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A Talk on the Wild Side.

New Service Voices: Social Media at the Upper Miss Refuge

Cortney White

Cortney White, 
Park Ranger, Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge

Today we’re continuing our series "New Service Voices" with guest blogger Cortney White.  Cortney has been with the service since 2009 at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, first as a clerk, now as a Park Ranger in the Student Career Employment Program (SCEP).  Cortney completed her B.A. in Public Relations from Winona State University in 2010 and is finishing her M.S. in Outdoor Education.  She has concentrated her work at WSU on how to promote positive environmental attitudes in young children.

When I started working with the Service, my job description as a clerk at the Upper Miss Refuge included helping the new refuge Friends group start using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. When I learned I would be able to communicate the mission of conservation using social media I was excited to help display the refuge in a new spotlight.

At that time social media was new to the Service, and providing a resource for the Friends group to advertise the refuge online helped expand the refuge to a new audience. Like many organizations, the refuge traditionally depended on print or television media to promote a refuge story and communicate to viewers.  Social media however, allows the refuge the ability to communicate directly with those interested in its mission.

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140 Years of Conservation: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fisheries Program

If you’re a fan of ours on Facebook, you may have noticed links to our fisheries podcast over the past few weeks.  The series, consisting of nine interviews, is designed to highlight different hot topics throughout the country.  Right now we’re in our sixth week, so we have three more podcasts to go.

How much do you know about the program, why it was started, or what it’s all about?

Well, this is the Fisheries 140th year.  In 1871, the U.S. Department of State encouraged the establishment of the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries.  There was a growing concern over the decline in the Nation’s fishery resources, a lack of information about the status of the Nation’s fisheries, and a need to define and protect fishing rights in the United States. 

Today, our Fisheries Program plays an important role in conserving America’s fisheries.   We work with key partners from States, Tribes, federal agencies, other Fish and Wildlife Service programs, and private interests in a larger effort to conserve fish and other aquatic resources.

Bull Trout

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Washington: Tide Returns to Nisqually Estuary

Many bird species resting at a wetland

This project is a model of how estuary restoration can happen while providing a mosaic of diverse habitats for fish and migratory birds, quality public access, and education. Photo: Jesse Barham, USFWS. Download.

Photo iconPhotos: Nisqually Restoration and Boardwalk Projects on Flickr

Video iconVideo: Rivers and Tides: Restoring the Nisqually Estuary

River delta restoration projects are considered crucial to provide increased resiliency to large estuary systems – a key tool for adaptation in the face of climate change and related impacts of sea level rise. The Nisqually estuary in Washington State is a shining example.

After a century of diking off tidal flow, the Brown Farm Dike was removed in October 2009, allowing tidal waters to once again inundate 762 acres of the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge near Olympia, Washington. Along with 140 acres of tidal wetlands restored by the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Nisqually Delta represents the largest tidal marsh restoration project in the Pacific Northwest to assist in recovery of Puget Sound salmon and wildlife populations.

During the past decade, the refuge and close partners, including the Tribe and Ducks Unlimited, have restored more than 22 miles of the historic tidal slough systems and re-connected historic floodplains to the Puget Sound in Washington State, providing the potential to increase salt marsh habitat in the southern reach of Puget Sound by more than 50 percent. The projects have also initiated the restoration of more than 70 acres of riparian surge plain forest, an extremely depleted type of tidal forest important for juvenile salmon and songbirds.

“The project is an important step in the recovery of Puget Sound,” says Refuge Manager Jean Takekawa. “Combined with the 140 acres previously restored by the Nisqually Indian Tribe, more than 900 acres of the Nisqually estuary have been restored.”

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Michigan: Nesting Behavior May Provide Clues to Climate Change Effects in Bald Eagles

A bald eagle sits in a tree high in the sky

Bald eagles have overcome many challenges to their sustainability as a population. Service biologists are studying climate change effects on Michigan’s eagles.  Photo: Tim Kaufman.

Photo iconPhotos: Bald Eagle Banding in Michigan on Flickr

More than a half century of research has shown that bald eagles along Michigan’s shorelines and rivers are gradually beginning to nest earlier each season -- a potential indication of this iconic species’ response to changes in climate in the upper Midwest.

Bald eagles have overcome many challenges to the sustainability of their populations -- from loss of habitat to contamination of their food sources by pesticides and environmental contaminants.

National legislation banning the use of contaminants such as DDT and PCBs, coupled with habitat restoration in key portions of the eagle’s range, has resulted in a comeback for this beautiful raptor. More than 750 bald eagle pairs today fly the skies of Michigan, up from only 50 to 60 breeding pairs just half a century ago.

In 1961, University of Michigan graduate student Sergej Postupalsky began documenting bald historic and current eagle nesting sites and collecting banding data for the existing population in Michigan. Today, eagle research in Michigan spans state and federal agencies and academic institutions.

