Mission Areas

Ecosystems

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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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Filter Total Items: 633
Date published: April 3, 2018
Status: Active

Sea Star Wasting Disease

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.

Date published: March 29, 2018
Status: Active

Diagnostic Services

The Wildlife Disease Diagnostic Laboratories Branch of the National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) conducts laboratory investigations to determine the causes of wildlife mortality events, especially large-scale die-offs or those that are otherwise unusual.

Contacts: David S Blehert
Date published: March 29, 2018
Status: Active

Necropsy & Pathology

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...

Date published: March 29, 2018
Status: Active

Diagnostic Virology Laboratory (DVL)

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...

Contacts: Hon Ip
Date published: March 29, 2018
Status: Active

Diagnostic Parasitology Laboratory (DPL)

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.

Contacts: Rebecca A Cole
Date published: March 29, 2018
Status: Active

Chemistry Laboratory

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.

Contacts: David S Blehert
Date published: March 29, 2018
Status: Active

Diagnostic Microbiology Laboratory (DML)

The Diagnostic Microbiology Laboratory (DML) routinely performs a variety of procedures to isolate and identify important pathogenic bacteria and fungi from wildlife.  Microbes are identified based upon morphological characteristics, biochemical/physiological properties, molecular assays (e.g., PCR), and DNA sequence analysis.

Contacts: Jeffrey M Lorch
Date published: March 27, 2018
Status: Active

White-Nose Syndrome Surveillance

The USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) assists State, Federal, and Tribal wildlife agencies nationwide with early detection of Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), and addresses specific research priorities identified by partners in conjunction with the ...

Contacts: Anne Ballmann
Date published: March 27, 2018
Status: Active

Multi-century perspectives on current and future streamflow in the Missouri River Basin

The Missouri River system is the life-blood of the American Midwest providing water resources that drive agriculture, industry, hydroelectric power generation, and ecosystems. However, the Missouri River Basin (MRB) (Figure 1) is the only major river in the western U.S. for which hydrologic reconstructions from tree rings have not been generated in any systematic way. This knowledge gap is...

Contacts: Greg Pederson
Date published: March 26, 2018
Status: Active

Structured Decision Making

The biggest natural resource management challenges include competing views of the value and uses of those resources in society. Patuxent scientists develop methods to manage resources given those competing views under a “structured decision making” (SDM) framework. Our scientists both practice and train others in key SDM skills, such as model development and monitoring design.

Date published: March 21, 2018
Status: Active

Effects of Aquatic Vegetation on Water Quality and Residence Time in the Bay-Delta

The spread of invasive aquatic vegetation in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is having a profound impact on the Delta’s natural habitat. The presence of these “aquatic weeds” has been shown to alter water velocity and increase water clarity, posing threats to native fish species, specifically the threatened Delta Smelt. These aquatic plants can also affect the foodweb by altering nutrient,...

Date published: March 16, 2018
Status: Active

Vector-borne Disease Research

The Challenge: Lyme disease, which is caused by a tick-transmitted spirochete, is the most common vector-borne disease in North America, with about 300,000 cases each year. Most cases occur in the northeastern and north central U.S., with relatively few in the south, even though the vector tick is present in all of these regions. The purpose of this research is to elucidate the ecological...

Filter Total Items: 2,476
Year Published: 2018

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
Wilson, S.D., Schlaepfer, D.R., Bradford, J.B., Lauenroth, W.K., Duniway, M.C., Hall, S.A., Jamiyansharav, K., Jia, G., Lkhagva, A., Munson, S.M., Pyke, D.A., Tietjen, B., 2018, Functional group, biomass, and climate change effects on ecological drought in semiarid grasslands: Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences, p. online, https://doi.org/10.1002/2017JG004173.

Year Published: 2018

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.
Maguire, K.C., Shinneman, D.J., Potter, K.M., Hipkins, V.D., 2018, Intraspecific niche models for ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) suggest potential variability in population-level response to climate change: Systematic Biology, p. online, https://doi.org/10.1093/sysbio/syy017.

