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Animal ecology

Science Spotlights

A deer in a grassy area.
This research modeled deer densities and land classes, which substantiated that deer occurred at greater densities in deciduous forests and lower densities in agricultural and residential development.
A pronghorn
Identifying and enhancing habitat for large ungulates in the Great Basin has become an increased priority. To aid in this effort, we mapped current and future habitat and corridor areas for pronghorn across this region. 
Koa trees with a blanket of grass underneath.
Planting old pastures with the native tree Acacia koa is a common forest restoration strategy in Hawaii, with goals including natural secondary succession to more diverse forest. Often, however, alien grasses remain dominant in the understory, without native species naturally recruiting into restoration areas. We explored the causes.
A stand of fire-killed trees that before the 2014 King fire was a productive nest stand for spotted owls.
Large, severe fires (or “megafires”) are becoming more common in many forest systems, but relatively little is known about the longer-term effects of megafires on ecosystems and the wildlife that inhabit them. This work examines the persistent effects of a 2014 megafire on a well-studied population of California spotted owls, showing an enduring loss of individuals and nesting structures.
Five maps of the Great Basin ecoregion
To restore sagebrush habitat in the Great Basin, managers are conducting large-scale conifer removal efforts. Such large-scale habitat modification may result in unintended ecological trade-offs for wildlife. We investigated these tradeoffs for two sagebrush associated species and three conifer associated species of conservation concern in the Great Basin. 
Colorful map of AZ and NM
RMRS scientist Samuel Cushman has led the development and application of approaches to optimize multi-scale wildlife habitat relationships. We applied these methods to several American marten datasets and found very strong scale dependence of habitat relationships. We further explored how these methods improve understanding of brown bear habitat selection in Spain and understand niche partitioning of two sympatric marten species.
Cage bottom with surrounding grass
  Ecological restoration commonly emphasizes reestablishing native plant communities under the assumption that restoring plant communities will also restore wildlife, but this assumption is rarely tested. We demonstrate that actively restoring exotic-dominated grasslands to more native plant communities can passively restore the structure and function of native small mammal communities. However, restored consumer functions like seed predation...
A trout being measured by researchers.
We tested the use of ultrasound imaging to nonlethally assess the maturity of resident westslope cutthroat trout. Through this work, we observed the smallest mature female ever documented for this species. 
 A community assessment framework for assessing how target species management might affect other community members.
Increasingly intensive conservation strategies are being deployed to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem function in response to global anthropogenic threats, including intentionally introducing and eradicating species via assisted migration, rewilding, biological control, invasive species eradications, and gene drives. A global literature review of these actions found that unintended outcomes were fairly common and sometimes serious. However,...
Pacific marten (Martes caurina) visiting a baited remote camera and hair snare station in the Sierra Nevada.
Wildlife occupancy monitoring depends on a few key assumptions, but they often do not hold true. This research investigates how violations of assumptions about effective sampling area change the ability to detect wildlife population declines.