Science Applications
Southwest Region

Advancing Science in the Southwest

The American conservation movement took root during the 20th century.  The investments we made to protect and sustain our natural assets are unsurpassed throughout the world.  The United States has grand networks of public lands and waters, special programs for wildlife-rich wetlands and waterways, a variety of pollution controls, unique sources of sustained conservation funding, and strong protections for imperiled wildlife.

But we realize conservation in the 21st century is much different.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is acting pragmatically to confront today’s environmental challenges.  We are ramping up our scientific expertise and approaches to accomplish our conservation mission in light of rapidly changing climate conditions, widespread landscape transformation, habitat fragmentation, and an onslaught of invasive species, among other challenges.  

Advancing science and technology helps us better forecast the impacts of environmental changes, proactively develop ways to resolve problems, and evaluate our efforts so that they can be continually refined for better results. 

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Science Applications program leads efforts to advance science in three main ways:  by expanding the availability of science and technology relevant to the conservation community, ensuring the quality of scientific information we use in decision-making, and continually building our capacity to integrate emerging science into our work.

Expanding Scientific Information and Technology

Photo of the landscape at Havasu NWR
Landscape at Havasu NWR

The Science Applications program helps identify and secure information—from both natural and social sciences—needed to further landscape-scale conservation. For example, when Landscape Conservation Cooperatives were established, one of the first steps partners took was to assess conservation science needs so that critical gaps could be filled. We do the same in support of our agency’s specific efforts relating to aquatic resources and migratory bird conservation, endangered species recovery, and national wildlife refuges.

We fund applied research to help fill those gaps. The Science Applications program in the Southwest has provided about $3.5 million for studies over the last three years. More than $3 million has been provided directly to Landscape Conservation Cooperatives to fund the partnerships’ highest science priorities. We leverage these resources to advance high-quality scientific research and multi-organizational, interdisciplinary, applied-science projects through our broad collaborative role with partners and the scientific community. Another $200,000 has supported the integration of Fish and Wildlife Service program science needs with those of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.

We help secure additional priority conservation science for our agency programs and partnerships through the Science Support Partnership Program with the U.S. Geological Survey. This partnership provides more than $4 million for critical research nationwide each year. For 2013, there were six new projects in the Southwest started with more than $200,000, including studies related to contaminant effects on Eurycea salamanders, whooping crane reproduction, and the impacts of energy development on lesser prairie-chicken. Several others are ongoing.

There are many other ways we expand the availability of science and technology relevant to the conservation community:

  • We communicate the needs of Fish and Wildlife Service programs and partnerships by coordinating with scientific agencies and organizations leading critical research efforts, such as Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers and the U.S. Geological Survey;
  • We expand beyond traditional wildlife knowledge, facilitating the integration of socioeconomic and cultural information, urban planning, and behavioral sciences into landscape-scale conservation planning and decision-making;
  • We promote the development and sharing of new and improved technology, tools, and processes needed for landscape-scale conservation, such as wildlife and habitat geospatial modeling;
  • We compile and synthesize scientific information and develop avenues to make this information accessible, such as workshops, webinars, and networking in academic circles; and
  • We cultivate communications networks that facilitate better sharing of scientific information, specialized knowledge, and expertise.

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Ensuring the Quality of Scientific Information

Photo of the Kofa mountains
The Kofa Mountains

All Federal Government agencies have a formal process in place to ensure the quality and credibility of scientific information used for policy decisions with potentially significant societal impacts.  For the Fish and Wildlife Service, these kinds of decisions often relate to the Endangered Species Act and comprehensive conservation planning for national wildlife refuges.

This quality assurance process, called “peer review,” taps professionals with demonstrated expertise and specialized knowledge related to a scientific area under consideration.  Independent peer reviewers evaluate information to ensure it is scientifically sound and objective.  They are selected from the academic and scientific community, Tribal Governments and other Native American groups, State and Federal agencies, and the private sector.

In the Southwest Region, we have identified for peer review the following decision documents shown in the table below.  Click on the title to get more information about each subject and how the peer review process will be conducted. 

