Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012: 9) Gone fishin'

Atlantic salmon in circular
pool at White River National
Fish Hatchery.
Credit: Ann Froschauer/USFWS
We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast!

Ever had an aquarium? You probably had no more than a handful of fish to care for. Imagine if you were raising millions and millions of fish, including a variety of species with different needs. Let's throw some freshwater mussels in there, too.

You're starting to look like a national fish hatchery, where biologists blend layers upon layers of science and technique to successfully raise and release fish and mussels that will support our waters and fishing pastime and industry.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012 8) Controlling invasive species

We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast! 

Invasive species pose some serious threats. They can displace native fish and wildlife and change native habitats, harming fish, wildlife and plant resources. Invasive species can also pose a risk to human health. In 2012, the Service worked to reduce the impacts that invasive species are having across the Northeast Region. A few projects that we worked on this year:

The first collection of hydrilla verticillata
in Tonowanda Creek.  Credit: USFWS
In September, staff at the Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office discovered hydrilla verticillata, a highly invasive aquatic plant, in the New York State Canal System in Tonawanda, N.Y. Hydrilla crowds out waterweeds and other essential plants, slows water flow and can clog lakes and rivers, enough to even eliminate swimming or boating. The pest is confirmed within one mile of the Niagara River, and thus the Great Lakes. The extent of its possible impacts to the Great Lakes remains unknown, but monitoring elsewhere suggests the plant can become quite a nuisance in waters up to 25 or 30 feet deep. The Service’s Lower Great Lakes office is leading a rapid assessment team of state and federal agencies to determine the actual reach of the plant in the Tonawanda Creek and Niagara River corridor, which will help establish potential response options.  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best of 2012: 7) Connecting people with nature

We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast!

Volunteer at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in
New Jersey releases a mourning dove after a bird banding
program at the refuge. Credit: Larry West
Released mourning doves, ensured that sea turtle hatchlings made it to the ocean safely, and monitored bat species. Those are just a few of the activities Service volunteers and youth employees had the chance to do while working at national wildlife refuges, field offices, and other Service facilities in 2012. As a natural resource agency, we strive to connect people with nature in meaningful ways that inspire and empower them to take action and make positive changes in natural resource conservation.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Best of 2012: 6) Safeguarding wildlife without borders

We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast!

While the bird that sits on a rhino's back and cleans it of ticks and other insects is called the oxpecker, it's sometimes referred to as the “rhino’s guard.”



Black rhino male and calf in Mkhuze, South Africa.
The black rhino, as well as the Sumatran, Javan and Indian rhinos,
is protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and listed from critically
endangered to vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The only other species of rhino surviving
in the wild, the (southern and northern) white rhino, is listed on the Red List,
but only the northern white rhino is protected under the ESA.
Credit: Karl Stromayer/USFWS.

With poaching on the rise, the rhino needs more than these birds to protect it. And in February 2012, a major national U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service undercover law enforcement effort answered the call.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best of 2012 5) Conserving the Chesapeake Bay

We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast!

Why is it so important that we safeguard the nation’s largest estuary and its tributaries? The Chesapeake Bay Watershed supports more than 2,700 plant and animal species. In addition to all the plants and animals that rely on the Chesapeake Bay, more than 15 million people reside or work within the watershed. In 2012, the Service continued to conserve this important resource and its environment. 



The Chesapeake Bay watershed protects land for many species, including this important
 bald eagle habitat near Aberdeen Proving Ground. Credit: Leo Miranda/USFWS


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Best of 2012: 4) Going "green" is a natural choice

We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast!

The headquarters and visitor center of the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge
Complex in Shirley has a number of sustainable features.

Have you gone "green" yet? In 2012, the Service’s Northeast Region worked to reduce our carbon footprint. We made some “green” improvements this year, which included making some changes to facilities and participating in sustainable practices that supported species recovery efforts.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Best of 2012: 3) Service prepares and responds to Hurricane Sandy


Hurricane Sandy impacted Service facilities from
Maine to Virginia in late October. This photo is of
Wells Beach in Maine.

We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast!

Hurricane Sandy began her tear up the east coast on October 29, 2012, affecting millions in her path. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took precautions to prepare for the superstorm and evaluate impacts to Service staff and facilities afterwards.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Best of 2012: 2) Recovering wildlife



New England cottontail at Great Bay National
Wildlife Refuge. Credit: New Hampshire Fish and Game.
We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast!