Year Published: 2018

Population estimates of the Endangered Hawaiʻi ʻĀkepa (Loxops coccineus) in different habitats on windward Mauna Loa

Endangered Hawai‘i ʻĀkepas (Loxops coccineus) are endemic to Hawai‘i island, where they occur in five spatially distinct populations. Data concerning the status and population trends of these unique Hawaiian honeycreepers are crucial for assessing the effectiveness of recovery and management actions. In 2016, we used point‐transect distance...

Judge, Seth W.; Camp, Richard J.; Hart, Patrick J.; Kichman, Scott T.
Judge, S. W., R. J. Camp, P. J. Hart, and S. T. Kichman. 2018. Population estimates of the Endangered Hawaiʻi ʻĀkepa (Loxops coccineus) in different habitats on windward Mauna Loa. Journal of Field Ornithology 89:11–21.

Year Published: 2018

A conservation paradox in the Great Basin—Altering sagebrush landscapes with fuel breaks to reduce habitat loss from wildfire

Interactions between fire and nonnative, annual plant species (that is, “the grass/fire cycle”) represent one of the greatest threats to sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystems and associated wildlife, including the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). In 2015, U.S. Department of the Interior called for a “science-based strategy to...

Shinneman, Douglas J.; Aldridge, Cameron L.; Coates, Peter S.; Germino, Matthew J.; Pilliod, David S.; Vaillant, Nicole M.
Shinneman, D.J., Aldridge, C.L., Coates, P.S., Germino, M.J., Pilliod, D.S., and Vaillant, N.M., 2018, A conservation paradox in the Great Basin—Altering sagebrush landscapes with fuel breaks to reduce habitat loss from wildfire: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018–1034, 70 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20181034.

Year Published: 2018

Raptor interactions with wind energy: Case studies from around the world

The global potential for wind power generation is vast, and the number of installations is increasing rapidly. We review case studies from around the world of the effects on raptors of wind-energy development. Collision mortality, displacement, and habitat loss have the potential to cause population-level effects, especially for species that are...

Watson, Richard T.; Kolar, Patrick S.; Ferrer, Miguel; Nygård, Torgeir; Johnston, Naira; Hunt, W. Grainger; Smit-Robinson, Hanneline A.; Farmer, Christopher J; Huso, Manuela; Katzner, Todd
Watson, R.T., Kolar, P.S., Ferrer, M., Nygard, T., Johnston, N., Hunt, W.G., Smit-Robinson, H.A., Farmer, C., Huso, M.M., Katzner, T.E., 2018, Raptor interactions with wind energy- case studies from around the world: Journal of Raptor Research, v. 52, no. 1, p. 1-18, https://doi.org/10.3356/JRR-16-100.1.

Year Published: 2018

Biological and ecological science for Wisconsin—A Great Lakes and Rivers State

Wisconsin and natural resources go hand-in-hand. Tourism, which generates $19 billion annually and sustains about 200,000 jobs, depends on an abundance of lakes, rivers, shorelines, and woodlands for fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor recreation. Rivers and floodplains in the Upper Mississippi Basin, including the Mississippi River, are...

Attribution: Ecosystems
U.S. Geological Survey, 2018, Biological and ecological science for Wisconsin—A Great Lakes and Rivers State: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2018-3004, 2. p., https://doi.org/10.3133/fs20183004.

Year Published: 2018

Modeling intrinsic potential for beaver (Castor canadensis) habitat to inform restoration and climate change adaptation

Through their dam-building activities and subsequent water storage, beaver have the potential to restore riparian ecosystems and offset some of the predicted effects of climate change by modulating streamflow. Thus, it is not surprising that reintroducing beaver to watersheds from which they have been extirpated is an often-used restoration and...

Dittbrenner, Benjamin J.; Pollack, Michael M.; Schilling, Jason W.; Olden, Julian D.; Lawler, Joshua J.; Torgersen, Christian E.
Dittbrenner, B.J., Pollack, M.M., Schilling, J.W., Olden, J.D., Lawler, J.J., Torgersen, C.E., 2018, Modeling intrinsic potential for beaver (Castor canadensis) habitat to inform restoration and climate change adaptation: PLoS ONE, v. 13, no. 2, p. e0192538, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192538.

