In 2009, the Sea Duck Joint Venture (SDJV) launched an ambitious, large-scale satellite telemetry study of sea ducks in the Atlantic Flyway. Target species include black scoter, surf scoter, white-winger scoter, and long-tailed duck, all of which are species of conservation concern. The overall goal of the study is to improve understanding of the links among breeding, wintering, staging, and molting areas (i.e., population delineation) for these species, which is essential to understanding sea duck population declines and limiting factors.
Ecosystems - Birds
Documenting bird and bat migration is challenging because migration activity is typically sporadic in nature and nocturnal movements are difficult to observe. The FWS uses avian radar to monitor the timing, duration, and activity patterns of bird and bat migrations along the shorelines of the Great Lakes (http://www.fws.gov/radar/). In fall 2015 and spring 2016, radar units were deployed in northern Michigan along Lake Huron.
FWS researchers investigated whether the recent, unprecedented scale of sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) conservation in the American West has had beneficial effects on other sagebrush-obligate species. North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) count data and machine learning were used to assess predictors influencing spatial distribution and abundance of three sagebrush-obligate songbirds: Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri), sagebrush sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis), and sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus). Researchers quantified co-occurr
FWS Region 3 Aviation Program, FWS Division of Migratory Bird Management, FWS National Aviation Management Branch, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Geomorphology and Sediment Transport Laboratory, USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center
Lidar data are being leveraged to characterize avian nesting sites. Forty counties having USGS Quality Level 2 lidar data in eastern North Carolina (240.5 billion points) were processed to extract vegetation structure metrics such as canopy height, lidar point Z variance, and skewness. The resulting datasets were compared to 25-m buffered areas around nest locations for avian species with diverse habitat requirements. This method will aid in the identification of species habitat across the work area.
The 48,000-ha Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR) was established in 1985 for the re-introduction of the critically endangered masked bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus ridgwayi) to semidesert grasslands. Since that time, prescribed fire has played an important role in vegetation management at BANWR, burning 1,000 ha/yr or more.
Ecosystems - Wetlands
Each spring since 1987, FWS staff have conducted the Four-Square-Mile Breeding Waterfowl Survey across five states and two FWS regions in the Prairie Pothole Region of the northern Great Plains. Part of the study includes the manual digitization of surface-water extent for approximately 75,000 wetlands on 2 mi x 2 mi sample plots to monitor wetland conditions and provide baseline data for modeling annual waterfowl distribution and abundance. In 2014, Habitat and Population Evaluation Team (HAPET) researchers began integrating new camera systems into the remote sensing protocol to collect
Repeated collection of high spatial resolution satellite imagery over the entire Great Lakes coastal zone will allow resource managers to better understand, manage, and preserve the region’s dynamic wetland ecosystems. In a binational effort lead and funded by the FWS, researchers at Michigan Tech Research Institute, the University of Minnesota, and SharedGeo are collaborating with the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing and with Environment and Climate Change Canada to produce updated and improved maps of critical coastal wetland characteristics such as surface-water extent, water levels, a
High resolution multispectral imagery will be used for wetland delineation within 275,000 acres of wetlands in the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. There are important benefits of collecting near-infrared (NIR) in addition to the visible red, green, and blue bands. Not only does increasing the number of spectral bands improve the discriminative power during image analysis, but NIR is also strongly absorbed by water, providing data well-suited for wetlands mapping. Image acquisition was accomplished using two Nikon D810 cameras.
At roughly 50,000 mi2, the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta forms a vast, flat expanse in western Alaska that is a critical northern breeding and staging habitat for migrating waterbirds and hosts more than 35 indigenous villages. Due to its orientation, shallow bathymetry, and low relief, the delta is highly vulnerable to coastal flooding associated with storm surges, which can reach miles inland. The region also appears to be subsiding, which further exacerbates flooding concerns. As a result, the villages in the area are some of the most imperiled communities in Alaska.