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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.
Scientists with the Ecosystem Mission Area can be found working across the Nation to provide fish, wildlife, and habitat science support to natural resource managers. Our sixteen Ecosystem Science Centers provide unique scientific capabilities to support the management and conservation of our Nation’s biological resources.
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USGS scientists quantify and describe functional relationships among aquatic species and habitats to characterize aquatic community structure, function, adaptation, and sustainability.
The Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) is an integrated scientific program established in 1920 supporting the collection, archiving, management and dissemination of information from banded and marked birds in North America. This information is used to monitor the status and trends of resident and migratory bird populations. Because birds are good indicators of the health of the environment, the...
USGS provides fisheries research information to restore and enhance fish habitat and understand fish diseases. Endangered species and those that are imperiled receive special research interest. Aquatic Invasive Species research is aiding in early detection and control measures, as well as understanding impacts these invaders have on aquatic environments.
USGS research in advanced technologies, use of remote sensing, and research and monitoring in large river systems across the U.S. uniquely positions the USGS Fisheries Program to contribute to practical applications of landscape science.
As part of the USGS Fisheries program, ecological flows, or the relationships between quality, quantity, and timing of water flows and ecological response of aquatic biota and ecosystems; and related ecosystem services are being investigated.
Climate change is an additional stressor in a complex suite of threats facing freshwater ecosystems. Climate change is already stressing many freshwater species by warming water temperatures, shifting streamflow regimes, increasing extreme events (e.g., floods, drought, wildfire), and facilitating species invasions.
USGS fisheries scientists study the complex...
USGS scientists conduct studies to understand how aquatic species interact with each other and their environment in a wide range of aquatic habitats, including streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and coastal areas. USGS scientists quantify and describe functional relationships among aquatic species and habitats to describe aquatic community structure, function, adaptation, and sustainability....
The USGS Fisheries Program develops valuable tools for assessing species’ vulnerability to environmental stressors, focusing on 3 critical elements: exposure (magnitude of change), sensitivity (likelihood of adverse impacts), and adaptive capacity (species’ ability to cope with change). For example, our scientists develop the tools and science to help water managers evaluate tradeoffs in...
The USGS investigates pathogens and other environmental factors that affect aquatic organism health to support the management, conservation, and restoration of aquatic species.
USGS investigates pathogen discovery, causes, and drivers; researches disease ecology and immunology; and develops advanced tools for surveillance, risk assessment, and control of diseases that impact aquatic organism health to support the management, conservation, and restoration of aquatic species.
Biological and ecological science for Michigan—The Great Lakes State
Michigan is rich in lakes, rivers, dune and rocky shorelines, forests, fish and wildlife, and has the longest freshwater coastline in the United States, 3,224 miles. Many enterprises critical to Michigan’s economy and cultural heritage are based on natural resources including commercial and sport fishing, hunting, and other outdoor recreation....
Relating river discharge and water temperature to the recruitment of age‐0 White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus Richardson, 1836) in the Columbia River using over‐dispersed catch data
The goals were to (i) determine if river discharge and water temperature during various early life history stages were predictors of age‐0 White Sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus, recruitment, and (ii) provide an example of how over‐dispersed catch data, including data with many zero observations, can be used to better understand the effects...Counihan, Timothy D.; Chapman, Colin G.
An epidemiological model of virus transmission in salmonid fishes of the Columbia River Basin
We have developed a dynamic epidemiological model informed by records of viral presence and genotypes to evaluate potential transmission routes maintaining a viral pathogen in economically and culturally important anadromous fish populations. In the Columbia River Basin, infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV) causes severe disease,...Ferguson, Paige F. B.; Breyta, Rachel; Brito, Ilana L.; Kurath, Gael; LaDeau, Shannon L.
Linking animals aloft with the terrestrial landscape
Despite using the aerosphere for many facets of their life, most flying animals (i.e., birds, bats, some insects) are still bound to terrestrial habitats for resting, feeding, and reproduction. Comprehensive broad-scale observations by weather surveillance radars of animals as they leave terrestrial habitats for migration or feeding flights can be...Buler, Jeffrey J.; Barrow, Wylie; Boone, Matthew; Dawson, Deanna K.; Diehl, Robert H.; Moore, Frank R.; Randall, Lori A.; Schreckengost, Timothy; Smolinsky, Jaclyn A.