Many threatened and endangered animals across the Northeast improved last year, and much of that progress is thanks to the many people working to recover and maintain healthy wildlife populations.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Best of 2012: 1) Protecting and restoring our waters

We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast!


Before and after aerial shots of the Great Works Dam site on Maine's Penobscot River.

Our rivers and streams connect us to just about everything we do, from drinking and energy to fishing and other recreation. Some of the water barriers that we’ve put in place to harness this precious resource, including road-stream pipes (culverts), dams and dikes, have seriously impacted wildlife and water quality. Of the estimated six million barriers across the U.S., many are now also obsolete and hazards to human health and safety.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Meet Ranger Dave



Today you're hearing from David Sagan, park ranger and visitor services specialist at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.
As we thank Mother Nature today for her gift of wonder, we would also like to honor someone who is sharing that gift with many others. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service honors one of its own each year with the “Sense of Wonder” award inspired by conservationist and author Rachel Carson.

This year, David Sagan, park ranger and visitor services specialist at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, represented the Northeast Region as the 2012 regional nominee for the national awards. Today, Dave shares his personal thoughts about the excitement and passion he sees in the young people and families that take part in his programs.


It was spring of last year, and I was leading a group of young students from a nearby city along the trail. A young girl stopped suddenly in her tracks. She stood stiff as a board staring at her elbow.

Gifts from nature: A sense of wonder

A beautiful sunrise takes the breath away. A red cardinal on a snow-covered tree limb catches the eye. The broods of young wildlife emerging in the spring sparks a smile. In all its beauty, the natural world provides daily marvels that give many a sense of wonder.

At the spring 2009 session of the
Sense of Wonder Camp, a camp for children
ages 3 to 4 at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.
Credit: Kate Toniolo/USFWS

During this season of holiday giving, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like to take time and reflect on the gifts we receive throughout the year from Mother Nature. Gifts of Nature are treasures to behold and wonders to be thankful for.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gifts from nature: Storm protection

Extensive damages from Hurricane Sandy – and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 – have stirred many discussions on how to best protect our property from future storms. Some of those discussions include protections built in by Mother Nature.

Coastal Wetlands at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, MA.
Credit: Kelly Fike/USFWS.

During this season of holiday giving, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like to take time and reflect on the gifts we receive throughout the year from Mother Nature. Gifts of Nature are treasures to behold and wonders to be thankful for. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gifts from nature: Culture

What do several Marvel and DC Comics characters share with American author Henry David Thoreau and French impressionist Claude Monet? Mother Nature gets credit as the muse for these cultural icons. Today we highlight her influence and role in the culture of Native American tribes. 


A tribal member holding an eagle feather to fan a bundle of sage during a sunrise ceremony on top of Cadillac Mountain in Maine's Acadia National Park. Credit: D.J. Monette/USFWS.

During this season of holiday giving, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like to take time and reflect on the gifts we receive throughout the year from Mother Nature. Gifts of Nature are treasures to behold and wonders to be thankful for. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gifts from nature: Sustenance

Whether through hunting, fishing, gathering or growing crops, Mother Nature has provided ways to satisfy our hunger!

Family with their catch at the Northeast Fishery Center's
annual fishing event in Lamar, PA. Credit: Joe Vickless/USFWS
 

During this season of holiday giving, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like to take time and reflect on the gifts we receive throughout the year from Mother Nature. Gifts of Nature are treasures to behold and wonders to be thankful for. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gifts from nature: Farmers’ friends

American farmers have an unsung partner in bringing your holiday favorites to the table -- bats.

Bat hunting a moth. Credit: Bat Conservation International.

During this season of holiday giving, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like to take time and reflect on the gifts we receive throughout the year from Mother Nature. Gifts of Nature are treasures to behold and wonders to be thankful for.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Gifts from nature: Healthy waters

She helps get it from forest to your faucet, but Mother Nature needs your help to continue providing clean water for people and wildlife. 

A project at Sedgeunkedunk Stream in Maine removed a dam and restored natural water functions. Credit: Meagan Racey/USFWS
 
During this season of holiday giving, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like to take time and reflect on the gifts we receive throughout the year from Mother Nature. Gifts of Nature are treasures to behold and wonders to be thankful for. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gifts from nature: Urban green spaces

Living in a concrete jungle doesn’t mean you don’t get a gift from nature. With 80 percent of Americans living in cities, it’s no surprise that sometimes there’s a need to escape from it all. Some might think that in order to get a little solitude and to experience nature, you need to venture to far, remote places. But Mother Nature has given the gift of outdoor green spaces right in the backyard of many cities.