The result is more than 40 years of data on nesting, behavior, productivity, survival and overall population dynamics for bald eagles.  It is safe to say the bald eagles of Michigan are among the most documented and well-monitored birds in North America.

More recently, Dave Best, fish and wildlife biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) East Lansing Ecological Services Field Office, and Bill Bowerman, from the University of Maryland, have been studying bald eagles as indicators of water quality in the Great Lakes watershed of Michigan.  The two have seen a trend in coastal bald eagle nesting patterns that may point to the effects of the changing climate. 

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Utah: Managing Water Resources for Fish, Wildlife and People

A man holding a big fish

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Bobby Duran holds the fourth largest endangered Colorado pikeminnow captured in the San Juan River since 1991. In the face of a warming climate and persistent drought, partners are working to recover endangered fish like the Colorado pikeminnow while effectively managing water for human uses in Utah and other Upper Colorado River basin states. Photo: Upper Colorado and San Juan Recovery Programs. Download.

Play iconPodcast: Accompanying podcast from our Endangered Species Program

In the face of a warming climate and persistent drought, people and wildlife along the Colorado River and its tributaries in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming are benefiting from cooperative efforts to recover four species of endangered fishes while effectively managing water for human uses and hydroelectric power generation.

The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, established in 1988, covers the Colorado River above Glen Canyon dam in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program was established in 1992 to recover the fish in the San Juan River in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.  The partners are state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as environmental groups, water users and power customers, and in the San Juan River, American Indian Tribes. 

These partnerships are recovering endangered Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker while water development proceeds in accordance with federal and state laws and interstate compacts. The Upper Colorado Program is also working to recover humpback chub and bonytail.

When the endangered fish recovery programs were established, says Upper Colorado Program Assistant Director Angela Kantola, chronic drought conditions in the west raised concerns that altered river flows might result in completely dry river sections in some years.

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Tennessee: Joint Venture Strives to Determine the Effects of Climate Change on Brook Trout

An adult trout lying on a rock
Adult Brook Trout. These fish, known for their distinct coloring, face fragmented populations, habitat loss, invasive species, degraded streams, longer droughts, more intense wet periods, and temperature changes. Photo: USFWS. Download.

In his book, Shin Deep, Chris Hunt writes about why many fly fishermen pursue brook trout.  

“Its deep colors seem to provide a beacon of light in the near darkness of the evening, almost like a neon beer sign in a dank, dark, but wonderfully familiar tavern.” 

“You can’t help but stare at it.”

This hypnotic appeal draws fly fishermen like Robert Ramsay to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to chase brook trout holed up in cold mountain streams, like the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River that runs along the park’s Chimney Tops trail. “It’s like going back in time when you chase these brook trout in remote, higher elevation streams,” says Ramsay, who works for the Georgia Conservancy and has fly-fished on four continents. “I have a hard time thinking about the Smoky Mountains without brook trout in their streams.

Preventing this scenario is precisely why a growing number of partners are collaborating through the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture to determine how accelerating climate change and other challenges will impact Southern Appalachian brook trout populations in Tennessee and other states, and what biologists can do to protect the iconic fish.

In collaboration with many conservation organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed and released an ambitious strategy for responding to accelerating climate change and addressing its impact on critters like brook trout. The Service and joint venture are working on a climate change monitoring program, targeting 400 sites aimed at taking a closer look at how air and water temperatures impact brook trout.

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Oklahoma: Warmer Streams Could Add to Stresses on Rare Water Species

Four fat mucket mussels sit in the palm of a hand

A researcher displays juvenile freshwater fat mucket mussels that will be used as stand-ins for rarer species in studies on water temperature tolerance. Study data will help researchers assess how vulnerable rare Oklahoma aquatic species will be to potential warming tied to climate change. Photo: David Martinez, USFWS. Download.

Several rare and distinctively-named creatures depend for survival on the cool, mountain-fed Little and Kiamichi River Basins in southeastern Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas. At Little River National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas, the Ouachita rock pocketbook — a freshwater mussel — filters the water alongside two other endangered mussels, the scaleshell and winged mapleleaf. A small federally threatened fish called the leopard darter also hides in these upland streams.

Because streams in these river basins originate in the Ouachita Mountains, their water is relatively cool compared to streams in other ecosystems such as the Great Plains. High temperatures range from about 64 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to 84 degrees in summer — a range that suits popular game fish such as smallmouth bass.

But threats abound. Water pollution, agriculture runoff and the construction of dams and reservoirs have already shrunken habitat for these rare aquatic species. A historic drought is compounding the problem. And now, biologists speculate the fish and mussels could face another potential stressor: rising stream temperatures resulting from climate change, if projections by an intergovernmental panel prove accurate. 

