Egret, by Kathleen Carlyle
Welcome Show All Science Tools and Data Restoration Monitoring Water Resources

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THE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE SYSTEM'S NATURAL RESOURCE PROGRAM

Over the past 10 years, the Midwest Region's NWRS staff have worked together to develop conservation plans and strengthen our evidence-based restoration and management activities. As we complete our planning phase and move towards implementation, it is time to take stock of what we have accomplished and consider how we can continue to use science to advance future resource restoration and management.

Author(s): P. Heglund. Last Updated: 1/18/2017

We all want our work to matter; we want it to ultimately benefit the ecosystems in our care. We want to leave a legacy. For a NWRS biologist, a well-documented survey, that produces scientifically-defensible information and informs key decisions is a legacy to be proud of.

Author(s): M. Knutson. Last Updated: 1/18/2017

REGIONAL EVALUATION OF NETWORK EFFECTIVENESS, PARTICIPATION, AND FUNCTIONALITY

In 2006, the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) in the Midwest Region developed four ecologically based biology networks to facilitate communication, foster mutual support, and provide forums for biological issues. In 2014, the DNRCP conducted an evaluation of the networks to better understand member-network participation and determine if adjustments were needed.

Author(s): Author: E. Dunton, K. Mangan, C. Smith, and P. Heglund. Last Updated: 1/18/2017.

SHARING AN UNDERSTANDING OF FLOODPLAIN ECOLOGY AND LARGE RIVER SYSTEMS

The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers are two of the world's largest river systems on par with the Nile, Amazon and Yangtze Rivers. But both rivers, along with most of their associated tributaries, have been hydrologically modified by a series of locks and dams. Restoration and management of habitats within dynamic systems like rivers can be extremely challenging. The Big Rivers Network provides biologists and managers along the river a way to join forces and learn from one another.

Author(s): R. King. Last Updated: 1/11/2017

RECREATING AND PROTECTING TWO OF THE MOST IMPERILED ECOSYSTEMS ON THE PLANET

The Prairie Network is the largest of the four ecological networks in the Midwest Region, spanning in width from Iowa to Indiana and running its length from Minnesota to Missouri. It is the largest Network, and also has the least original habitat left intact.

Author(s): R. King. Last Updated: 1/11/2017

WORKING TOGETHER TO RESTORE HABITAT AND SUPPORT WILDLIFE

The Eastern Broadleaf Forest Biology Network (EBFN) is small, but effective. Over the past 10 years, network members have engaged in several projects that demonstrate their ability to tackle the challenges of restoring ecological function in highly modified systems through cooperative learning and partnerships.

Author(s): B. Walker, J. Booker, P. Heglund. Last Updated: 1/4/2017

BRINGING BIOLOGISTS ACROSS FOUR STATES TOGETHER

The Laurentian Mixed Forest/Great Lakes Coastal Biological Network includes field stations that share land stewardship challenges. The network provides a forum for the field biologists, including those in the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, and refuge managers in the Laurentian Mixed Forest/Great Lakes Coastal Ecoregion to share valuable biological information.

Author(s): J. Booker, Last Updated: 1/4/2017

In 2006, the Midwest Region's National Wildlife Refuge System held a Biological Workshop that provided a path for improving the System's Biological Program. Ten years have passed since the biological networks were established and with a new upcoming biological workshop, a reflection on the networks is now due.

Author(s): R. King, Last Updated: 1/4/2017

MIDWEST REGION BIOLOGICAL NETWORKS MENTOR NEW BIOLOGISTS AND BUILD LEADERSHIP SKILLS

The Midwest Region National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) Biological Networks provide unique leadership development opportunities for Partners for Fish and Wildlife and NWRS biologists.

Author(s): R. King, Last Updated: 1/4/2017

STAYING AFLOAT WITH FLOOD TRACKING AND TRENDS

In the spring of 2011, refuge biologist Eric Dunton and other staff at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge watched water levels on the Shiawassee River rising rapidly. The refuge staff and surrounding landowners scrambled into action to fortify the levee that protects both refuge infrastructure, as well as local farms. As the makeshift team jumped into tractors, grabbed shovels and loaded sandbags, they took something equally as important with them.

