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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.
Juvenile Lost River and shortnose sucker year class strength, survival, and growth in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, and Clear Lake Reservoir, California—2016 Monitoring Report
Executive SummaryThe largest populations of federally endangered Lost River (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose suckers (Chasmistes brevirostris) exist in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, and Clear Lake Reservoir, California. Upper Klamath Lake populations are decreasing because adult mortality, which is relatively low, is not being balanced by...Burdick, Summer M.; Ostberg, Carl O.; Hoy, Marshal S.
Monitoring stream temperatures—A guide for non-specialists
Executive SummaryWater temperature influences most physical and biological processes in streams, and along with streamflows is a major driver of ecosystem processes. Collecting data to measure water temperature is therefore imperative, and relatively straightforward. Several protocols exist for collecting stream temperature data, but these are...Heck, Michael P.; Schultz, Luke D.; Hockman-Wert, David; Dinger, Eric C.; Dunham, Jason B.
Brown trout in the Lees Ferry reach of the Colorado River—Evaluation of causal hypotheses and potential interventions
Over the period 2014–2016, the number of nonnative brown trout (Salmo trutta) captured during routine monitoring in the Lees Ferry reach of the Colorado River, downstream of Glen Canyon Dam, began increasing. Management agencies and stakeholders have questioned whether the increase in brown trout in the Lees Ferry reach represents a threat to the...Runge, Michael C.; Yackulic, Charles B.; Bair, Lucas S.; Kennedy, Theodore A.; Valdez, Richard A.; Ellsworth, Craig; Kershner, Jeffrey L.; Rogers, R. Scott; Trammell, Melissa A.; Young, Kirk L.
Decision support frameworks and tools for conservation
The practice of conservation occurs within complex socioecological systems fraught with challenges that require transparent, defensible, and often socially engaged project planning and management. Planning and decision support frameworks are designed to help conservation practitioners increase planning rigor, project accountability, stakeholder...Schwartz, Mark W.; Cook, Carly N.; Pressey, Robert L.; Pullin, Andrew S.; Runge, Michael C.; Salafsky, Nick; Sutherland, William J.; Williamson, Matthew A.
Evaluating autonomous acoustic surveying techniques for rails in tidal marshes
There is a growing interest toward the use of autonomous recording units (ARUs) for acoustic surveying of secretive marsh bird populations. However, there is little information on how ARUs compare to human surveyors or how best to use ARU data that can be collected continuously throughout the day. We used ARUs to conduct 2 acoustic surveys for...Stiffler, Lydia L.; Anderson, James T.; Katzner, Todd
Flight response to spatial and temporal correlates informs risk from wind turbines to the California Condor
Wind power is a fast-growing energy resource, but wind turbines can kill volant wildlife, and the flight behavior of obligate soaring birds can place them at risk of collision with these structures. We analyzed altitudinal data from GPS telemetry of critically endangered California Condors (Gymnogyps californianus) to assess the circumstances...Poessel, Sharon; Brandt, Joseph; Mendenhall, Laura C.; Braham, Melissa A.; Lanzone, Michael J.; McGann, Andrew J.; Katzner, Todd
New insights into the phylogenetics and population structure of the prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus)
BackgroundManagement requires a robust understanding of between- and within-species genetic variability, however such data are still lacking in many species. For example, although multiple population genetics studies of the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) have been conducted, no similar studies have been done of the closely-related prairie...Doyle, Jacqueline M.; Bell, Douglas A.; Bloom, Peter H.; Emmons, Gavin; Fesnock, Amy; Katzner, Todd; LePre, Larry; Leonard, Kolbe; SanMiguel, Phillip; Westerman, Rick; DeWoody, J. Andrew
Potential impacts of projected climate change on vegetation management in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park
Climate change will likely alter the seasonal and annual patterns of rainfall and temperature in Hawai`i. This is a major concern for resource managers at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park where intensely managed Special Ecological Areas (SEAs), focal sites for managing rare and endangered plants, may no longer provide suitable habitat under future...Camp, Richard J.; Loh, Rhonda; Berkowitz, S. Paul; Brinck, Kevin W.; Jacobi, James D.; Price, Jonathan; McDaniel, Sierra; Fortini, Lucas B.
Model structure of the stream salmonid simulator (S3)—A dynamic model for simulating growth, movement, and survival of juvenile salmonids
Fisheries and water managers often use population models to aid in understanding the effect of alternative water management or restoration actions on anadromous fish populations. We developed the Stream Salmonid Simulator (S3) to help resource managers evaluate the effect of management alternatives on juvenile salmonid populations. S3 is a...Perry, Russell W.; Plumb, John M.; Jones, Edward C.; Som, Nicholas A.; Hetrick, Nicholas J.; Hardy, Thomas B.
Movements and landscape use of Eastern Imperial Eagles Aquila heliaca in Central Asia
Capsule: We describe ecological factors associated with movements of a globally declining raptor species, the Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca.Aims: To describe the movements, habitat associations and resource selection of Eastern Imperial Eagles marked in Central Asia.Methods: We used global positioning system (GPS) data...Poessel, Sharon; Bragin, Evgeny A.; Sharpe, Peter B.; Garcelon, David K.; Bartoszuk, Kordian; Katzner, Todd E.
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....
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...
Livestock grazing effects on sage-grouse: study identifies options to sustain ranching and help wildlife
Effects of livestock grazing on greater sage-grouse populations can be positive or negative depending on the amount of grazing and when grazing occurs, according to research published today in Ecological Applications. The research was conducted by scientists from the United States Geological Survey, Colorado State University and Utah State University.
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.