Robert N Fisher
Dr. Robert Fisher is a conservation biologist with the US Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center and works as part of a large integrated team. His focus has been on how natural systems are responding to the Anthropocene, and what types of resiliency they have or lack as it relates to maintaining ecological integrity and biodiversity. Additionally, through understanding individual species and community responses to perturbations through modern monitoring techniques, he and his team can determine appropriate management experiments or options to possibly recover resiliency. Geographically they have two foci, the first is southern California where urbanization and conservation planning bring various direct and indirect drivers of ecological change, and climate variability is currently extreme and drives landscape level drought and wildfires. Their second foci are the tropical islands of the Pacific Basin, from Palau and Papua New Guinea east to Hawai’i. These islands have also been driven by human change and are on the front line as extreme recent weather variability in the cyclone belt impact terrestrial ecosystems. Understanding how biodiversity was generated in this ecoregion is critical to managing its loss, and their team focuses across time and space (biogeography) to understand these processes utilizing molecular tools tied to expeditions of discovery in this poorly studied ecoregion.
- Ph.D., Population Biology, University of California, Davis, CA 1995
- M.S., Zoology, University of California, Davis, CA 1991
- B.S., Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA 1988
- Conservation biology
- Natural history
- Invasive species
- Climate variability
Science and Products
Amphibian population declines have been observed in many areas around the world. Initially, there was skepticism as to whether the observed declines were merely minor population fluctuations, but it has become clear that many declines are both real and sustained. The need for developing a national program for researching amphibians and understanding declines was identified by the former Secretary of the Interior. This stems from overwhelming evidence that this Class of vertebrates may be declining at a disproportionate rate compared to other Classes and may be due to environmental degradation, including apparently pristine wilderness areas. The dual life stages of many amphibians may make them twice as sensitive to environmental stress and thus would serve as sentinels of change. The National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently manage a diversity of lands and habitats across the nation. WERC's Dr. Robert Fisher is aiding in the development of a national monitoring program for amphibians across these lands, where they can serve as an early warning system for environmental stress.
The status of the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) in coastal southern California is unclear. To address this knowledge gap, Dr. Robert Fisher in collaboration with local, State and other Federal agencies begin a multi-year survey and tracking program of golden eagles to address questions regarding habitat use, movement behavior, nest occupancy, genetic population structure, and human impacts on eagles. Results from this study will help provide managers with information on the location and status of important nesting and foraging areas.
Dr. Robert Fisher and his colleagues have teamed up with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and multiple universities to conduct several types of studies that will address high priority issues related to reptiles in the Pacific Basin Islands. These studies will provide new information about species diversity, endemicity, biology and demography of reptile fauna and will lay the groundwork to provide a relatively easy and efficient method for detecting future, non-natural ecosystem disturbances.
Loss of dendritic connectivity in southern California's urban riverscape facilitates decline of an endemic freshwater fish
Life history adaptations and spatial configuration of metapopulation networks allow certain species to persist in extreme fluctuating environments, yet long-term stability within these systems relies on the maintenance of linkage habitat. Degradation of such linkages in urban riverscapes can disrupt this dynamic in aquatic species, leading to...Richmond, Jonathan Q.; Backlin, Adam R.; Galst-Cavalcante, Carey; O'Brien, John W.; Fisher, Robert N.
Heterogeneous responses of temperate-zone amphibian populations to climate change complicates conservation planning
The pervasive and unabated nature of global amphibian declines suggests common demographic responses to a given driver, and quantification of major drivers and responses could inform broad-scale conservation actions. We explored the influence of climate on demographic parameters (i.e., changes in the probabilities of survival and recruitment)...Muths, Erin L.; Chambert, Thierry A.; Schmidt, B. R.; Miller, D. A. W.; Hossack, Blake R.; Joly, P.; Grolet, O.; Green, D. M.; Pilliod, David; Cheylan, M.; Fisher, Robert N.; McCaffery, R. M.; Adams, M. J.; Palen, W. J.; Arntzen, J. W.; Garwood, J.; Fellers, Gary M.; Thirion, J. M.; Grant, Evan H. Campbell; Besnard, A.