A hawk perches at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia.
Credit: Derik Pinsonneault/USFWS


During this season of holiday giving, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like to take time and reflect on the gifts we receive throughout the year from Mother Nature. Gifts of Nature are treasures to behold and wonders to be thankful for.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What's Mother Nature giving you this season?

Whether you're on the naughty or nice lists, you've been getting gifts from Mother Nature this year. We hear she could use some elves to help her gifts coming for years.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bringing bat science to life: Inspiring--and being inspired by--a budding biologist

Today you're hearing from Ann Froschauer, national white-nose syndrome communications coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A few months ago, I was reading my daily news alerts about bats and white-nose syndrome, and I came across a story 

about a little girl who was in love with bats, and desperate to do something about white-nose syndrome. Miri, a seven year-old at the time, had been a bat lover since she was just a few years old, and had recently learned about WNS and research that the Boston University bat lab was doing to try to combat the disease. Miri wrote to Santa Claus last year, asking for his 
help in saving the bats, and decided that she wants to be a bat biologist when she grows up.

My heart melted- a mini-me! Although my interest in bats didn't really get going until I was a teenager, I felt like we might have a real window of opportunity to connect Miri to

 the thing she loved, and really inspire her to stay interested in science and bats. I immedately contacted my friend Nate 
Fuller in the BU bat lab and said "we have to get Miri out to see some bats and keep her excited about this!" Read the rest.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bringing nature inside four walls

Today you're hearing from
Kristin Haider, one of
two AmeriCorps members working at our West
Virginia Field Office. 
She is finishing her master's degree in ecology from Penn State. Learn more about this AmeriCorps program.
Explore the inflatable bat cave. Watch a freshwater mussel lure fish. Stick your hand in a nature mystery box.

If you’d been with me over the past few months, you would
have had a chance to try all of these things.

This past September, I joined the team at the Service’s West Virginia Field Office as an AmeriCorps member. I was thrilled
to use my background in ecology and conservation, so I jumped right in and represented the Service at a number of outreach events this fall.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Needed: Batman-proof bat caves

Today you're hearing from
Eric Schrading, a biologist
in our New Jersey Field Office.
Read more from Eric.
Sure, some people either don’t understand or don’t like bats.

They make up fearful stories about bats and their habits and associate them with villainous creatures such as vampires. But let’s lay down some facts about these truly unique and wonderful creatures.

Bats are the world’s only flying mammals. They can consume nearly one-third their body weight of insects in less than half an hour (that’s a lot of agricultural and forest pests, mosquitoes, and stink bugs), and they are also one of the only animals that are associated with one of America’s most popular superheroes: Batman.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Strength after Sandy

One month ago, Hurricane Sandy pummeled the east coast, and left an impact on Service stations and facilities. Ashley Spratt, a public affairs specialist for the Service’s Midwest Region, came to the Northeast after the storm and got a first-hand look at how Sandy affected refuges in Rhode Island.

Ashley Spratt came to the Northeast to provide
public affairs support after Hurricane Sandy.
Watching the coverage of Hurricane Sandy from half a country away in the comforts of my small college town, I wondered how both my friends and colleagues on the east coast were fairing in the days following the storm. Living in the Midwest, I’ve never experienced the wrath of a tropical storm or hurricane.

On the afternoon of Nov. 2, as I tracked the day’s headlines, reading stories shared online by my old journalism school colleagues now based in New York and New Jersey, I received a text from my supervisor.

“Can you go to the Northeast this weekend?”

I packed my bags. Eight hours and one connection later, I landed at Bradley International Airport, just outside of Hartford, Conn. I had never been to New England, and immediately realized how big this seemingly small region really is.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Big partnerships help even the smallest creatures

A unique union formed between a utility company, a land preserve and two government agencies has created an impressive opportunity for conservation in New York.

National Grid, an electric and gas conglomerate, owns and manages rights-of-way in the upstate Capital District that run through the Albany Pine Bush Preserve and contain patches of wild blue lupine and other wildflowers—a coveted habitat for some uncommon wildlife. While National Grid serves millions of people in New York, as of October, they started serving another, much smaller crowd. 


The company’s rights-of-way have become a favorite spot for two rare butterflies
the Karner blue and frosted elfin. The tiny, bright Karner blue and the brown frosted elfin butterflies thrive only in these open areas with the wild lupine plant, which is their primary food as caterpillars. 

