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The Challenge: In an era when emerging infectious diseases are steadily increasing, human populations are exposed to virulent new pathogens. Insight into the human system can be gained from understanding the variety of immune adaptations of wildlife species. The vertebrate immune system is not static. Rather, it involves in response to the environment.
Sustainably Designed Trails: Recent Recreation Ecology Findings on Design Factors Affecting Soil Loss
The Challenge: Achieving conservation objectives in protected natural areas requires the ability to sustain visitation while avoiding or minimizing adverse environmental impacts. Trails are an essential infrastructure component that limits resource impacts by concentrating use on hardened treads designed and maintained to sustain traffic. This is particularly challenging when visitation is...
The Challenge: Climate change and sea level rise are expected to affect many miles of shoreline in the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast in the coming years. In this scenario, federal and state agencies need to make more detailed assessments of how different watersheds and shoreline types might influence an array of ecosystem functions and components. Recently, most states...
The Challenge: In eastern North America there is a viral disease called Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE. This virus is transmitted among native bird species by the mosquito, Culiseta melanura, but does not cause disease in these passerine species. However, the virus is capable of causing severe disease or death in horses, some game bird species, humans and whooping cranes. In the fall of...
Use of Structured Decision Making to Optimize Salt Marsh Management Decisions at Northeastern National Wildlife Refuges
The Challenge: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) needs tools to inform decisions regarding the management and restoration of salt marsh ecosystems on northeastern National Wildlife Refuges. Previously, we developed a structured decision making (SDM) framework for optimizing refuge management decisions. This SDM framework served as the foundation for FWS to implement a consistent...
The Challenge: In December of 2014, a novel strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) caused an outbreak in poultry on the West coast of the United States. From there, the virus progressed steadily eastward, causing $3.3 billion in economic losses in addition to 50 million chickens or turkeys dying or being depopulated. While the primary mode of spread appears to be via the poultry...
The Challenge: The proliferation and degradation of visitor-created “informal” trails in protected areas can be a vexing management issue for land managers. Formal trail systems never provide access to all locations required by visitors seeking to engage in a variety of appropriate recreational activities. Traveling off-trail may be necessary to engage in activities such as nature study,...
The Challenge: A number of coastal states have been altering marshes for mosquito control since the early 1900s, but for the past four decades, changes have been made in the methods used to alter high-marsh environments. However, in most states, research and monitoring activities are still needed to inform the management methods employed. Although modern Open Marsh Water Management (OMWM)...
The Challenge: Changes in aquatic ecosystems related to climate change phenomena or other anthropogenically based environmental stressors have significant impact on the dynamics of the host-pathogen-environment relationship, often with surprising results. Therefore, biosurveillance of the aquatic environment for pathogens of significance to aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, as well as to...
The Challenge: Following outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Eurasia, many researchers have attempted to determine how this virus spreads across the landscape. Unfortunately, prior to this work, most studies on HPAI movements were based on virology data alone, and no information on host ecology. Beginning in 2007, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PWRC) and Western...
The Challenge: Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (HPAI) of certain subtypes primarily infect poultry, causing disease outbreaks and negative socio-economic impacts on poultry farming depending on the characteristics of biosecurity and the virus strain. HPAI viruses seem to be adapted to artificial ecosystems including poultry farming, free-ranging duck production, and live bird markets...
The Challenge: The health of the abundant waterfowl species of Chesapeake Bay has become a major concern due to the spread of Avian Influenza (AI) across North America and the role of waterfowl as a vector of AI. For decades, the health of the Bay’s waterfowl has been affected by the degradation of water quality and food supply due to industrial contaminants,agricultural run-off, pollution...
Biological and ecological science for Nevada—The Silver State
Nevada is rich in minerals, energy, rangelands, mountains, deserts, lakes, fish, and wildlife. Many enterprises critical to Nevada's economy are based on natural resources including solar energy, livestock production, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation. Nevada is a national leader in both geothermal and solar utility-scale energy...
Program MAMO: Models for avian management optimization-user guide
The following chapters describe the structure and code of MAMO, and walk the reader through running the different components of the program with sample data. This manual should be used alongside a computer running R, so that the reader can copy and paste code into R, observe the output, and follow along interactively. Taken together, chapters 2–4...Guillaumet, Alban; Paxton, Eben H.
The Conservation Efforts Database: Improving our knowledge of landscape conservation actions
The Conservation Efforts Database (CED) is a secure, cloud-based tool that can be used to document and track conservation actions across landscapes. A recently released factsheet describes this tool ahead of the rollout of CED version 2.0. The CED was developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USGS, and the Great Northern Landscape...Heller, Matthew M.; Welty, Justin; Wiechman , Lief A.
Shifts in an invasive rodent community favoring black rats (Rattus rattus) following restoration of native forest
One potential, unintended ecological consequence accompanying forest restoration is a shift in invasive animal populations, potentially impacting conservation targets. Eighteen years after initial restoration (ungulate exclusion, invasive plant control, and out planting native species) at a 4 ha site on Maui, Hawai'i, we compared invasive rodent...Shiels, Aaron B.; Medeiros, Arthur C.; von Allmen, Erica I.
Spatial and temporal patterns in golden eagle diets in the western United States, with implications for conservation planning
Detailed information on diets and predatory ecology of Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) is essential to prioritize prey species management and to develop landscape-specific conservation strategies, including mitigation of the effects of energy development across the western United States. We compiled published and unpublished data on Golden Eagle...Bedrosian, Geoffrey; Watson, James W.; Steenhof, Karen; Kochert, Michael N.; Preston, Charles R.; Woodbridge, Brian; Williams, Gary E.; Keller, Kent R.; Crandall, Ross H.
