Mission Areas L2 Landing Page Tabs
The Ecosystems Mission Area provides impartial science informaiton 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.
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.
Coral disease is now one of the major causes of reef degradation and coral mortality. First reported on reefs in the Florida Keys and Caribbean in the 1970s, black band disease was first recorded in Hawaii in 1994.
Sea stars are dying off at dramatic rates across the West Coast from Baja California in Mexico to Alaska. The wasting disease that is affecting sea stars also is not specific to one species: more than 20 sea star species have been affected so far.
The Wildlife Disease Diagnostic Laboratories Branch of the NWHC conducts laboratory investigations to determine the causes of wildlife mortality events, especially large-scale die-offs or those that are otherwise unusual.
The Necropsy and Pathology capabilities are performed by diagnostic veterinary pathologists and necropsy technical staff whose principal role is to determine the cause of death for animals submitted to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC). These scientists examine carcasses to verify species and condition, collect and process photographic and radiographic images, conduct detailed...
The Diagnostic Virology Laboratory (DVL) performs isolation and identification of common and novel viruses from diagnostic and research samples. Isolation procedures used are specific to the host animal and suspected pathogen. The DVL has expertise in recognizing morphological changes in cell culture and effects on embryonated avian eggs caused by viral infection. Some of the identification...
The Diagnostic Parasitology Laboratory (DPL) supports the Center’s diagnostic investigations and conducts research. A variety of procedures are used to identify eukaryotic parasites, including the use of morphological characters, dichotomous taxonomic keys and DNA sequence analysis.
The Chemistry Laboratory technical staff provides toxicology support for diagnostic cases, including metal analysis (primarily lead), screening for organophosphate and carbamate pesticide exposure, and other toxicants. The Chemistry Laboratory is also the main conduit for submission of toxicology to external laboratories.
Implementing the 2012 North American Waterfowl Management Plan revision: Populations, habitat, and people
The North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) has established a model for wildlife conservation planning over the last 3 decades. Management at a continental scale, leveraged funding, regional partnerships, and a strong science basis have been notable features. Periodic updates to the NAWMP occurred since implementation in 1986; however, a...Humburg, Dale D.; Anderson, Michael G.; Brasher, Michael G.; Carter, Michael F.; Eadie, John M.; Fulton, David C.; Johnson, Fred A.; Runge, Michael C.; Vrtiska, Mark P.
Are ranger patrols effective in reducing poaching-related threats within protected areas?
Poaching is one of the greatest threats to wildlife conservation world-wide. However, the spatial and temporal patterns of poaching activities within protected areas, and the effectiveness of ranger patrols and ranger posts in mitigating these threats, are relatively unknown.We used 10 years (2006–2015) of ranger-based monitoring data and...Moore, Jennnifer F.; Mulindahabi, Felix; Masozera, Michel K.; Nichols, James; Hines, James; Turikunkiko, Ezechiel; Oli, Madan K.
Estimating the per-capita contribution of habitats and pathways in a migratory network: A modelling approach
Every year, migratory species undertake seasonal movements along different pathways between discrete regions and habitats. The ability to assess the relative demographic contributions of these different habitats and pathways to the species’ overall population dynamics is critical for understanding the ecology of migratory species, and also has...Wiederholt, Ruscena; Mattsson, Brady J.; Thogmartin, Wayne E.; Runge, Michael C.; Diffendorfer, Jay E.; Erickson, Richard A.; Federico, Paula; Lopez-Hoffman, Laura; Fryxell, John; Norris, D. Ryan; Sample, Christine
Living on the edge: Opportunities for Amur tiger recovery in China
Sporadic sightings of the endangered Amur tiger Panthera tigris altaica along the China-Russia border during the late 1990s sparked efforts to expand this subspecies distribution and abundance by restoring potentially suitable habitats in the Changbai Mountains. To guide science-based recovery efforts and provide a baseline for future monitoring...Wang, Tianming; Royle, Andy; Smith, J.L.D.; Zou, Liang; Lu, Xinyue; Li, Tong; Yang, Haitao; Li, Zhilin; Feng, Rongna; Bian, Yajing; Feng, Limin; Ge, Jianping
Evaluating trade-offs in bull trout reintroduction strategies using structured decision making
Structured decision making allows reintroduction decisions to be made despite uncertainty by linking reintroduction goals with alternative management actions through predictive models of ecological processes. We developed a decision model to evaluate the trade-offs between six bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) reintroduction decisions with the...Brignon, William R.; Peterson, James T.; Dunham, Jason B.; Schaller, Howard A.; Schreck, Carl B.