Passage survival of juvenile steelhead, coho salmon, and Chinook salmon in Lake Scanewa and at Cowlitz Falls Dam, Cowlitz River, Washington, 2010–16
A multi-year evaluation was conducted during 2010–16 to evaluate passage survival of juvenile steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha), and coho salmon (O. kisutch) in Lake Scanewa, and at Cowlitz Falls Dam in the upper Cowlitz River Basin, Washington. Reservoir passage survival was evaluated in 2010, 2011, and 2016, and...Liedtke, Theresa L.; Kock, Tobias J.; Hurst, William
Rising synchrony controls western North American ecosystems
Along the western margin of North America, the winter expression of the North Pacific High (NPH) strongly influences interannual variability in coastal upwelling, storm track position, precipitation, and river discharge. Coherence among these factors induces covariance among physical and biological processes across adjacent marine and terrestrial...Black, Bryan A.; van der Sleen, Peter; Di Lorenzo, Emanuele; Griffin, Daniel; Sydeman, William J.; Dunham, Jason B.; Rykaczewski, Ryan R.; Garcia-Reyes, Marisol; Safeeq, Mohammad; Arismendi, Ivan; Bograd, Steven J.
Gene flow connects coastal populations of a habitat specialist, the Clapper Rail Rallus crepitans
Examining population genetic structure can reveal patterns of reproductive isolation or population mixing and inform conservation management. Some avian species are predicted to exhibit minimal genetic differentiation among populations as a result of the species high mobility, with habitat specialists tending to show greater fine‐scale genetic...Coster, Stephanie S.; Welsh, Amy B.; Costanzo, Gary R.; Harding, Sergio R.; Anderson, James T.; Katzner, Todd
Juvenile Chinook Salmon mortality in a Snake River Reservoir: Smallmouth Bass predation revisited
Predation by nonnative fishes has been identified as a contributing factor in the decline of juvenile salmonids in the Columbia River basin. We examined the diet composition of Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieu and estimated the consumption and predation loss of juvenile Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha in Lower...Erhardt, John M.; Tiffan, Kenneth F.; Connor, William P.
Size, growth, and size‐selective mortality of subyearling Chinook Salmon during early marine residence in Puget Sound
In marine ecosystems, survival can be heavily influenced by size‐selective mortality during juvenile life stages. Understanding how and when size‐selective mortality operates on a population can reveal underlying growth dynamics and size‐selective ecological processes affecting the population and thus can be used to guide conservation efforts. For...Gamble, Madilyn M.; Connelly, Kristin A.; Gardner, Jennifer R.; Chamberlin, Joshua W.; Warheit, Kenneth I.; Beauchamp, David A.
Modeling habitat for Marbled Murrelets on the Siuslaw National Forest, Oregon, using lidar data
Habitat models using lidar-derived variables that quantify fine-scale variation in vegetation structure can improve the accuracy of occupancy estimates for canopy-dwelling species over models that use variables derived from other remote sensing techniques. However, the ability of models developed at such a fine spatial scale to maintain accuracy...Hagar, Joan C.; Aragon, Ramiro; Haggerty, Patricia; Hollenbeck, Jeff P.
Functional group, biomass, and climate change effects on ecological drought in semiarid grasslands
Water relations in plant communities are influenced both by contrasting functional groups (grasses, shrubs) and by climate change via complex effects on interception, uptake and transpiration. We modelled the effects of functional group replacement and biomass increase, both of which can be outcomes of invasion and vegetation management, and...Wilson, Scott D.; Schlaepfer, Daniel R.; Bradford, John B.; Lauenroth, William K.; Duniway, Michael C.; Hall, Sonia A.; Jamiyansharav, Khishigbayar; Jia, Gensuo; Lkhagva, Ariuntsetseg; Munson, Seth M.; Pyke, David A.; Tietjen, Britta
Intraspecific niche models for ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) suggest potential variability in population-level response to climate change
Unique responses to climate change can occur across intraspecific levels, resulting in individualistic adaptation or movement patterns among populations within a given species. Thus, the need to model potential responses among genetically distinct populations within a species is increasingly recognized. However, predictive models of future...Maguire, Kaitlin C.; Shinneman, Douglas; Potter, Kevin M.; Hipkins, Valerie D.
