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Posts tagged: Rocky Mountain Research Station

Conserving Monarch Butterflies and their Habitats

A monarch butterfly on flowers

Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed species. Photo credit: Bugwood.org

With more than 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants relying on pollinators, their importance to natural ecosystems and agriculture cannot be overstated. However, populations of pollinators, including bird, bat, butterfly, beetle and bee species, have been declining around the world. Recognizing the importance of pollinators, Secretary Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proclaimed June 15 to 21, 2015 as National Pollinator Week.

To celebrate Pollinator Week, we are sharing some of the Forest Service’s work to conserve one iconic pollinator species and its habitat – the Monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies complete incredible migrations of hundreds to thousands of miles each year across North America. Along their migratory paths, Monarchs rely on habitats that contain milkweed species, which is the only plant that they lay their eggs on. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed, which contains chemical compounds that make them poisonous to potential predators. Read more »

Managing for Wildfires Every Single Day of the Year

Research Forester Mike Battaglia leading a field tour at the Manitou Experimental Forest

Research Forester Mike Battaglia leads a field tour at the Manitou Experimental Forest, in Colorado, describing research aimed at understanding how different tree densities influence growth rates and subsequent re-entry, in order to maintain longevity of restoration treatments. Photo credit: US Forest Service

On June 9, 2012, a lightning strike sparked a wildfire in the mountains west of Fort Collins, Colorado, burning into the Roosevelt National Forest. The High Park fire burned over 87,000 acres and remains the third largest fire in recorded Colorado history, with more than 250 homes destroyed.

Matt Champa, assistant prescribed fire specialist with the Canyon Lakes Ranger District of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, remembers clearly the two and a half weeks the High Park Fire burned. Matt was among the individuals actively working on the ground to suppress and contain the fire; at its height, more than 2,000 people were involved in the suppression effort. Read more »

Going to Great Heights for Data and Atmospheric Monitoring

Carita Chan was excited to get to ride in a Sno-Cat for the first time. U.S. Forest Service photo.

Carita Chan was excited to get to ride in a Sno-Cat for the first time. U.S. Forest Service photo.

What lengths would you go to for the pursuit of science?

That’s a question I asked myself when I had the opportunity to participate in data collection at the Glacier Lakes Ecosystem Experiments Site with John Frank and John Korfmacher, Electronics Engineer and Physical Scientist respectively, at the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station.

The Glacier Lakes Ecosystem Experiments Site, or GLEES, is located in the Snowy Range of the Medicine Bow Mountains, within the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming. The remote site’s 600 hectares (1,480 acres) are composed of a watershed located in mountainous terrain at 3,200 to 3,500 m (10,500 to 11,500 ft.) elevation. Read more »

Cold Water Can be Used as a Climate Shield to Protect Native Aquatic Species

Maps showing the study area and locations of stream temperature data that were contributed by hundreds of people working for more than 80 natural resource agencies to develop high-resolution stream temperature scenarios that encompass 450,000 kilometers of stream. (Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station)

Maps showing the study area and locations of stream temperature data that were contributed by hundreds of people working for more than 80 natural resource agencies to develop high-resolution stream temperature scenarios that encompass 450,000 kilometers of stream. (Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station)

Climate change and species invasions raise fears that iconic cold-water species like trout, salmon, and char could be extirpated from most of their ranges this century.

A new study by researchers at the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station published in Global Change Biology shows that high-resolution stream temperature scenarios can be used to forecast which streams will serve as climate refuges for native cutthroat and bull trout later this century and that many streams are forecast to be too cold to be invaded by non-native species. Read more »

Cutting Edge Genetics Research for Wildlife and Fish Conservation

Kellie Carim, eDNA coordinator for the Genomics Center, collects and processes samples. (Photos by Michael Schwartz (left) and Katie Zarn, U.S. Forest Service)

Kellie Carim, eDNA coordinator for the Genomics Center, collects and processes samples. (Photos by Michael Schwartz (left) and Katie Zarn, U.S. Forest Service)

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research profile.

The U.S. Forest Service has a long history as a leader in conservation genetics, and this recently took an exciting step forward with the launch of the National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation.

The Forest Service’s wildlife genetics lab, which has been central to the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s conservation genetics program since 1998, has been reorganized and renamed to better reflect the scope of its work nationwide. The Center is a leading edge facility for advanced genomics research, nationally recognized, and works extensively with states, tribes, universities and private groups to address the management issues of over 60 fish and wildlife species. Read more »

Scientists Discover New Fish Species in the Upper Columbia River Basin

Cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). (Emily Harrington/E.H. Illustration)

Cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). (Emily Harrington/E.H. Illustration)

U.S. Forest Service scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Mont., have identified a new species of fish—the cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). Although thousands of new species are described by scientists each year, only a small percentage of them are animal species, and even fewer are found in the United States, underscoring the importance of this discovery.

Freshwater sculpins, with their characteristic large heads and fins, are bottom dwellers that can be found in cold, fast-moving streams throughout North America. Biologists have long suspected that there were undescribed species of sculpins in the Upper Columbia River Basin, but lacked the tools to recognize them. Cedar sculpin populations were previously thought to be shorthead sculpin (Cottus confusus), an understandable misidentification given that sculpins are notoriously difficult to identify based on their physical features. Read more »