An extirpated lineage of a threatened frog species resurfaces in southern California
Southern California has experienced widespread amphibian declines since the 1960s. One species, the Vulnerable California red-legged frog Rana draytonii, is now considered to be extirpated from most of southern California. In February 2017 a population of R. draytonii was discovered in the southern foothills of the San Bernardino...Backlin, Adam R.; Richmond, Jonathan Q.; Gallegos, Elizabeth; Christensen, Clinton K.; Fisher, Robert N.
Candoia Bibroni (Pacific Boa). Diet
No abstract available.Clause, Adam G.; Fraser, Mark J.; Pene, Sarah; Thomas-Moko, Nunia; Fisher, Robert N.
At the end of the line: independent overwater colonizations of the Solomon Islands by a hyperdiverse trans-Wallacean lizard lineage (Cyrtodactylus: Gekkota: Squamata)
The islands of East Melanesia have generated key insights into speciation processes and community assembly. However, when and how these islands began to form, emerge and accumulate endemic taxa remains poorly understood. Here, we show that two divergent lineages within the world’s most diverse genus of geckos (Cyrtodactylus) occur in the Solomon...Oliver, Paul M.; Travers, Scott L; Richmond, Jonathan Q.; Pikacha, Patrick; Fisher, Robert N.
Persistence of historical population structure in an endangered species despite near-complete biome conversion in California's San Joaquin Desert
Genomic responses to habitat conversion can be rapid, providing wildlife managers with time-limited opportunities to enact recovery efforts that use population connectivity information that reflects predisturbance landscapes. Despite near-complete biome conversion, such opportunities may still exist for the endemic fauna and flora of California's...Richmond, Jonathan Q.; Wood, Dustin A.; Westphal, Michael F.; Vandergast, Amy; Leache, Adam D.; Saslaw, Lawrence; Butterfield, H. Scott; Fisher, Robert N.
Biotelemetery data for golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) captured in coastal southern California, February 2016–February 2017
Because of a lack of clarity about the status of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) in coastal southern California, the USGS, in collaboration with local, State, and other Federal agencies, began a multi-year survey and tracking program of golden eagles to address questions regarding habitat use, movement behavior, nest occupancy, genetic...Tracey, Jeff A.; Madden, Melanie C.; Sebes, Jeremy B.; Bloom, Peter H.; Katzner, Todd E.; Fisher, Robert N.
Amphibian conservation: clarifications to comments from Andreone
We appreciate the comments from Andreone (2016) regarding our proposed alternative strategy for addressing the amphibian crisis. Andreone recognizes the utility of an Incident Command System approach but doubts the feasibility of implementation at an international level. We stated in our original article, however, that ‘the feasibility of our...Muths, Erin L.; Fisher, Robert N.
Stable isotope analysis as an early monitoring tool for community-scale effects of rat eradication
Invasive rats have colonized most of the islands of the world, resulting in strong negative impacts on native biodiversity and on ecosystem functions. As prolific omnivores, invasive rats can cause local extirpation of a wide range of native species, with cascading consequences that can reshape communities and ecosystems. Eradication of rats on...Nigro, Katherine M.; Hathaway, Stacie A.; Wegmann, Alex; Miller-ter Kuile, Ana; Fisher, Robert N.; Young, Hillary S.
A discrete stage-structured model of California newt population dynamics during a period of drought
We introduce a mathematical model for studying the population dynamics under drought of the California newt (Taricha torosa), a species of special concern in the state of California. Since 2012, California has experienced a record-setting drought, and multiple studies predict drought conditions currently underway will persist and even increase in...Jones, Marjorie T.; Milligan, William R.; Kats, Lee B.; Vandergon, Thomas L.; Honeycutt, Rodney L.; Fisher, Robert N.; Davis, Courtney L.; Lucas, Timothy A.
Four new species of Eimeria (Apicomplexa: Eimeriidae) from Emoia spp. Skinks (Sauria: Scincidae), from Papua New Guinea and the Insular Pacific
Between September and November 1991, 54 adult skinks from 15 species were collected by hand or blowpipe from several localities on Rarotonga, Cook Islands, Ovalau Island, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea (PNG), and their feces were examined for coccidians. Species included 5 seaside skinks (Emoia atrocostata), 1 Pacific blue-tailed skink (Emoia...McAllister, Chris T.; Duszynski, Donald W.; Austin, Christopher C.; Fisher, Robert N.
