Trust Species & Habitats
The Fort Collins Science Center’s (FORT) Trust Species and Habitats (TSH) Branch is an interdisciplinary team of talented wildlife and research biologists, geneticists, ecologists, and statisticians. The primary mission of the Trust Species and Habitats Branch is to conduct basic and applied research on vertebrate populations, communities, and their habitats, with a focus on ecologically or politically sensitive populations. Investigations promote conservation, management, and restoration of vertebrate populations, habitats, and ecosystem function.
Ecosystem changes directly affect a wide variety of plant and animal species, floral and faunal communities, and groups of species such as amphibians and grassland birds. Appropriate management of public lands plays a crucial role in the conservation and recovery of endangered species and can be a key element in preventing a species from being listed under the Endangered Species Act.
FORT scientists in the TSH Branch research and provide technical assistance on the ecology, habitat requirements, distribution, and abundance of trust species, including inventory and monitoring, development of reintroduction and restoration techniques, modifying or developing new statistical methods for data analyses, and utilizing technologies such as molecular genetics and stable isotopes to address a wide range of ecological questions.
When presented with the challenge of identifying sparrows and other grassland birds in the field, especially in winter, even experienced birders refer to these skulking phantoms as LBJs (or "little brown jobs"). But because the populations of many of these species are showing declines, understanding their distributions and habitat needs is crucial for conservation planning.
Since 1999, research ecologist Dr. Janet Ruth of the U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center, has been studying semidesert and Plains grasslands in southeastern Arizona to learn more about the birds that rely on these habitats.
"Identification is particularly challenging in the winter when these birds are cryptically colored, are not singing, and typically respond to disturbances by hiding...