Karner blue butterfly. Credit: J. and K. Hollingsworth.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Flying squirrel fund helps protect rugged West Virginia national forest land

Thunderstruck, W.Va. Photo by Kent Mason, courtesy of The Nature Conservancy.

As part of the Thunderstruck Project, a decade-long effort led by The Nature Conservancy to protect nearly 2,000 acres of former commercial timber company land in West Virginia, a large swath of red spruce and hardwoods will be preserved as part of the Monongahela National Forest. 

 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Frankenfish" smuggler brought to justice



Snakehead fish pose a significant threat to native fish and wildlife resources.
Credit: Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey


A Toronto man and a pet store near the Ontario city have been brought to justice for illegally exporting and selling Giant Snakehead fish from Canada into the U.S. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement agents were instrumental in the success of "Operation Serpent," the multi-agency international undercover operation leading to the convictions.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service responds to Sandy in West Virginia

Truck in snow
Greg Titus, division fire management office on assignment to respond to
Superstorm Sandy in West Virginia. Credit: Catherine Hibbard/USFWS

“This is more snow than I’ve seen in my entire life!” said Greg Titus while on assignment in West Virginia to respond to Superstorm Sandy.

Titus, a division fire management officer from St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, was one of several U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees deployed to snowbound West Virginia as members of the interagency Southern Area Red Type 1 Team.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No bait needed for this catch

The truck used by Michael's Wholesale
Bait to transport fish.
Two Massachusetts businessmen were convicted Friday of three felony charges each in federal court for unlawfully dealing in millions of dollars of live freshwater fish without the required state permits. The case illustrates the protection that state and federal wildlife law provide to our waters and wildlife – and the strong partnership vital to enforcing that protection.

In 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement was alerted by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Massachusetts Environmental Police that something wasn’t quite right at Michael’s Wholesale Bait of West Springfield, Mass.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Students take pride in contributing to turtle conservation

Today, wildlife biologist Stephanie Koch and four high school students share their reflections on raising and releasing rare Blanding’s turtles as part of an experimental head-starting program.
BLANDING'S TURTLE

This medium-sized freshwater turtle inhabits wetlands in parts of the upper Midwest, New York, New England and southern Canada. Throughout the Northeast, populations appear to be declining. More

Bristol County Agricultural High School students have partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others to help nurture Blanding’s turtles, considered threatened in Massachusetts, and later release them with a greater likelihood of survival at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge in Sudbury, Mass.

The program, intended to establish a new population at the refuge, involves collecting hatchlings in the wild, raising them in captivity and releasing them back in the wild when the turtles are large enough to survive most predation. Head-start programs are one of many tools that the Service considers in the conservation of species like the Blanding's turtle.

Over the last three years, Bristol Aggie teacher Brian Bastarache and Stephanie have led students in releasing more than 150 turtles. This year's release was on May 23.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Improving a WV river's health by bringing back endangered mussels

Did you think we were through with freshwater mussels? Never! Hear from Barb Douglas, an endangered species biologist with our West Virginia Field Office, on an effort to save endangered mussels from a bridge project and bring them to several sites in other states, including West Virginia. A Pennsylvania biologist shared her perspective last month.

It was a beautiful autumn morning, a perfect day to be out on the Elk River, my favorite river in the state, and doing something I love: restoring populations of endangered mussels.

WATCH THE VIDEO

The WCHS-TV crew tagged along the day these endangered mussels were released. Check out the Healthy Mussels Means Health Rivers eyewitness webcast.
The Elk River has the highest diversity of fish and mussels of any watershed in West Virginia. It’s home to 100 types of fish and 30 types of freshwater mussels, including four endangered mussel species. Populations of many of these species have declined because of poor water quality in the river.

One of those endangered mussels, the northern riffleshell, hadn’t been seen here for almost 20 years. Fortunately, the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania still has a large northern riffleshell population, and our partners there were willing to allow us to transfer some of their mussels out of the path of a new highway bridge and into the Elk River, near an area where they historically occurred.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bombay Hook Refuge celebrates 75 years of conservation


This post is the last in a series running all week about the work done on national wildlife refuges to help recover threatened and endangered species.  Read the Delaware News Journal's feature story this week about Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and its 75 year  history of conserving migratory birds, wintering waterfowl and other wildlife. 


Each year, thousands of migratory birds stop at Bombay Hook during migration. Birdwatchers flock to see them. The 16,000 acre refuge along the coast of Delaware is a birding destination and an important vestige of natural coastal area along the Atlantic coast. Since 1937, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has managed the refuge for migratory birds and waterfowl, and many other animals benefit from this work. This weekend, we celebrate Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge's 75th year! 


Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Tim Williams/USFWS


More posts in the National Wildlife Refuge Week series.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge joins partners to help breed rabbits

This post is part of a series running all week about the work done on national wildlife refuges to help with threatened and endangered species recovery. Today, you’re hearing from Nancy Pau, a wildlife biologist at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, and James Panaccione, a biological science technician, about the construction of hardening pens to help recover New England cottontails.

DID YOU KNOW?

The New England cottontail has become so rare that it's a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. What's a candidate? (PDF)
You’ve seen them hopping around your backyard right?


Well, not necessarily. You may have seen rabbits in New England, but probably not the rare New England cottontail.

While these rabbits may closely resemble the more commonly seen eastern cottontail, they require a much more specific type of home and are known as habitat specialists. New England cottontails need dense thickets, and they hesitate to stray from cover. 


As that habitat has been lost to development and maturing forest, the New England cottontail population has dramatically declined. These issues, along with habitat separated or fragmented by expanding roads and highways, make it difficult for these rabbits to find food or mates.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Acting, naturally.

De'Andre paddling.
De'Andre Brown, a 2012 intern, kayaking on the
Charles River in Massachusetts.
Credit: Lamar Gore/USFWS
Interning in visitor services at a national wildlife refuge doesn’t mean biological work is off the table. Hear from D'Andre Brown on his experience at the Service’s Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts, where he helped survey terns, band bats and monitor piping plover recovery. This post is part of a series running all week about the work done on national wildlife refuges to help recover threatened and endangered species.

Who knew that theatre studies and working in visitor services at a national wildlife refuge go hand in hand? I would not have thought that before spending last summer in the Career Discovery Internship Program at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Linking red knots from Monomoy to Cuba and beyond

THE RED KNOT
Red knot
  • Is a medium-sized shorebird and a candidate for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
      
  • Undertakes one of the longest migrations, traveling 16,000 miles round trip from their farthest wintering grounds at the tip of South America to their Arctic breeding grounds.
     
  • Flies an estimated 5,000 miles without stopping for six days, one of the longest nonstop flights in the bird world.
      
  • Needs safe places – stopover sites – to rest and feed.
This post is part of a series running all week about the work done on national wildlife refuges to help with threatened and endangered species recovery. Today, you’re hearing from Stephanie Koch, a refuge wildlife biologist, and Susi vonOettingen, an endangered species biologist, about red knot banding and the data collection that is critical to the recovery of this species.

Furl, smear, jiggle, twinkle and fire. It’s all in a day of red knot banding.

At Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, the day began with a crisp ocean breeze as we, our coworkers, partners and volunteers, hauled several hundred pounds of field equipment to our boats. We were heading out to Minimoy Island to capture red knots, and everyone, especially first-timer Susi, was very excited!

“I was in learning mode, fumble fingers and all,” Susi said. “Then orders started to fly, and I really got lost.”

Capturing red knots is no easy task, even with a seasoned, experienced crew leader. At Monomoy Refuge, we use cannon nets, large explosive driven nets that allows us to capture a large number of birds at the same time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Refuge tracking surveys show evidence of Canada lynx in Vermont

This post is part of a series running all week about the work done on national wildlife refuges to help with threatened and endangered species recovery. Today, you’re hearing from Rachel Cliche, a wildlife biologist at the Nulhegan Basin Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, about winter tracking surveys to document the presence of Canada lynx in Vermont.

Are Canada lynx here to stay in Vermont, or just passing through? 


The answer will determine the role of management for this species at the Nulhegan Basin Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. 

Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) are medium-sized cats that live in spruce-fir forests and are highly dependent and adapted to hunt snowshoe hare. They were federally listed under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species in 2000. 

Canada lynx
The Canada lynx range extends from Alaska, through much of Canada, to the
boreal forests in the northeastern U.S., Great Lakes, Rocky Mountains
and Cascade Mountains. Credit: USFWS

Monday, October 15, 2012

Explore your national wildlife refuges!


National wildlife refuges protect important land for wildlife. They restore and enhance habitat, and they engage visitors in the Service's conservation mission. During National Wildlife Refuge Week, we’ll focus a series on how national wildlife refuges help recover threatened and endangered species and how they help accomplish the mission. Here's an introduction from Scott Kahan, northeast chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Scott Kahan
Scott Kahan (far left) at Monomoy National
Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts.
Spanning more than half a million acres, 72 national wildlife refuges are spread throughout the Northeast Region from Maine to Virginia. From the breathtaking views of forests in West Virginia to dynamic Atlantic coastal habitat communities on our eastern borders, refuges work to conserve habitat for wildlife and protect our nation’s natural resources.