A global database of ant species abundances
What forces structure ecological assemblages? A key limitation to general insights about assemblage structure is the availability of data that are collected at a small spatial grain (local assemblages) and a large spatial extent (global coverage). Here, we present published and unpublished data from 51,388 ant abundance and occurrence records of...Gibb, Heloise; Dunn, Rob R.; Sanders, Nathan J.; Grossman, Blair F.; Photakis, Manoli; Abril, Silvia; Agosti, Donat; Andersen, Alan N.; Angulo, Elena; Armbrecht, Ingre; Arnan, Xavier; Baccaro, Fabricio B.; Bishop, Tom R.; Boulay, Raphael; Bruhl, Carsten; Castracani, Cristina; Cerda, Xim; Del Toro, Israel; Delsinne, Thibaut; Diaz, Mireia; Donoso, David A.; Ellison, Aaron M.; Enriquez, Martha L.; Fayle, Tom M.; Feener Jr., Donald H.; Fisher, Brian L.; Fisher, Robert N.; Fitpatrick, Matthew C.; Gomez, Cristanto; Gotelli, Nicholas J.; Gove, Aaron; Grasso, Donato A.; Groc, Sarah; Guenard, Benoit; Gunawardene, Nihara; Heterick, Brian; Hoffmann, Benjamin; Janda, Milan; Jenkins, Clinton; Kaspari, Michael; Klimes, Petr; Lach, Lori; Laeger, Thomas; Lattke, John; Leponce, Maurice; Lessard, Jean-Philippe; Longino, John; Lucky, Andrea; Luke, Sarah H.; Majer, Jonathan; McGlynn, Terrence P.; Menke, Sean; Mezger, Dirk; Mori, Alessandra; Moses, Jimmy; Munyai, Thinandavha Caswell; Pacheco, Renata; Paknia, Omid; Pearce-Duvet, Jessica; Pfeiffer, Martin; Philpott, Stacy M.; Resasco, Julian; Retana, Javier; Silva, Rogerio R.; Sorger, Magdalena D.; Souza, Jorge; Suarez, Andrew V.; Tista, Melanie; Vasconcelos, Heraldo L.; Vonshak, Merav; Weiser, Michael D.; Yates, Michelle; Parr, Catherine L.
Southern California's fire ecology is unlike that of anywhere else in the United States. Fire control strategies developed for mountain forests don't have the same results here. So can science help uncover new answers to help Southern California communities manage and live with wildfires? This 11 minute film showcases ongoing USGS research supporting agencies on the frontlines of fire management.
Like earthquakes, southern California wildfires can't be prevented -- but the risks they pose to our communities and landscapes can be managed. USGS scientists hope to increase our understanding of wildfire factors. The resulting research can assist managers and planners in finding solutions to reduce the risk of home and habitat loss -- and help southern California truly learn to live with fire.
Note: News reel footage at open of program is licensed by the UCLA Film Archive for use by USGS in this specific production only. Inquiries about the footage should go to the UCLA Film Archive. Fire footage shown is owned by Photo One Productions, Bay 6 Productions and the Orange County Fire Authority.
Biologist Robert Fisher tells a troubling tale of how wildfire in Southern California has disrupted the lives of frogs, shrews, fish, and salamanders (despite the latter's mythical fondness of flame).
Robert Fisher, USGS Research Biologist talks about the overall impact of fires on the biology of the area.
Adam Backlin, USGS Ecologist, talks about the potential dangers to the aquatic life in the streams around the Santa Ana Mountains as a result of the 2007 California wildfires.
USGS Biologist, Robert Fisher, talks about the invasive species growing within the areas devastated by the 2007 California wildfires.
A screenshot from the USGS film "Living with Fire".
"Living with Fire" is a 11-minute USGS production exploring ongoing USGS research on wildfire science in southern California -- where the fire ecology is unlike any other region in the United States.
USGS is investigating ways to balance community fire risk management and native habitat conservation as part of the USGS Southern California Wildfire Risk Scenario Project, analyzing both human factors and natural factors.
"Living with Fire" explores the fire risk factors being explored by USGS researchers, and how they impact southern California communities and ecosystems. The film seeks to jumpstart conversations on wildfire science in southern California.
Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, The National Trust of Fiji and NatureFiji-MareqetiViti have discovered a new species of banded iguana.
New U.S. Geological Survey-led research suggests that even though amphibians are severely declining worldwide, there is no smoking gun – and thus no simple solution – to halting or reversing these declines.