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Mississippi: A Terrapin's View of Climate Change

Terrapin in profile

The Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is researching the diamondback terrapin turtle, whose habitat is likely to be inundated as the sea rises. Photo by Christina Mohrmann/Grand Bay NERR.

Photo iconPhotos: Terrapin photos on Flickr

The 10,216-acre Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge is under threat from the very thing that gives it life – the Gulf of Mexico and its changing sea levels.

The refuge rests in a low-lying coastal area across state lines between Biloxi, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama. Savannas cover the flatlands while bayous, marshes, and islands sprawl along the shoreline. Ospreys outnumber people.

The refuge is just inches above sea level. So is the adjoining Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, an 18,400-acre area funded by NOAA and administered by the State of Mississippi to promote estuarine research and education within the coastal zone.

It’s the home of the Mississippi diamondback terrapin, a feisty little water turtle that is slowly disappearing thanks to over-harvesting and habitat loss. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the terrapin as a species of concern, a sort of watch list for species in decline. 

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California: Incorporating Climate Change into Planning California’s Bay-Delta Future

A duck cleaning its feathers on water

A Northern Pintail. This dabbling duck can be found in much of the Northern Hemisphere, including the San Joaquin Bay-Delta, although in considerably lower numbers than in the past. Credit: Dan Cox, USFWS. Download.

Camera iconMore Photos: San Francisco Bay-Delta on Flickr

As federal, state and local experts continue to examine the factors contributing to the recent decline of California’s Bay-Delta ecosystem, the effects of climate change have surged to the forefront of study.

The Bay-Delta (Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta-San Francisco Bay Estuary) is considered one of the most vital estuary ecosystems in the U.S. The Delta is at the crossroads of federal and state operated delivery systems that transport water from Northern California to agricultural and urban water users to the south.  It’s a source of drinking water for approximately 22 million people while supporting an approximate $30 billion agricultural industry. The Delta and its watersheds also support several threatened and endangered species, and a popular recreational and commercial fishing industry.

But the Bay-Delta is in the throes of a well-chronicled crisis. Four recent years of below average precipitation have hammered this fragile ecosystem, contributing to the puzzling decline of the Delta fishery and the collapse of California's salmon fishing industry. The combination of decreased water supplies (from the drought), and seasonal water restrictions to protect the threatened delta smelt, endangered Chinook salmon and other species, has created a volatile political situation.

A scenic view of trees and water
Credit: Steve Culberson, USFWS.

Climate change, barely mentioned a decade ago, is now considered a major factor in the Delta planning picture. The rise in sea level, temperature, and changes in the timing of rainfall and snowmelt– all considered effects of climate change – are altering the landscape.

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Idaho: Streamflow Responses to Climate Change - Why Elevation and Geology Matter

A gorgeous view of a flowing, rocky creek surrounded by tall evergreens
Adaptation iconLocation: Pacific Northwest  
Climate Change Impact: Streamflow response changes 

 

Engagement icon

The Opal Creek Valley, in the Willamette National Forest, contains 50 waterfalls, five lakes, and 36 miles of hiking trails. It forms the largest intact stand of Old growth forest in the western Cascades and 500-1000 year old trees are common. The most abundant trees are Douglas-fir, Western Redcedar, and Western Hemlock. Credit: David Patte/USFWS.

The waterways of the Pacific Northwest run deep. They unify the region that includes Idaho, Oregon and Washington by connecting the glaciers of its high volcanoes to its fertile valleys to the Pacific Ocean. Water coursing through streams and rivers is the lifeblood critical to urban and agricultural uses and to the vitality of aquatic ecosystems. Many iconic fish species in Idaho and the region such as salmon, steelhead, Pacific lamprey, bull trout and other native trout species, depend upon cool and plentiful stream flows to survive. But climate change is causing many stream flows to respond differently than they have in the past.

A changing climate is already bringing warmer air temperatures, an increasing proportion of winter precipitation falling as rain, earlier snowmelt and reduced spring snow pack. These changes all manifest in stream flow responses with decreased base flows, rising summer water temperatures, and more frequent winter flooding from rain-on-snow events.

Several bull trout up close underwater
Bull trout were listed as threatened in June 1998. Critical habitat was designated in 2005. A recovery plan was drafted in 2005 and has not been finalized. In January 2010, the USFWS proposed a revision of critical habitat. Credit: USFWS.

“The complex work of conserving and recovering fish populations in the Pacific Northwest has grown substantially more challenging in light of our changing climate – this has become increasingly clear in the last several years with recent scientific assessments and projections,” said Dan Shively, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Regional Fish Passage and Habitat Partnerships Coordinator.  “Robust and diverse fish communities require healthy watersheds and habitat; or more simply put, an abundance of cool, clean water.”

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