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Mammals

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. 
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 picture of a small cage with abundant blanket flowers.
A recent meta-analysis collating global results from seed predation studies found that small mammals may structure plant communities around the world, with an interesting twist – in deserts where seeds are relatively small, they suppress large-seeded plants, but in systems like tropical forests, where seed sizes are much larger, they tend to suppress relatively small seeded plant species.
A screenshot of the eDNAtlas Results Map for the Western United States.
Because of its advantages relative to traditional sampling techniques, environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling is being rapidly adopted to address questions about the distribution of species in streams across the United States. The eDNAtlas provides occurrence information for over 50 species from more than 12,000 samples and assists organizations in collecting more samples for specific areas and species. 
A lynx wearing a radio collar walking in snow.
Canada lynx depend on boreal and subalpine forests that have been structured by natural disturbances for millennia.  The management conundrum is how to salvage beetle-killed trees, while also conserving this iconic species.  We instrumented Canada lynx with GPS collars to learn how they used beetle-impacted forests.  Our research informed how to balance timber salvage with species conservation.
A suspected lynx has triggered this photo from a game camera in Montana (photo credit: Don Heffington).
A new project showed that animal footprints in snow contain enough DNA for species identification, even when the snow was many months old. The study extracted DNA from snow samples collected within animal tracks as well as areas where the animal had been photographed months earlier. Newly developed genetic assays were applied and positively detected the DNA of each species, performing nearly flawlessly on samples previously considered too poor...
Sheltered from wind and scorching heat, a seedling takes root in mature biological soil crust (photo by Neal Herbert, National Park Service).
Human activity has led to a global decline in biodiversity across all trophic levels, reducing the ability of ecosystems to maintain key functions. The loss of various species in an ecosystem has wide-reaching effects by reducing the numerous and often hidden species-species and species-environment interactions. These disruptions ultimately lead to changes and declines in the ecosystem’s functionality. 
A closeup shot of a lynx face
The management of Canada lynx habitat is an issue that has generated much debate and litigation across the Northern (Montana, Idaho) and Southern (Colorado, Wyoming) Rocky Mountains. This species depends almost exclusively on snowshoe hare for food during winter, and this prey species is sensitive to changes in forest composition and structure. Research conducted by scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station, in collaboration with...
National Genomics Center stream water filter setup for eDNA sample collection
The National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation pioneered development of eDNA sampling of aquatic environments at their laboratory in Missoula, MT. The Center has partnered with dozens of National Forests, as well as other state, federal, tribal, and private natural resource organizations to assist in the collection and processing of eDNA samples. Thousands of eDNA samples are collected annually and constitute a rapidly growing...

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