While protecting our public lands ensures that we have clean air and water and healthy habitats for wildlife, these lands are here for you too. This week, October 14-20, I encourage you to get outside and explore the outdoors and celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week. You can take pictures, fish, hunt and learn about the outdoors. There is plenty to explore and a number of activities to keep you busy.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hydrilla closes in on the Great Lakes

Collected hydrilla
The first collection of Hydrilla verticillata from
Tonawanda Creek. Credit: USFWS
You don’t necessarily need to be looking for an aquatic invasive species to find it. Sometimes it appears when you least expect it.

That’s exactly what happened in early September, when Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office staff discovered Hydrilla verticillata, a highly invasive aquatic plant, in the New York State Canal System in Tonawanda, N.Y. The location was literally at the base of a boat ramp, a highly visible area that should lend itself to early discovery.

Nonetheless, it apparently went unnoticed for some time, hiding within the abundant native plants, particularly Canadian/common waterweed, a native aquatic plant similar in appearance. The distinction between the two is important, as hydrilla crowds out waterweeds and other essential plants. It slows water flow and can clog lakes and rivers enough to even eliminate swimming or boating.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pa. mussels help restore streams in Ill., Ohio and WV

We love freshwater mussels so much that we extended our month-long series to tell you about work to restore and protect freshwater mussels and their homes in Pennsylvania. Today you're hearing from Lora Zimmerman, the assistant supervisor of Contaminants and Conservation Planning Assistance in our Pennsylvania office. This series highlights the importance of freshwater mussels to the Northeast landscape and the concerted efforts underway to ensure their future in our waters.

Pennsylvania is known for a lot of things—spectacular trout fishing, abundant energy resources, intensely rivaled hockey teams—but one of the lesser known treasures of Pennsylvania is its native freshwater mussels.  

Species almost lost elsewhere are known from the Allegheny River and French Creek in western Pennsylvania, and they are the envy of several neighboring states where the mussels have either been lost or populations are too small to survive without assistance. For example, although it remains in only five percent of its historical range, the northern riffleshell continues to have thriving populations in Pennsylvania. Likewise, the clubshell mussel also has stronghold populations in the Commonwealth.

Clubshell mussel
Clubshell mussel. Credit: USFWS

Friday, September 28, 2012

Clubs, riffles and rays of New York

This post is part of a series running all month on freshwater mussels, highlighting their importance to the Northeast landscape and the concerted efforts underway to ensure their future in our waters.

 The Allegheny River basin holds globally significant populations of four species of mussels federally listed as endangered.  They are northern riffleshell (Epioblasma torulosa rangiana), clubshell (Pleurobema clava), rayed bean (Villosa fabalis) and snuffbox (Epioblasma triquetra).  

Surveys in the upper Allegheny River basin in New York and Pennsylvania have found populations of these species in the past, but portions of the mainstem Allegheny River and its tributaries remain un-surveyed or have incomplete surveys -- an obstacle to truly achieving recovery.

Diver looking for riffleshell and clubshell mussels. Credit: Jeremy Tiemann Il/Natural History Survey


Moving mussels

Cheryl Daigle
Cheryl Daigle from the Penobscot River Restoration Trust.
Today you're hearing from Cheryl Daigle, the community liaison and outreach coordinator for the Penobscot River Restoration Trust. This post is part of a series running all month on freshwater mussels, highlighting their importance to the Northeast landscape and the concerted efforts underway to ensure their future in our waters.

Working on a river restoration project that is focused on restoring 11 species of sea-run fish -- including the enigmatic shortnose sturgeon and leaping wonder of salmon -- offers many fascinating moments of discovery about rivers, community, and restoration of place.

Yet, I never imagined freshwater mussels would invite the depths of thought I had while helping to relocate exposed mussels to deeper habitat during the removal of the Great Works Dam and subsequent lowering of the impoundment to a natural river flow.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

50 years after Rachel Carson's Silent Spring

In honor of today's 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, we're highlighting some of the discussion about the anniversary and the book's connection to modern issues. 

