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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 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.
USGS research focuses on fish physiology and behavioral characteristics, vulnerability assessments, and development of indicator tools that can be used to inform decisions with the goal of sustaining and enhancing fisheries resources in concert with human uses.
Forty percent of all fish species in North America are at risk of extinction. USGS research is crucial to protect and manage at-risk species and healthy fish populations into the future. Species management research encompasses threatened and endangered species, Interior trust species protected by law, sensitive species that are declining, rare, or uncommon that may be candidates for future...
USGS research and technology provides the scientific basis for the adaptive management of aquatic species and aquatic habitats in the United States. The USGS examines the physiology, life history, reproduction, and habitat needs of specific life stages of fish and other aquatic organisms to assist fishery managers to develop techniques to understand, conserve, and restore fish species and...
USGS scientists quantify and describe functional relationships among aquatic species in coastal habitats to characterize aquatic community structure, function, adaptation, and sustainability.
Deepwater habitats, such as the Great Lakes, are a key strategic resource and driver of economic vitality that are threatened by multiple stressors, including overfishing, invasions of exotic species, habitat degradation, pollution, climate change, and harmful algal blooms. Under the 1954 Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries, the Department of Interior is responsible for conducting a...
USGS studies the ecology and biodiversity of streams, rivers, and aquatic ecosystems to understand impacts of changing land and water use on fish species and aquatic communities. We research critical fish and aquatic habitats and develop techniques to understand, conserve, and restore fish communities.
Scientists of the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) in collaboration with partners have developed risk assessments for Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) in the United States and have begun sampling high-risk locations for the fungus.
Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) is an emerging pathogen capable of causing significant morbidity and mortality in salamanders.
Sylvatic plague is a flea-borne bacterial disease of wild rodents. Humans, pets, and wildlife can be afflicted with this disease. Prairie dogs are highly susceptible to plague and are the primary food source of the highly endangered black-footed ferret, which is also susceptible to the disease. Sylvatic plague can decimate prairie dog colonies (90% or greater mortality rates), resulting in...
The long-term viability of monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterfly populations in North America is in doubt.
A laboratory-calibrated model of coho salmon growth with utility for ecological analyses
We conducted a meta-analysis of laboratory- and hatchery-based growth data to estimate broadly applicable parameters of mass- and temperature-dependent growth of juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Following studies of other salmonid species, we incorporated the Ratkowsky growth model into an allometric model and fit this model to growth...Manhard, Christopher V.; Som, Nicholas A.; Perry, Russell W.; Plumb, John M.
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....
Distribution and seasonal differences in Pacific Lamprey and Lampetra spp eDNA across 18 Puget Sound watersheds
Lampreys have a worldwide distribution, are functionally important to ecological communities and serve significant roles in many cultures. In Pacific coast drainages of North America, lamprey populations have suffered large declines. However, lamprey population status and trends within many areas of this region are unknown and such information is...Ostberg, Carl O.; Chase, Dorothy M.; Hayes, Michael C.; Duda, Jeffrey J.
N-mix for fish: estimating riverine salmonid habitat selection via N-mixture models
Models that formulate mathematical linkages between fish use and habitat characteristics are applied for many purposes. For riverine fish, these linkages are often cast as resource selection functions with variables including depth and velocity of water and distance to nearest cover. Ecologists are now recognizing the role that detection plays in...Som, Nicholas A.; Perry, Russell W.; Jones, Edward C.; De Juilio, Kyle; Petros, Paul; Pinnix, William D.; Rupert, Derek L.
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.
Migratory behavior and physiological development as potential determinants of life history diversity in fall Chinook Salmon in the Clearwater River
We studied the influence of behavior, water velocity, and physiological development on the downstream movement of subyearling fall‐run Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha in both free‐flowing and impounded reaches of the Clearwater and Snake rivers as potential mechanisms that might explain life history diversity in this stock....Tiffan, Kenneth F.; Kock, Tobias J.; Connor, William P.; Richmond, Marshall C.; Perkins, William A.