For more information on the following policy decisions that will undergo a peer review process, contact: 
Michelle Shaughnessy, Assistant Regional Director for Ecological Services, 505.248.6920 

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Peer Review Plans
Posting Date Document Title
September 2014 Tucson Shovel-nosed Snake Peer Review Plan
September 2014 Warton Cave meshweaver Peer Review Plan
March 2014 Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout Peer Review Plan
June 2013 Mexican Wolf 10(j) Peer Review Plan
August 2013 Arizona Gartersnakes Peer Review Plan
August 2013 Jaguar Proposed Critical Habitat Peer Review Plan
Proposed rule. Comment period closed 9/13/2013. No final rule.
September 2013 Brazos River Shiners Peer Review Plan
September 2013 NM Meadow Jumping Mouse Peer Review Plan
Proposed rule. Comment period closed 8/19/2013 No final rule.
February 2013 Zuni Bluehead Sucker Peern Review Plan
Six Month extension 1/9/2014.
June 2011 Mount Graham red squirrel Draft Recovery Plan Peer Review Plan
Completion Date Document Title
September 2013 Gierisch Mallow Peer Review Plan
Final rule with peer review comments
September 2013 Texas Golden Gladecress and Neches River Rose-mallow Peer Review Plan
Final rule with peer review comments
September 2013 West Texas Invertebrates Peer Review Plan
Final rule with peer review comments
Febraury 2013 Gulf Coast Jaguarundi Peer Review Plan
Recovery plan
January 2013 Acuña Cactus, Fickeisen Plains Cactus and Lemmon Fleabane Peer Review Plan
Final rule with peer review comments
December 2012 Comal County Invertebrates Peer Review Plan
November 2012 Lesser Prairie-Chicken Peer Review Plan
October 2012 Jemez Mountains Salamander Peer Review Plan
August 2012 Four Texas Salamanders Peer Review Plan
June 2012 Thick-billed Parrot Peer Review Plan
December 2011 Mexican Spotted Owl Peer Review Plan
October 2011 Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Peer Review Plan
October 2011 Chiricahua Leopard Frog Peer Review Plan
September 2011 Chupadera Springsnail Peer Review Plan
July 2011 San Bernardino and Three Forks Springsnails Peer Review Plan
April 2011 Bexar County Invertebrates Peer Review Plan
February 2011 DSL Peer Review Plan
Click HERE to see submitted reviews.
December 2010 Spikedace and Loach Minnow Peer Review Plan
2-Sep-10 Draft Recovery Plan for the Ocelot, First Review
2009 Revised Recovery Plan for the Mexican Spotted Owl

Concho Watersnake Peer Review
Contacts for peer reviewers of proposed rule for delisting Concho water snake - June 2008

24-Sept-08 Piping Plover CH Peer Review
7-Sept-07 Determination to De-list the Brown Pelican

For more information on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s policies, processes, and guidelines related to ensuring the scientific integrity of information we use in decision-making, please visit the Fish & Wildlife Service Peer Review page.

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Integrating Emerging Science into our Work

Photo of Cabeza Prieta
Cabeza Prieta

The Science Applications Program does more than expand conservation science and technology and help ensure its quality. Another valuable role is making sure the best available science gets into the hands of those who need it, and that they are able to use it to make our collective conservation efforts even more effective. This role has become even more critical in light of the complexity of modern landscape ecology and the uncertainty of changing climate conditions.

Here are some of the important ways we help our colleagues in the Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation community apply science more effectively on-the-ground:

  • We coordinate within our agency, with partners, and with private landowners to help identify and address critical science capacity needs for landscape-scale conservation;
  • We set up interdisciplinary teams of scientists, natural resource managers, and others—many of whom have not formally worked together before—to bring different perspectives, expertise, and approaches to bear on environmental problems;
  • We build human networks nationally and internationally that increase development, sharing, learning, and application of new scientific information and methodologies across organizational boundaries; and
  • We encourage scientific information-sharing through our leadership in Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, networking in academic circles, and funding publication of key research in leading scientific journals.

For more information on the Science Applications program, please contact:
Dana Roth, Assistant Regional Director for Science Applications, 505.248.6928
or Annessa Culbreth, Executive Assistant, 505.248.6277

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How we are carrying out Strategic Habitat Conservation in the Southwest

Last updated: April 9, 2014