Who among us will make the next Rachel Carson possible? David Klinger, writer in the Service's Endangered Species Bulletin, poses this question with a "critical reexamination of both the woman and her groundbreaking bestseller, written by Carson amid the supercharged Cold War atmosphere of John Kennedy's 'New Frontier'": 

To some, she was a saint. The "fountainhead" of the modern environmental movement, deified almost a half-century after her death. To her memory are dedicated wildlife refuges and elementary schools, bridges in Pittsburgh and office edifices in Harrisburg ... and a training center dormitory in the Federal agency she had to quit in order to write what she truly wanted to write.
Read the rest of Klinger's story.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Giving mussels a boost in Tenn.'s Powell River

Today you're hearing from Jess Jones, a restoration biologist with the Service's Virginia Field Office, on releasing the largest group of three endangered mussels in the Powell River. This post is part of a series running all month on freshwater mussels, highlighting their importance to the Northeast landscape and the concerted efforts underway to ensure their future in our waters.

Biologist Jess Jones distributes mussels. Credit: Gary Peeples/USFWS

Every once in a while everything just works out. 

Today was such a day -- cool and sunny, an early fall afternoon on the Powell River in northeastern Tennessee, where biologists and students worked together to release endangered mussels. Heavy rains occurred the week before, but the water level dropped just in time to stock them in the river, 5,500 oyster mussels (Epioblasma capsaeformis), 1,000 Cumberlandian combshells (Epioblasma brevidens), and 27 snuffbox (Epioblasma triquetra). The young mussels were 1-2 years old and about 20-30 mm long.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Reviving a river: Free-flowing waters at Great Works Dam

Each week, our folks at the Maine field office are driving by to check on the progress of the Great Works Dam removal, part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project.

The majority of the heavy lifting at Great Works is complete, so we'd like to share a series of photos capturing the incredible progress made since June this year -- a representation of many years of conservation efforts. 



See more Great Works dam updates. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Freshwater mussel conservation in western New York

This post is part of a series running all month on freshwater mussels, highlighting their importance to the Northeast landscape and the concerted efforts underway to ensure their future in our waters.

Nestled between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie in western New York, the Service's Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office is located in an incredibly unique area. Part of the reason this area is so interesting is the high number of streams with freshwater mussels.


Mussel
A native freshwater mussel found in the stream during a road-crossing survey. Credit: USFWS


Freshwater mussel populations are in decline all over the country. Pollution and habitat loss are two of the leading causes of the population decline. As the human population grows and cities spread out, more roads are built, many of which cross streams. When those road crossings are installed correctly, they cause no problems.

However, due to budget constraints and lack of training for the installers, many crossings are under-sized or incorrectly installed. This causes a major problem for fish and other critters that live in the stream. The road crossing becomes a barrier to fish migration, as well as the migration of other species, including freshwater mussels.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Life in the lab: The less glamorous side of marine biology



Today you're hearing from Melissa May, a doctoral student in marine biology at the University of Maine, about her work studying how mussels respond to changes in salinity. For this post, we're switching from freshwater to saltwater mussels in our series.

Sure, being a marine biologist is awesome, but it’s not all whales and ocean excursions.

Most of us spend a fair amount of time in the laboratory, bent over microscopes or analyzing data. And, more often than not, our research subjects resemble slimy blobs instead of adorable animals. But, we lab rats get a different perspective of the world. We see inside the cells, we manipulate the unseen, and we play with expensive equipment.

I study mussels – the same ones you’ve sautĂ©ed in wine. On the outside, there isn’t much to them, but we all know it’s what’s on the inside that counts. And take it from me, they’re fascinating!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reviving a river: Checking in at Great Works Dam

Each week, our folks at the Maine field office are driving by to check on the progress of the Great Works Dam removal, part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project.

Our Maine hydro licensing coordinator, Steve Shepard, says, "Imagine running these rapids. I hear it was done last week, though the fish have been doing it for weeks!"

 

See more Great Works dam updates. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Recovering the wild from a wild river: Taking a look back


This post is part of a series running all month on freshwater mussels, highlighting their importance to the Northeast landscape and the concerted efforts underway to ensure their future in our waters.
 
The conflict between the demand for energy and the love of land


Poster for Wild River
The 1960 film Wild River, starring Montgomery Clift and Lee Remick, dramatically depicts the controversy surrounding the construction of a series of federal dams to harness the mighty Tennessee River for electrical power generation in the 1930s. The story opens when a Tennessee Valley Authority field administrator is sent to make way for one of the dams, but the Garth family and others living along the river resist leaving their land, which is to be flooded. Slowly, the conflict unfolds. 

Wild River pits the need for power generation and flood control against the preservation of land and culture. Construction of dams throughout the Tennessee River basin brought the region into the modern world but also displaced farm families and communities, altered aquatic habitats, and resulted in the loss of many native fish and mussels. 