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...
A montage of four Chesapeake Bay aerial photos. L-R: A waterfront residential community; row crops bordered by forest; Baltimore Harbor; piers and crab pots in a waterfront fishing community.
An extremely rare Mojave River western pond turtle was recently observed by USGS scientists and staff from The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in the Mojave Desert. Turtles of this population have rarely been seen since the late 1990s.
Vegetation assessments are part of an effort to produce seamless, consistent, and high resolution landcover data for the northern portion of the western gulf coastal plain. This geography was once dominated by tallgrass prairie and has undergone dramatic change with less than 1% of this natural habitat in existence.
Tallgrass prairie provides a suite of ecosystem...
Scientists from the USGS Western Ecological Research Center (WERC) are conducting a "social attraction" study for seabirds in the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Historically, this region offered wetland habitats to local wildlife. With the introduction of industrial salt ponds and human development, however, much of this habitat was lost. Now,...
Brown Bears, Sea Otters, and Seals, Oh My!
Unexpected interactions on the Katmai Coast
by Grant Hilderbrand, Chief of the Marine Ecosystems Office, USGS Alaska Science Center
- Highlights of ongoing research on brown bears on the coast of the Katmai National Park
- Observations from video collars deployed on brown bears
The pike killifish, native to Mexico and Central America, was one of 13 nonnative fish species that biologists discovered during the two-day Fish Slam in Big Cypress National Preserve, March 22 and 23, 2017.
USGS scientist Nick Johnson isn’t afraid to get dirty. Here he is expressing green feces from a parasitic sea lamprey. DNA in the feces may help USGS scientists discover the identity of sea lamprey’s last meal.
The desmid family of single-celled green algae are never found in abundance, says USGS biologist Barry Rosen. They inhabit the soft, slightly acidic water of wetlands that depend on rainwater, like Florida’s Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. They don’t “bloom” en masse, but their presence is an indicator of good water quality. Rosen’s research is...
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.
The U.S. Geological Survey is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Christian Zimmerman as the new director of their Alaska Science Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Zimmerman succeeds Dr. Mark Shasby who held the position for the past six years.
Changes in rainfall and temperature are predicted to transform wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world within the century, a new study from the USGS and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley concludes.
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that current conservation planning efforts for waterbird habitat in the Central Valley can likely compensate for habitat loss through the middle of the century.
Managing 246 million acres: new science-based tools support Bureau of Land Management’s landscape approach
The U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management today released a collaborative report with new information and tools to support effective management of millions of acres of BLM public lands. The report underscores the value of a landscape approach to management, and shows that the BLM manages some of the largest areas of intact public lands in the west.
Hundreds of articles have been written about the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, at Indonesia’s Mt. Tambora just over 200 years ago. But for a small group of New England-based researchers, one more Tambora story needed to be told, one related to its catastrophic effects in the Gulf of Maine that may carry lessons for intertwined human-natural systems facing climate change today.
Internship Supports Youth, Tribes, and Fish
"It’s a grand slam for all involved,” said Dawn Childs, USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units. “Recent high school graduates with special needs get real-world experience while helping USGS scientists on projects ranging from grizzly bears and energy to historic documents and bird migration. And a school system gets to successfully train students to enter the workforce."
Caribou, North America’s wild reindeer, have lives apart from their famous role on Christmas Eve. Reindeer and caribou are large, cold-adapted, herding herbivores related to deer, elk and moose.
To learn more about how these arctic antler-bearers spend the other 364 days of the year, we talked to USGS caribou expert Dr. Layne Adams, who has studied these animals for more than 30 years.
Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative Launches Coastal Wetland Decision Support Tools
Perhaps some of you have already experienced a sweet smooch or two under the holiday mistletoe, enjoying this fairly old kissing ritual for people. While figuring prominently in ancient lore, mistletoe is important in other vital ways: it provides essential food, cover and nesting sites for an amazing number of critters. In fact, some animals couldn’t even survive without mistletoe.