Metolius River, Smiling River Campground, Deschutes National Forest
USGS ecologists Molly McCormick (left) and Katie Laushman (right) conducting a seeding experiment that is a part of RAMPS, a new USGS-led initiative to improve restoration outcomes in the Southwest....
An aerial view of southeast Louisiana coastal marshes.
Satellite images of the same wetland taken in 2008 and 2016 show a wetland restoration project has produced some gains in marsh area.
This map shows the historic trend in wetland losses, with early losses in red and the most recent ones in purple.
Mountain lions, desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, and a variety of other wildlife live on and pass through the Nevada National Security Site each day. It’s a highly restricted area that is free of hunting and has surprisingly pristine areas.This 22-minute program highlights an extraordinary study on how mountain lions interact with their prey. It shows how the scientists...
Across the desert Southwest, ground void of plant material is prone to soil erosoin and dust storms. In this fallowed agricultural field, we see that a spring breeze can carry away fertile top soil and create air quality concerns. USGS RAMPS defines causes of environmental hazards created by degraded land, and creates collaborative solutions to reduce these types of risks...
A biological science technician collects pallid sturgeon free embryos from the sampling nets in the experimental streams at the Columbia Environmental Research Center.
Researchers examine a bat (Myotis sp.) to test for the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome.
Brown patches and brown stems show stress in this phagmites (roseau cane) stand in Pass A Loutre Wildlife Management Area, a tract of state-owned land in Louisiana's bird foot delta, where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico. An ongoing phragmites was first discovered in spring 2017 and blamed on an invasive scale insect from Asia. But a new USGS report, based...
Approximately 500 Puaiohi exist in the wild, all on Kauai
Wild ducks and shorebirds do not appear to carry Newcastle disease viruses that sicken or kill poultry, according to a new study led by the U.S. Geological Survey.
A new report by the USGS finds that although snow geese are increasing rapidly in northern Alaska, they are not having a negative effect on black brant. Brant are a goose species that shares its nesting habitat with snow geese.
Scientists can now predict which avian species are most sensitive to the increasingly dominant shrub habitat spreading across Alaska, a capability that will be useful for natural resource agencies in Alaska charged with managing these resources.
In Memoriam — William Toshio Yasutake, 1922–2016
Get your flip-flops and shorts out because spring is arriving very early this year . . . at least 2-3 weeks early across almost the entire Southeast, from San Antonio to Atlanta to Washington, D.C. This unusually early spring is likely to keep rolling north, bringing relatively early ‘signs of spring’ to portions of the central Midwest and northeastern states.
Get your flip-flops and shorts out because spring is arriving very early this year . . . at least 2-3 weeks early across almost the entire Southeast, from San Antonio to Atlanta to Washington, D.C. This unusually early spring is likely to keep rolling north, already bringing surprising signs of spring to portions of the central Midwest and northeastern states.
Handbook for sagebrush steppe restoration techniques can help sustain wildlife and western ecosystems
The sagebrush ecosystem in the western U.S is one of the largest ecosystems in North America, but it is also threatened from wildfire and invasive plants. “Restoration of these unique ecosystems will help sustain wildlife and livelihoods throughout the West," said David Pyke, the USGS ecologist and lead author of the final installment of a three-part sagebrush restoration handbook.
Olfactory Cues Provide Insight into Lamprey Behavior and Physiology
New research shows how river diversions may change water quality in estuaries.
A new study analyzes the genetic diversity and population structure of the California Ridgway’s rail, Rallus obsoletus, a state and federally-listed endangered bird. The results demonstrate that the so-called “rails” are experiencing negative genetic effects following more than a century of salt marsh habitat loss from agriculture, commercial salt production and urban development.