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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

The Building Blocks of Women Scientists

Sarah Inouye-Leas built in LEGO. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS. Taking a cue from toymaker LEGO, which recently introduced a Research Institute set featuring female scientists, folks in our Midwest Region dug out their LEGOs and created their own set of women scientists at the Service. Find new figures every day this week.

Biologists in Alabama Study Up for Bird Survey

Posting signs
Service biologist Matt Laschet and Kelly Reetz with Alabama Gulf State Park post educational bird signs on the beach. Credit: Dianne Ingram/USFWS

The Alabama Gulf Coast has always been an attractive destination for tourists and migratory birds alike, so the Service’s Alabama Ecological Services Field Office takes part in the annual North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS).  Although they are still compiling and analyzing the 2014 data, biologists learned a lot from last year’s survey.

In 2013, biologists conducted surveys on five 24.5-mile routes in Baldwin and Mobile counties with survey points every half-mile. More than 100 survey routes may eventually be completed annually in Alabama.


Firefighters Still Learning from Historic Fatality Fires

Service firefighters at Battlement Creek near Glenwood Springs, Colorado (from left to right): Jim Krizman,Neal Smith NWR; Iowa; Aaron Roper, Wichita Mountains NWR; Oklahoma; Bart Rye, St. Marks NWR, Florida; Andy Lopez, Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico; John Krueger, Texas Chenier Plain NWR, Texas; Andy Schell, Monte Vista NWR, Colorado; Reggie Forcine, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia; Justin Pyle, Klamath Basin NWR, California; Ted Mason, Fire Management Branch, Idaho; Geoff Wilson, Sheldon-Hart Mountain NWRC, Oregon; Russ Babiak, Fire Management Branch, Idaho; Ryan Sharpe, Merritt Island NWR, Florida.

Thirteen wildland firefighters, from 11 wildlife refuges in six regions and the Fire Management Branch headquarters office, came together over the summer for three days of field study near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, at the sites of two tragic wildfires to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the South Canyon Fire. 

They joined the South Canyon staff ride, May 19-20, sponsored by the interagency Rocky Mountain Training Center. The fire claimed the lives of 14 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and USDA Forest Service (USFS) firefighters on July 6, 1994, and has been the subject of numerous staff rides, a common on-the-ground learning tool for wildland firefighters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service group then conducted its own staff ride on May 21 at the nearby Battlement Creek Fire site, where three USFS firefighters and an air tanker pilot perished in July 1976.


Commitment to Environmental Justice Leads Service to Study Anacostia River Fishing

Group fishing at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park
Group fishing at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park. Photo by Kim Lambert/USFWS | MORE PHOTOS

Approximately 17,000 people, many African American or Hispanic, eat fish they catch out of the Anacostia River each year, and often share their fish with hungry people, according to a study commissioned by the Anacostia Watershed Society.  But the watershed contains toxic hotspots caused by pollution such as PCBs, PHAs, metals and other compounds for local facilities.

As part of its commitment to Environmental Justice, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with Anacostia Watershed Society, University of Maryland College Park and the Anacostia Community Museum to study the patterns of urban anglers (subsistence, recreational and cultural) and fish contaminants in the Anacostia River region. 


Open Spaces Comes Home

After a year-long visit to Tumblr, Open Spaces, the blog of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has returned to its home at fws.gov. We made some improvements to our blog, which we hope you like, and more are coming. 

We're Moving! But Not Saying Goodbye!

Hello, Open Spaces followers!

We're picking up and moving to Tumblr.

Please follow us on http://usfws.tumblr.com/ for the latest posts.

Meet the Species: Madtom

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

The peak flow of water in the Neosho River drainage in Kansas, occurs in June and July.  This is also the time that the federally protected Neosho madtoms (a fish) begin spawning.  That means that there are currently madtom eggs being fertilized in Kansas as we post this blog! 

madtomMadtom (Photo: USFWS)

Neosho madtoms are a federally threatened species in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. These catfish face habitat loss due to dam construction. They are also affected by deteriorating water quality due to zinc-lead mining, agricultural runoff, and increased urbanization and industrialization.  These small catfish only grow to be about 3 inches long and  are only found in 4 locations. Not only are they scarce due to small populations, but they are bottom-dwelling night feeders, so they are a hard fish to spot anyways.      


Seabirds Warn of Ocean Change

What can 30 years of research and monitoring on Maine seabirds teach us? That the marine environment is changing fast. That ocean birds may be failing to adapt. That the scope of few marine threats – from ocean warming and offshore energy development to competition from commercial fisheries - could have been foreseen when Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge staff began studying the birds in the early ‘80s.

The refuge, made up of more than 50 islands in the Gulf of Maine, uses data from research and monitoring to manage Maine seabird colonies and try to stem the birds’ decline.

tern_arcticArctic tern. (Photo: USFWS)

Consider the Arctic tern. Its 36,000-plus mile-per-year migration from its wintering grounds in Antarctica to its Maine breeding grounds is the world’s longest; the little bird makes the equivalent of three round trips to the moon in its 30-year lifetime. Small light-sensing units called geolocators have been used to document the distance flown. But over the last five years, counts of Arctic terns in Maine have dropped by 42 percent, from 4,224 pairs in 2008 to 2,467 pairs in 2012. “There are fewer pairs of Arctic terns breeding in the Gulf of Maine, and those terns that do breed are producing fewer chicks. They’re doing very poorly,” says refuge biologist Linda Welch.


Duck Stamp Scavenger Hunt!

By Rachel F. Levin, USFWS

On June 28, the 80th Federal Duck Stamp will go on sale. For those who don’t know what a Duck Stamp is, the best way to sum it up is that it is a powerful conservation tool packed into a 1 ¼” by 1 ¾” stamp. When you buy a $15 Duck Stamp, 98 percent of your money goes directly toward wildlife habitat conservation.

The 2013 Federal Duck Stamp. Robert Steiner, an artist from San Francisco, Calif., is the winner of the 2012 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest. 

Sales of the Duck Stamp to hunters, collectors, conservationists and birders have raised more than $800 million to acquire more than 6 million acres of wildlife habitat on our national wildlife refuges. On the whole, the conservation achievement of the Federal Duck Stamp Program is impressive.


The Lone Arranger: What It Takes to be an Archivist

What does it take to be an archivest? One volunteer shares her tale this week.

By Emily Venemon

I never thought I would end up working for an organization like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, let alone being allowed to travel to places like Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Talk about a change of scenery! I spent my first week on Midway Atoll NWR feeling like I was in a strange (but pleasant!) dream. The sheer volume of and accessibility to wildlife there is overwhelmingly amazing. It is beautiful, but also heartbreaking. Life and death are equally visible.

emily_beachEmily on the beach. (Photo: USFWS)

One day a volunteer pointed out to me an adorable Red-tailed tropicbird chick tucked up underneath its parent. A few minutes later she showed me a Laysan duck that had died of avian botulism. I loved watching the albatross chicks flap their wings; I wanted all of them to grow up healthy and fly out to sea. Every day I saw birds that had died of dehydration, plastic ingestion, and other maladies, however. On Midway Atoll NWR, the struggle for life in the face of natural and man-made adversities is present in a way I have never seen anywhere else.


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