TVA dam
TVA's Norris Dam on the lower Clinch River in Tennessee. Completed in 1936, it was the first of many dams constructed by TVA to harness the power of the Tennessee River System. The free-flowing portion of the Clinch River above the dam is the nation's top hotspot for freshwater mussel diversity.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Taking control of sea lamprey in the Lake Champlain Basin


More than 100 years ago, a parasitic, snake-like fish hitchhiked a ride to America’s sixth Great Lake – invading the almost 500-square-mile Lake Champlain straddling Vermont and New York. At least, that’s what some say. 


Sea lamprey. Credit: USFWS

Other information indicates the fish—sea lamprey—may be native to the lake and even a resident since the last ice age. Either way, the sea lamprey grew in numbers and preyed on native fish. By the 1900s, native salmon and lake trout were no longer found in Lake Champlain. When sea lamprey impeded efforts to bring the fish back, concern grew about populations of this parasitic fish.

A single sea lamprey kills 40 or more pounds of fish in its life as a parasite. They attach to host fish and feed on their blood and body fluids, leaving a wound at risk for infection. The lamprey is often confused with eels because it is jawless, but its circular sucking disk helps to distinguish it from the American eel, which has a true jaw. Inland adults average 24 to 30 inches in length. 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A growing appreciation for freshwater mussels


Brett Hillman Today you’re hearing from Brett Hillman, a biological science technician for the Service’s New England Field Office, as he recounts his work with freshwater mussels at the Service's Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Vermont. Brett assists the endangered species biologists and has the great pleasure of working with a wide variety of wildlife. This post is part of a series running all month on freshwater mussels, highlighting their importance to the Northeast landscape and the concerted efforts underway to ensure their future in our waters.

Before I began my job in the New England Field Office, I will admit that I didn’t have a great appreciation for mussels.

I knew that they were an important component of aquatic ecosystems, but I didn’t understand quite how important. And while I’ve spent countless hours searching for and identifying species of many other taxa, from birds to bugs to plants, mussels never captured my interest. Now that I’m fully immersed in mussel ecology, however, I am definitely gaining some more respect for these underrated invertebrates.

Freshwater mussels are one of the most imperiled taxa in the country. According to Patty Morrison, a mussel expert and biologist at the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, 76 out of the approximately 300 native mussel species in the U.S. are federally listed, six of which have been listed within just the past two years. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Not just rocks: The mussels of our rivers and streams


Today you’re hearing from Meagan Racey, who handles public affairs and media relations for Ecological Services, on her recent encounter with freshwater mussels. This post is part of a series running all month on freshwater mussels, highlighting their importance to the Northeast landscape and the concerted efforts underway to ensure their future in our waters.

The sky beamed blue above, and the sun shined down on me below as I sliced the clear water with my paddle—shwoosh down the right side of the kayak, and shwoosh down the left side. From the shoreline, a great blue heron watched me wearily, and up ahead a bald eagle peered from the treetop. Minnows darted under the water and water bugs glided across the top.


It’s hard to beat a day on the water. My trip down a portion of New England’s longest river, the Connecticut River, started at Greenfield, Mass., and amid all the beautiful details I mentioned above, one unmentioned characteristic struck me the most – the littering of freshwater mussels poking up from the bottom of the clear river.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reviving a river: Checking in at Great Works Dam

Each week, our folks at the Maine field office are driving by to check on the progress of the Great Works Dam removal, part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project.

As the Penobscot River Restoration Trust says: "The next best thing to the sight of a newly restored, free-flowing stretch of river? The sound of water coursing through natural ledges and cobbles. An amazing transformation has been taking place on this stretch of the Penobscot River!"


Reviving a river: From the Atlantic Salmon Federation

Andy Goode, vice president of U.S. programs
for the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
Today you're hearing from Andy Goode, the vice president of U.S. programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, an international conservation organization dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon and the ecosystems on which their well being and survival depend. ASF is a partner in the internationally recognized Penobscot River Restoration Project, re-opening nearly 1,000 mile of habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon, sturgeon, river herring and eight other species of sea-run fish in Maine.


The Penobscot Project offers a rare, far ranging, and for the foreseeable future, our only opportunity to restore a significant run of Atlantic salmon in the southern range of the species. For the first time in 200 years this project will directly address the primary threat to Atlantic salmon restoration by reducing multiple dams in Maine’s largest salmon river, thus offering the real potential to reverse the longterm decline of salmon in the United States.