In 2002 we published Rocky Mountain Futures, an Ecological Perspective (Island Press) to examine the cumulative ecological effects of human activity in the Rocky Mountains. We concluded that multiple local activities concerning land use, hydrologic manipulation, and resource extraction have altered ecosystems, although there were examples where the “tyranny of small decisions” worked in a positive way toward more sustainable coupled human/environment interactions. Superimposed on local change was climate change, atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and other pollutants, regional population growth, and some national management policies such as fire suppression.
Fort Collins Science Center, Policy Analysis and Science Assistance Branch
The Fort Collins Science Center’s Policy Analysis and Science Assistance (PASA) Branch is a team of approximately 22 scientists, technicians, and graduate student researchers. PASA provides unique capabilities in the U.S. Geological Survey by leading projects that integrate social, behavioral, economic, and biological analyses in the context of human–natural resource interactions. Resource planners, managers, and policymakers in the U.S. Departments of the Interior (DOI) and Agriculture (USDA), State and local agencies, and international agencies use information from PASA studies to make informed natural-resource management and policy decisions. PASA scientists’ primary functions are to conduct both theoretical and applied social science research, provide technical assistance, and offer training to advance performance in policy-relevant research areas. Management and research issues associated with human-resource interactions typically occur in a unique context, involve difficult-to-access populations, require knowledge of both natural and biological science in addition to social science, and require the skill to integrate multiple science disciplines. In response to these difficult contexts, PASA researchers apply traditional and state-of-the-art social science methods drawing from the fields of sociology, demography, economics, political science, communications, social psychology, and applied industrial organization psychology. These social science methods work in concert with our rangeland/ agricultural management, wildlife, ecology, and biology capabilities. The goal of PASA’s research is to enhance natural-resource management, agency functions, policies, and decisionmaking. Our research is organized into four broad areas of study.
Fort Collins Science Center–Policy Analysis and Science Assistance Branch–Integrating social, behavioral, economic and biological sciences
The Fort Collins Science Center’s Policy Analysis and Science Assistance (PASA) Branch is a team of approximately 22 scientists, technicians, and graduate student researchers. PASA provides unique capabilities in the U.S. Geological Survey by leading projects that integrate social, behavioral, economic, and biological analyses in the context of human-natural resource interactions. Resource planners, managers, and policymakers in the U.S. Departments of the Interior (DOI) and Agriculture (USDA), State and local agencies, as well as international agencies use information from PASA studies to make informed natural resource management and policy decisions. PASA scientists’ primary functions are to conduct both theoretical and applied social science research, provide technical assistance, and offer training to advance performance in policy relevant research areas...
Advances in species-environmental mapping modeling
Stohlgren, T.J., C.S. Jarnevich, S. Kumar, and J.T. Morisette
Ecological Investigations of White-Nose Syndrome in Bats
White Nose Syndrome
A bat cluster in a cave
A bat infected with white nose syndrome
White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) is a devastating disease that threatens the survival of hibernating bats in North America. Since first documented in the winter of 2005/2006, WNS has spread from a very small area of New York across at least two thousand kilometers in 25 states and 4 Canadian provinces. Over five million bats are estimated to have died during the past 7 winters after contact with WNS, and all four federally listed endangered species and subspecies of hibernating cave bats are in harm’s way. The sudden and widespread mortality associated with WNS is completely unprecedented in hibernating bats and it is not anticipated that their populations will recover quickly, if at all.
An additional 19 species of hibernating cave bats occur in the United States and, considering available information, all are potentially susceptible. WNS is named for the ubiquitous presence of a newly identified species of cold-loving fungus (Pseudogynmnoascus destructans) that is capable of penetrating and infecting the skin and wing membranes of bats during hibernation. It is critical that research efforts directed toward WNS incorporate the expertise of scientists familiar with the ecology of bats and hibernation physiology.
There are three primary objectives to this project as follows: continue to help coordinate research efforts directed toward white-nose syndrome at a national level and provide technical support on aspects of bat ecology to USGS researchers and others in the scientific and resource management community; assess the possible behavioral mechanisms by which skin infection from the causative fungus specifically acts to cause bat mortality; assess the possible physiological mechanisms by which skin infection from the causative fungus specifically acts to cause bat mortality.
There is now strong evidence that the fungus Pseudogynmnoascus destructans is an exotic/invasive species experiencing ecological release in new ecosystems. Based on recently completed and ongoing studies at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center and other laboratories, the cold-loving fungus is now considered the primary causative agent of WNS. However, the disease etiology is unusual because it likely involves the fungus causing aberrant behaviors or disruptions in the unique physiology of wintering bats, rather than typical pathological effects, such as organ failure. Collaboration between USGS disease specialists and bat ecologists is helping bridge gaps in understanding that allow us to rapidly make progress in better addressing this unprecedented disease. The novel video surveillance systems developed by USGS researchers and their partners for deployment in bat hibernation sites are functioning well over entire winters and allowing new types of data to be collected. Video data resulting from this work are beginning to reveal the previously undocumented behaviors of hibernating bats and are offering insight into how fungal infection changes hibernation behaviors in several species affected by WNS. Distributional modeling of WNS mortality framed new hypotheses of disease etiology that can now be tested through additional studies. Physiological studies have documented electrolyte depletion in WNS bats and led to support of the USGS-formulated hypothesis that dehydration plays a major role in the susceptibility of bats to P. destructans. Ongoing mathematical modeling is revealing that humidity of bat hibernacula likely has a major influence on the susceptibility of certain species and may possibly explain why European bats are less susceptible to fungal infection.