Year Published: 2018

Fire and grazing influence site resistance to Bromus tectorum through their effects on shrub, bunchgrass and biocrust communities in the Great Basin (USA)

Shrubs, bunchgrasses and biological soil crusts (biocrusts) are believed to contribute to site resistance to plant invasions in the presence of cattle grazing. Although fire is a concomitant disturbance with grazing, little is known regarding their combined impacts on invasion resistance. We are the first to date to test the idea that biotic...

Condon, Lea A.; Pyke, David A.
Condon, L.A., Pyke, D.A., 2018, Fire and grazing influence site resistance to Bromus tectorum through their effects on shrub, bunchgrass and biocrust communities in the Great Basin (USA): Ecosystems, p. online, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-018-0230-8.

Year Published: 2018

Golden Eagle Monitoring Plan for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan

This report describes options for monitoring the status and population trends of the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) within the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) area of Southern California in maintaining stable or increasing population in the planning area. The report profiles the ecology of golden eagles in the region and...

Wiens, David; Kolar, Patrick; Katzner, Todd
Wiens, J.D., Kolar, P.S., Katzner, T.E., 2018, Golden Eagle Monitoring Plan for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan: California Energy Commission Publication number: CEC-500-2018-008, p. 99.

Year Published: 2018

High‐prevalence and low‐intensity Ichthyophonus infections in Pacific Halibut

Ichthyophonus occurred at high prevalence but low intensity in Pacific Halibut Hippoglossus stenolepis throughout the West Coast of North America, ranging from coastal Oregon to the Bering Sea. Infection prevalence in adults was variable on spatial and temporal scales, with the lowest prevalence typically occurring on the edges of...

Hershberger, Paul; Gregg, Jacob L.; Dykstra, Claude L.
Hershberger, P.K. J.L. Gregg and C.L. Dykstra. High-prevalence and low-intensity Ichthyophonus infections in Pacific Halibut. J. Aquat. Anim. Health 30(1): 13-19

Year Published: 2018

An analytical framework for estimating aquatic species density from environmental DNA

Environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis of water samples is on the brink of becoming a standard monitoring method for aquatic species. This method has improved detection rates over conventional survey methods and thus has demonstrated effectiveness for estimation of site occupancy and species distribution. The frontier of eDNA applications, however, is...

Chambert, Thierry; Pilliod, David S.; Goldberg, Caren S.; Doi, Hideyuki; Takahara, Teruhiko
Chambert, T., Pilliod, D.S., Goldberg, C.S., Doi, H., Takahara, T., 2018, An analytical framework for estimating aquatic species density from environmental DNA: Ecology and Evolution, p. online, https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.3764.

Year Published: 2018

Effects of the proposed California WaterFix North Delta Diversion on flow reversals and entrainment of juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) into Georgiana Slough and the Delta Cross Channel, northern California

The California Department of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation propose new water intake facilities on the Sacramento River in northern California that would convey some of the water for export to areas south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (hereinafter referred to as the Delta) through tunnels rather than through the Delta. The...

Perry, Russell W.; Romine, Jason G.; Pope, Adam C.; Evans, Scott D.
Perry, R.W., Romine, J.G., Pope, A.C., and Evans, S.D., 2018, Effects of the proposed California WaterFix North Delta Diversion on flow reversals and entrainment of juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) into Georgiana Slough and the Delta Cross Channel, northern California: U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report 2018-1028, 46 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20181028.

Filter Total Items: 621
Chinese firebelly new
December 31, 2016

Chinese Firebelly Newt

A Chinese firebelly newt (Cynops orientalis), the first salamander species found to be infected with the spring viraemia of carp virus.

Chinese fire belly newt
December 31, 2016

Chinese Firebelly Newt

A Chinese firebelly newt (Cynops orientalis), the salamander species recently found to be infected with the spring viraemia of carp virus, or SVCV.

Testing for Bsal
December 31, 2016

Testing for Bsal

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.

