ze; Yan, Baoping
Fuels guide and database for intact and invaded big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) ecological sites—User manual
The Fuels Guide and Database (FGD) is intended to provide fuel loading and vegetation information for big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) ecological sites in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (hereinafter the NCA) in southern Idaho. Sagebrush ecosystems in the NCA and throughout much of the Great Basin are...Shinneman, Douglas J.; Welty, Justin L.; Arkle, Robert S.; Pilliod, David S.; Glenn, Nancy F.; McIlroy, Susan K.; Halford, Anne S.
Multidirectional abundance shifts among North American birds and the relative influence of multifaceted climate factors
Shifts in species distributions are major fingerprint of climate change. Examining changes in species abundance structures at a continental scale enables robust evaluation of climate change influences, but few studies have conducted these evaluations due to limited data and methodological constraints. In this study, we estimate temporal changes in...Huang, Qiongyu; Sauer, John R.; Dubayah, Ralph O.
Preliminary evaluation of behavioral response of nesting waterbirds to small unmanned aircraft flight
Small unmanned aircraft systems present an emerging technology with the potential to survey colonial waterbird populations while reducing disturbance in comparison to traditional ground counts. Recent research with these systems has been performed on some colonially nesting avian species; however, none have focused on wading bird species. During...Reintsma, Kaitlyn; McGowan, Peter C.; Callahan, Carl R.; Collier, Tom; Gray, David; Sullivan, Jeffery D.; Prosser, Diann J.
Floristic and climatic reconstructions of two Lower Cretaceous successions from Peru
Climate during the Early Cretaceous in tropical South America has often been reconstructed as arid. However, some areas seem to have been humid. We reconstructed the floristic composition of two tropical stratigraphic successions in Peru using quantitative palynology (rarefied species richness and abundance), and used the abundance of aridity vs....Mejia-Velasquez, Paula J.; Manchester, Steven R.; Jaramillo, Carlos A.; Quiroz, Luiz; Fortini, Lucas B.
Quantifying climate sensitivity and climate-driven change in North American amphibian communities
Changing climate will impact species’ ranges only when environmental variability directly impacts the demography of local populations. However, measurement of demographic responses to climate change has largely been limited to single species and locations. Here we show that amphibian communities are responsive to climatic variability, using >...Miller, David A.W.; Campbell Grant, Evan H.; Muths, Erin L.; Amburgey, Staci M.; Adams, Michael J.; Joseph, Maxwell B.; Waddle, J. Hardin; Johnson, Pieter T.J.; Ryan, Maureen E.; Schmidt, Benedikt R.; Calhoun, Daniel L.; Davis, Courtney L.; Fisher, Robert N.; Green, David M.; Hossack, Blake R.; Rittenhouse, Tracy A.G.; Walls, Susan C.; Bailey, Larissa L.; Cruickshank, Sam S.; Fellers, Gary M.; Gorman, Thomas A.; Haas, Carola A.; Hughson, Ward; Pilliod, David S.; Price, Steven J.; Ray, Andrew M.; Sadinski, Walter; Saenz, Daniel; Barichivich, William J.; Brand, Adrianne B,; Brehme, Cheryl S.; Dagit, Rosi; Delaney, Katy S.; Glorioso, Brad M.; Kats, Lee B.; Kleeman, Patrick M.; Pearl, Christopher; Rochester, Carlton J.; Riley, Seth P. D.; Roth, Mark F.; Sigafus, Brent
Late-season movement and habitat use by Oregon spotted frogs (Rana pretiosa) in Oregon, USA
Many amphibians use multiple habitats across seasons. Information on seasonal habitat use, movement between seasonal habitat types, and habitats that may be particularly valuable is important to conservation and management. We used radio-telemetry to study late-season movement and habitat use by Oregon Spotted Frog (Rana pretiosa) at nine sites...Pearl, Christopher; Mccreary, Brome; Rowe, Jennifer; Adams, Michael J.
Variation in the vital rates of an Antarctic marine predator: the role of individual heterogeneity
Variation in life‐history traits such as lifespan and lifetime reproductive output is thought to arise, in part, due to among‐individual differences in the underlying probabilities of survival and reproduction. However, the stochastic nature of demographic processes can also generate considerable variation in fitness‐related traits among otherwise...Paterson, J. Terrill; Rotella, Jay J.; Link, William A.; Garrott, Robert A.
A snapshot of women of the U.S. Geological Survey in STEM and related careers
IntroductionThe term “STEM” has been used to group together the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to describe education and professions related to these fields. The professional fields connected to STEM education are thought of as engineering, medicine, and computer technology. Yet these professional fields are merely...Aragon-Long, Susan C.; Burkett, Virginia R.; Weyers, Holly S.; Haig, Susan M.; Davenport, Marjorie S.; Warner, Kelly L.
Mapping the relationships between trail conditions and experiential elements of long-distance hiking
Trail users that experience acceptable social and ecological conditions are more likely to act as trail stewards, exhibit proper trail etiquette, and use low-impact practices. However, the relationships between specific trail conditions and experiential elements of long-distance hiking are not well understood. Therefore, the purpose of this study...Peterson, Brian A.; Brownlee, Matthew T.J.; Marion, Jeffrey L.
Mercury and lead exposure in avian scavengers from the Pacific Northwest suggest risks to California condors: Implications for reintroduction and recovery
Mercury (Hg) and lead (Pb) are widespread contaminants that pose risks to avian scavengers. In fact, Pb exposure is the primary factor limiting population recovery in the endangered California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) and Hg can impair avian reproduction at environmentally relevant exposures. The Pacific Northwest region of the...Herring, Garth; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Varland, Daniel E.
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.
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.
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.
A completed restoration field trial site just after installation. Half of the site is seeded, and the other half had plants and weed cloth (white fabric) installed. RAMPS will be collecting data on this site for...
These workers are planting seedlings as part of the restoration field trial network. Each garden in the network is examining seedlings and seeds in conjunction with restoration treatments to better understand how...
View of a recently installed Restoration Field Trial Network site in the rangelands of Northern Arizona. This part of the site contains the seeding treatments: mulch, ConMods (metal crosses), pits, and two...
Image of scientist setting up a radar system in Colorado to test its efficacy in detecting birds and bats flying towards spinning wind turbines.
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.
New research has revealed significant changes to Alaska’s landscape in recent decades
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.