Skagit River coho salmon life history model—Users’ guide
Natural resource management is conducted in the context of multiple anthropogenic stressors and is further challenged owing to changing climate. Experiments to determine the effects of climate change on complex ecological systems are nearly impossible. However, using a simulation model to synthesize current understanding of key ecological...Woodward, Andrea; Kirby, Grant; Morris, Scott
Refining the cheatgrass–fire cycle in the Great Basin: Precipitation timing and fine fuel composition predict wildfire trends
Larger, more frequent wildfires in arid and semi-arid ecosystems have been associated with invasion by non-native annual grasses, yet a complete understanding of fine fuel development and subsequent wildfire trends is lacking. We investigated the complex relationships among weather, fine fuels, and fire in the Great Basin, USA. We first modeled...Pilliod, David S.; Welty, Justin; Arkle, Robert
USGS microbiome research
Microbiomes are the communities of microorganisms (for example, bacteria, viruses, and fungi) that live on, in, and around people, plants, animals, soil, water, and the atmosphere. Microbiomes are active in the functioning of diverse ecosystems, for instance, by influencing water quality, nutrient acquisition and stress tolerance in plants, and...Kellogg, Christina A.; Hopkins, M. Camille
The influence of soil resources and plant traits on invasion and restoration in a subtropical woodland
It has been shown in some cases that nitrogen (N) addition to soil will increase abundance of plant invaders because many invaders have traits that promote rapid growth in response to high resource supply. Similarly, it has been suggested, and sometimes shown, that decreasing soil N via carbon (C) additions can facilitate native species recovery....Yelenik, Stephanie G.; D'Antonio, Carla M.; August-Schmidt, Elizabeth
Biogeographical variation of plumage coloration in the sexually dichromatic Hawai‘i ‘Amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens)
Plumage coloration in birds can be of major importance to mate selection, social signaling, or predator avoidance. Variations in plumage coloration related to sex, age class, or seasons have been widely studied, but the effect of other factors such as climate is less known. In this study, we examine how carotenoid-based plumage coloration and...Gaudioso-Levita, Jacqueline M.; Hart, Patrick J.; Lapointe, Dennis; Veillet, Anne; Sebastian-Gonzalez, Esther
Coming to terms about describing Golden Eagle reproduction
Clearly defined terms are essential for reporting and understanding research findings, and inconsistent terminology can complicate efforts to compare findings from different studies. In this article, we reiterate and clarify recommended terms for describing Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) territory occupancy and reproduction. Several authors have...Steenhof, Karen; Kochert, Michael N.; McIntyre, Carol L.; Brown, Jessi L.
Do you hear what I see? Vocalization relative to visual detection rates of Hawaiian hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus semotus)
Bats vocalize during flight as part of the sensory modality called echolocation, but very little is known about whether flying bats consistently call. Occasional vocal silence during flight when bats approach prey or conspecifics has been documented for relatively few species and situations. Bats flying alone in clutter-free airspace are not known...Gorresen, Paulo Marcos; Cryan, Paul; Montoya-Aiona, Kristina; Bonaccorso, Frank
Scientists sample a rough-skinned newt for the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or Bsal, at a pond near Portland, Oregon. Bsal is decimating wild salamander populations in Europe and could emerge in the U.S. through the captive amphibian trade.
USGS and other scientists have studied in-depth alligator populations in Florida and Louisiana, but basic ecological knowledge is lacking for populations at the northern edge of their range. For example, differences in climate and habitat between the southern and northern portions of the range limit the applicability of findings from other studies to South Carolina...
South Carolina alligators occupy a patchwork of diverse habitats, including rivers, lakes, wooded swamps, tidal marshes, and impounded freshwater wetlands. As a mobile, opportunistic predator, alligators seasonally adjust their habitat use for feeding. For example, some Florida alligators venture into brackish water habitats to feed on nutrient-rich blue crabs during the...
Dissected guano pellet showing antennae, eyes, and body fragments of midges.
This video showcases the latest polar bear point-of-view footage to date along with an interview of the research scientist who is responsible for the project. Released in conjunction with a new scientific study led by the USGS.
Reports of golden eagle mortality linked to wind energy facilities are cause for concern especially when coupled with the knowledge that golden eagles move great distances between breeding and wintering areas. Mortalities at a particular wind energy facility can consequently affect breeding populations of golden eagles at local and continent-wide scales. Information is...
Student volunteers are trained to scan historic library materials. The materials can be complex, consisting of multiple parts.
Tufted Puffin, the species most affected by a recent seabird die-off in the Pribilof Islands, AK. Near Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Ecological Stressors: It's a Lot of 'WERC'
"There's is no place like California" by A. Keith Miles, Center Director, USGS Western Ecological Research Center
Highlights of the science of the USGS Western Ecological Research Center:
- Wildlife, drought, sea level rise
- Endangered species, species of concern
- Alternate energy,
Invasive black and white tegu lizards (Salvator merianae). USGS is working on development of tools for the detection and capture of invasive reptiles in Florida.
The USGS field tested the use of a portable hand-held kit for the detection of the environmental DNA (eDNA) of Asian carps (bighead carp and silver carp) in water samples as part of on-going invasive species detection research. The goals of the USGS-led research are to develop a method and kit that can be used on-site to detect Asian carp eDNA within one hour. Developing...
Interviews with staff at Point Reyes National Seashore tell how this National Park Service unit uses USGS science to educate visitors, and manage the park.
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.