Yosemite Toad
December 31, 2016

Yosemite Toad Vocalization

Amphibians’ permeable skin makes them incredibly sensitive to changes in their environment. Scientists and conservationists alike are using them as “sentinel species” that could provide early warnings of ecosystem change and stress affecting them and other organisms. Next time you are out, stop and listen. Do you hear them?
 

Sierran Treefrog
December 31, 2016

Sierran Treefrog Vocalization

Amphibians’ permeable skin makes them incredibly sensitive to changes in their environment. Scientists and conservationists alike are using them as “sentinel species” that could provide early warnings of ecosystem change and stress affecting them and other organisms. Next time you are out, stop and listen. Do you hear them?
 

Dissected bat guano pellet showing antennae, eyes, and body fragments of midges.
December 31, 2016

Dissected bat guano pellet showing antennae, eyes, and body parts

Dissected guano pellet showing antennae, eyes, and body fragments of midges. 

 California Red-legged Frog
December 31, 2016

California Red-Legged Frog Vocalization

Amphibians’ permeable skin makes them incredibly sensitive to changes in their environment. Scientists and conservationists alike are using them as “sentinel species” that could provide early warnings of ecosystem change and stress affecting them and other organisms. Next time you are out, stop and listen. Do you hear them?
 

American Alligator
December 31, 2016

American Alligator

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

...
December 31, 2016

Polar Bears Film Their Own Sea Ice World

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. 
 

American Alligator
December 31, 2016

Largest American Alligator Satellite Telemetry-Tracking Study

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

...
Golden Eagle
December 31, 2016

Golden eagle fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) backpack

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

...
woman leaning on soil auger
December 31, 2016

Collecting soil cores for a SageSTEP carbon budget study

This auger is used to collect 1 meter deep soil cores for a carbon budget study associated with the SageSTEP project. SageSTEP is a long-term, multi-disciplinary experiment evaluating sagebrush restoration methods in the Great Basin. SageSTEP team members include scientists from the USGS, USFS, USDA-ARS, Oregon State, Utah State, Brigham Young, and the Univeristies of

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Filter Total Items: 321
Date published: November 28, 2016

Western Fisheries Science News, October 2016 | Issue 4.10

Transporting Fish around Impassable Dams:  An Opportunity and Challenge for Reintroductions

Date published: November 22, 2016

Hazard a Guess? The riskiest science quiz you will ever take!

True or false? People are the leading cause of wildfires in the United States.

Date published: November 17, 2016

Wild Turkey Talk

A group of turkeys is referred to as either a rafter or a gang.  So this Thanksgiving, when celebrating with your own gang, remember the turkey as more than just the main course, but, as Benjamin Franklin said so many years ago, as a noble fowl of American tradition.

Date published: November 16, 2016

Small Alpine Insects are Big Messengers of Climate Change

West Glacier, Mont. – Two rare alpine insects – native to the northern Rocky Mountains and dependent on cold waters of glacier and snowmelt-fed alpine streams – are imperiled due to climate warming induced glacier and snow loss according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners.

Date published: November 16, 2016

USGS Study Reveals Interactive Effects of Climate Change, Invasive Species on Native Fish

A new USGS study shows non-native Brown Trout can place a burden on native Brook Trout under the increased water temperatures climate change can cause.

Date published: November 1, 2016

Hazard a Guess? The riskiest science quiz you will ever take!

True or False? People can catch white-nose syndrome from bats or the environment. 

Attribution: Ecosystems
Date published: October 21, 2016

Stories from the Field: Ecology of California Ridgway's Rails

Notes from field biologists studying the endangered Ridgway's rail.

Date published: October 8, 2016

Western Fisheries Science News, September 2016 | Issue 4.9

Understanding Disease Outbreaks in Populations of Wild Marine Fishes

Date published: October 3, 2016

Rising Sea Levels, Coastal Development’s Effect on Gulf Coast Wetlands

As coastal development along the Gulf Coast continues to expand, tidal saline wetlands could have difficulty adjusting to rising sea levels.

Date published: September 28, 2016

Local Wind Energy Development Has Broad Consequences for Golden Eagles

Roughly over a quarter of the golden eagles killed at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area in Northern California from 2012-2014 were recent immigrants to the local population, according to research led by the U.S. Geological Survey.