Lack of observed movement response to lead exposure of California condors
Lead poisoning is an important conservation concern for wildlife, and scavenging birds are especially at risk from consumption of carcasses of animals killed with lead ammunition. Because current methods to identify lead exposure require animal capture and blood collection, management would benefit from the development of a less costly and...Poessel, Sharon; Brandt, Joseph; Uyeda, Linda; Astell, Molly; Katzner, Todd E.
Estimating vegetation biomass and cover across large plots in shrub and grass dominated drylands using terrestrial lidar and machine learning
Terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) has been shown to enable an efficient, precise, and non-destructive inventory of vegetation structure at ranges up to hundreds of meters. We developed a method that leverages TLS collections with machine learning techniques to model and map canopy cover and biomass of several classes of short-stature vegetation...Anderson, Kyle E.; Glenn, Nancy F.; Spaete, Lucas P.; Shinneman, Douglas; Pilliod, David S.; Arkle, Robert; McIlroy, Susan; Derryberry, DeWayne R.
Identifying species conservation strategies to reduce disease-associated declines
Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are a salient threat to many animal taxa, causing local and global extinctions, altering communities and ecosystem function. The EID chytridiomycosis is a prominent driver of amphibian declines, which is caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). To guide conservation policy, we...Gerber, Brian D.; Converse, Sarah J.; Muths, Erin L.; Crockett, Harry J.; Mosher, Brittany A.; Bailey, Larissa L.
Meteorological and environmental variables affect flight behaviour and decision-making of an obligate soaring bird, the California Condor Gymnogyps californianus
The movements of animals are limited by evolutionary constraints and ecological processes and are strongly influenced by the medium through which they travel. For flying animals, variation in atmospheric conditions is critically influential in movement. Obligate soaring birds depend on external sources of updraft more than do other flying species...Poessel, Sharon; Brandt, Joseph; Miller, Tricia A.; Katzner, Todd
Long-term trends in restoration and associated land treatments in the southwestern United States
Restoration treatments, such as revegetation with seeding or invasive species removal, have been applied on U.S. public lands for decades. Temporal trends in these management actions have not been extensively summarized previously, particularly in the southwestern United States where invasive plant species, drought, and fire have altered dryland...Copeland, Stella M.; Munson, Seth M.; Pilliod, David S.; Welty, Justin L.; Bradford, John B.; Butterfield, Bradley J.
Spectrophotometry of Artemisia tridentata to quantitatively determine subspecies
Ecological restoration is predicated on our abilities to discern plant taxa. Taxonomic identification is a first step in ensuring that plants are appropriately adapted to the site. An example of the need to identify taxonomic differences comes from big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). This species is composed of three predominant subspecies...Richardson, Bryce; Boyd, Alicia; Tobiasson, Tanner; Germino, Matthew J.
Weather-centric rangeland revegetation planning
Invasive annual weeds negatively impact ecosystem services and pose a major conservation threat on semiarid rangelands throughout the western United States. Rehabilitation of these rangelands is challenging due to interannual climate and subseasonal weather variability that impacts seed germination, seedling survival and establishment, annual weed...Hardegree, Stuart P.; Abatzoglou, John T.; Brunson, Mark W.; Germino, Matthew J.; Hegewisch, Katherine C.; Moffet, Corey A.; Pilliod, David S.; Roundy, Bruce A.; Boehm, Alex R.; Meredith, Gwendwr R.
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...
Unlike most animals, sea lampreys, an invasive, parasitic species of fish damaging the Great Lakes, could become male or female depending on how quickly they grow, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study published today.
U.S. Geological Survey scientist emeritus Chandler S. Robbins, whose heartfelt love of birds, quicksilver mind, boundless energy and sunny demeanor made him a major force in bird conservation in the U.S. and worldwide, died Monday, March 20 at the age of 98.
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.