Documenting bird and bat migration is challenging because of the typically sporadic nature of migration activity and the difficulty of observing nocturnal movements.
Ecosystems - Birds
This project is an expansion of original research completed by the Intermountain West Joint Venture (http://iwjv.org/) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) - Sage Grouse Initiative in Oregon, California, and northwestern Nevada.
Patterns of wetland availability and land use practice are examined within keystone migratory bird habitats in the Pacific flyway (southern Oregon and northeastern California). The results provide decision support for conservation partners to evaluate wetland and land use benefits through an increased understanding of annual resource availability and water use practices.
Monitoring the waterbird nesting population at Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation, Nevada, is essential to detect and evaluate changes in waterbird distribution and abundance. These data will help scientists understand how changes in these two important reserves affect waterbird populations throughout the western United States. In collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, FWS researchers evaluated various methods of obtaining population estimates for ground-nesting waterbirds at Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Ecosystems - Other
Under certain circumstances, wildlife populations can be directly counted or inferred from satellite imagery. The first group to publish a population assessment from space-borne data was the Polar Geospatial Center, who inventoried the Emperor Penguin. That pioneering study has led to a number of new high-resolution satellite approaches to inventory suitable wildlife populations.
The Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) once encompassed 10 million ha of floodplain forests, much of which has been converted to agriculture. Many conservation efforts in the MAV revolve around protection of existing forest and reforestation of converted lands. An accurate classification of forest cover is essential for conservation planning, and especially important for prioritizing conservation activities. Using an object-based image analysis (OBIA) with a random forest classifier, scientists quickly and accurately classified forest cover within the MAV.
Southwest river and floodplain dynamics have been dramatically altered over the last century by human activities, invasive plants, and climate change. The Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge encompasses one of the few naturally occurring stands of cottonwood and willow riparian forest in southwestern Arizona.
National Elk Refuge (NER), near Jackson, Wyoming, recently partnered with Grand Teton National Park to collect high-resolution lidar elevation data. This cooperative project with Grand Teton, which shares a boundary with the refuge, was jointly planned and successfully implemented by a contractor in the fall of 2014.
Land Use and Land Cover Change
Semidesert grasslands in the arid Southwest have been substantially altered since the late 1800s by heavy livestock grazing, prolonged drought, and disrupted fire regimes. Prescribed fire plays a vital role in restoring the grassland vegetation and fuel bed conditions that were once maintained by frequent fire regimes.
With a greater focus on landscape conservation to support and integrate existing program activities, FWS core responsibilities increasingly require standardized, regularly updated landscape-scale mapping products. To support this effort and leverage existing Government investments in nationally available data, the FWS is developing a suite of analysis tools using open-source components and publishing them to the source repository GitHub.