E-Noses Detect Disease in Plants, Animals & Humans

The fragrance of a rose comes from volatile organic compounds. Living plants, animals, humans, and even inanimate objects emit complex mixtures of VOCs. VOC mixtures are so distinctive that new words are used to describe them: volatilome, breathprint, and smellprint. “There are over 2,000 VOCs in a person’s breath,” says USDA Forest Service scientist Dan…  More 

SRS Contributes to Fourth National Climate Assessment

Long hours, lots of reading, and collaborating with fellow scientists around the world is some of what goes into overseeing a chapter for the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4). SRS senior research ecologist James Vose was a federal coordinating lead author and chapter lead for Chapter 6 – Forests of the NCA4. SRS senior economist…  More 

How I Joined the Wood-in-the-Water Choir

Not everyone knows from an early age what they want to do when they grow up. I did. Raised in a small coastal Maine town that was home base for marine and estuarine research and with an affinity for the outdoors, I knew I was destined to pursue a career in marine biology. Right out…  More 

Forest Birds & Forest Trees

For every stage of forest succession, there’s a bird species that needs it. But others are flexible, thriving in many types of forests. The blue-gray gnatcatcher, eastern wood-pewee, great crested flycatcher, summer tanager, and white-breasted nuthatch are all associated with mature forests. But a recent study suggests these birds are forest generalists rather than mature…  More 

Definitive New Book on Saproxylic Insects

Bark-feeders, fungus-feeders, wood-borers, and wood-nesting bees – all are saproxylic insects, which means they depend on dead or dying wood. The insects that prey on or parasitize them are also considered saproxylic. “About a third of all forest insect species are saproxylic,” says USDA Forest Service research entomologist Michael Ulyshen. Ulyshen recently edited a definitive…  More 

Fish Hosts for Freshwater Mussels

For a few brief weeks of a mussel’s life, it is a true parasite, taking from its host and giving nothing in return. “Some mussels live more than forty years,” says USDA Forest Service scientist Wendell Haag. Only the larvae, or glochidia, are parasitic. “The interesting thing about this host relationship is that different mussel…  More 

For Nesting Least Terns, Water Levels Matter

Least terns (Sternula antillarum) are small water birds that nest along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and some of their tributaries, as well as coastal areas in the U.S. Monitoring the species began after the U.S. interior population of least terns was federally listed as an endangered species in 1985. “In the Missouri River basin, least…  More 

Water Tables and Wetlands

Some wetlands won’t stay wet, according to new research that blends long-term observations and climate projections. “By end of the 21st century, all five of the wetland sites we studied are predicted to become much drier,” says USDA Forest Service research hydrologist Ge Sun. The five wetlands are long-term research sites located throughout the southeastern…  More 

Coastal Plain Fish Diversity and Introduced Small Wood

Coastal plain streams don’t always have swirling eddies or meandering bends. “They can look more like drainage ditches than natural streams,” says USDA Forest Service technician Ken Sterling. Agriculture, flood abatement, and residential development have all contributed to stream straightening in this region. The result? Streams incise and downcut, like a canyon. “These streams are…  More 

Reptiles and Amphibians Unharmed by Prescribed Fires in Early Growing Season

Amphibians and reptiles tend to be most active during the spring and summer, when it’s warmer. A recent USDA Forest Service study compared how herpetofauna respond to prescribed fires conducted during the growing season – when vegetation is actively growing – versus those in dormant season months. “Historically, prescribed burning has been limited to the…  More