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 

A Hemlock in the Town Square

This summer, I joined USDA Forest Service scientist Andy Whittier for a day of field work as a part of my internship with SRS Public Affairs and Science Communications. We traveled to Green Mountain, NC to check up on an experiment led by research entomologist Bud Mayfield on hemlock trees. Throughout the eastern U.S., the invasive…  More 

Trees in Protected Areas

Conservation goals range anywhere from aesthetics to survival. Among the most important of those is ensuring that an ecosystem is resilient to disturbances and provides as many different functions as possible. According to an assessment by a USDA Forest Service cooperating researcher, those qualities can be quantified using two metrics: rarity and evolutionary distinctiveness. Rarity…  More 

Family Forests Are the Ties That Bind the Landscape

Family forests have an enormous capacity to provide ecosystem services such as clean air and water, timber and nontimber forest products, wildlife habitat, and scenic beauty and recreation — benefits that stretch far beyond property lines. According to USDA Forest Service research, sustaining these services depends on not only the condition of individual family forests…  More 

The State of the Nation’s Forests

Forests are constantly changing with weather, disturbance, and conversion to other land uses, but how do we know if year-to-year changes are just a one-off or part of a larger shift? Annual summaries of forest health are key to our understanding, say the editors and authors that produced Forest Health Monitoring: National Status, Trends, and…  More 

Very Crafty Caterpillars

Butterflies are the charismatic megafauna of the insect world. Who doesn’t admire the stripes on an Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), the eye spots on the Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus), or the amazing journey of the Monarch (Danaus plexippus), flying from Canada to Mexico to return to a place only known to its great-grandparents? Their…  More 

How Cold Is Too Cold for Redbay Ambrosia Beetles?

Nonnative redbay ambrosia beetles and the fungus they carry have killed hundreds of millions of trees in the Southeast since first detected in 2002. Currently, only cold temperatures limit the beetles’ establishment and spread in the eastern United States. A study led by Mississippi State University involving U.S. Forest Service researchers determined the coldest temperatures…  More 

Do Roads Drive Forest Plant Invasions?

Roads provide a means for moving people and products, but they can also allow hitchhiking organisms to spread. Some exotic invasive plants thrive on the disturbance created by road construction that displaces native plants. However, a new study led by Kurt Riitters, U.S. Forest Service research ecologist with the SRS Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, found…  More 

Invasive Earthworms in the Food Web

Imagine walking through a forest, with leaves crunching beneath your feet. Underneath those crunchy leaves is a complex ecological realm. “Soil is teeming with life,” says U.S. Forest Service research ecologist Mac Callaham. “Most people don’t think about it because they don’t see the soil fauna.” Soil fauna includes centipedes, millipedes, springtails, nematodes, insect larvae,…  More 

National Fish & Aquatic Strategy

The U.S. Forest Service recently completed an updated national fish and aquatic strategy titled Rise to the Future: National Fish and Aquatic Strategy. This plan builds on three decades of success and lessons learned from the original Rise to the Future Fisheries Strategy in 1987. Why does the Forest Service need an updated national fish…  More