Author(s): J. Gruetzman, Last Updated: 12/14/2016

HOUSING GROWTH AROUND REFUGES IS THREATENING BIODIVERSITY AND CONNECTIVITY

Our world is expected to add another billion people within the next 15 years, bringing the total global population to 8.5 billion by 2030. But that growing population needs housing, and housing adjacent to refuges is highly desirable. Unfortunately low- and high-density housing is isolating our refuges. We need to act NOW to increase the size of our refuges and provide natural corridors between refuges, or our opportunities will be lost.

Author(s): P. Heglund and M. Mitchell, Last Updated: 12/14/2016

TIPS AND TOOLS FOR BIRD BANDING DEMONSTRATIONS

Bird banding is used frequently by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff in the Midwest Region as a tool for research and educational programs. Increasingly popular International Migratory Bird Day demonstrations, community involvement activities, and school group education days have prompted the development of tips, tools, and guidelines for banding with the public to ensure a safe and successful educational event.

Author(s): K. Carlyle et al., Last Updated: 12/14/2016

USGS and national wildlife refuges teamed up to test fire as a method of controlling the proliferation of invasive cattails (for example, Typha x glauca, T. angustifolia) in impoundments. Results indicated that total cattail cover recovers to pre-burn levels within 1 year, regardless of whether the controlled burn was implemented during the growing season or dormant season. The response of cattail to prescribed burns is complex, and proper evaluation of the effects of controlled burns will likely require multi-year studies and long-term monitoring. Important deficiencies in the placement or condition of water control structures for purposes of habitat management were uncovered during the study.

Author(s): M. Knutson, Last Updated: 12/8/2016

NWRS GIS PRIORITY LAYERS

No large enterprise, including the National Wildlife Refuge System, can function as a "system" without a robust, central data management system. This shortcoming has been noted for decades, but until now there has been no plan in place to address it for geospatial data. In 2016, national refuge leadership decided to tackle the problem; they identified six essential data layers needed by all refuges, with a 5-year action plan for bringing them together in a unified, central system.

Author(s): G. DeAlessio, Last Updated: 12/8/2016

WATER QUALITY MONITORING UPSTREAM AND DOWN

With water's capacity to easily transport pollutants away and out of sight, land and water use practices are often conducted without regard to downstream water quality. Unfortunately, areas managed by the Service often occur in low lying areas where contaminants can collect and concentrate. The impact can be enough to cause harm ecosystems by slowly degrading habitats, promoting growth of invasive plants, and undermining Service efforts. The Midwest Region has initiated efforts to test and understand water quality conditions on our field stations.

Author(s): J. Gruetzman, D. MacDonald, Last Updated: 12/8/2016

BRINGING SOME PREDICTABILITY TO THE UNCERTAINTY OF OUR CHANGING CLIMATE

Climate change is increasing the number and magnitude of extreme weather events, and managers need to understand and prepare for these changes. In 2011, the Service partnered with NASA's Ecological Forecasting Program and the UW-Madison to look at the potential impacts of climate change and extreme weather on bird populations on national wildlife refuges in the continental United States.

Authors: P. Heglund, Last Updated: 11/30/2016

HOW DOES MY REFUGE CONTRIBUTE TO WATERBIRD CONSERVATION, LOCALLY, REGIONALLY, AND WITHIN THE FLYWAY?

In a previous story, we discussed the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring (IWMM) project, which includes a standardized monitoring protocol and is becoming widespread. But how are those data used? Here we describe how data collected on waterbird use, wetland condition, and management actions through the IWMM project can help us evaluate the results of our management efforts in several ways.

Authors: B. Loges, Last Updated: 11/30/2016

UP-FRONT MANAGEMENT DECISIONS AFFECT THE SUCCESS OF NATIVE COVER IN PRAIRIE PLANTINGS

Prairie managers report spending 25% of their time battling invasives and seeking ways to improve the quality of prairie plantings. In this project, scientists and land managers from four Midwest Region NWRS field stations teamed up in a 10-year effort to investigate if pre-restoration planting decisions can reduce invasion by Canada thistle and other exotic plant species.

Authors: P. Drobney, Last Updated: 11/30/2016

SURVEYS HELP REFUGES CONSERVE BAT SPECIES AND AVOID UNINTENDED TAKE

Bat surveys have taken center stage in the wake of white-nose syndrome and the associated population declines. The Indiana bat and Northern Long-eared Bat, both found in the Midwest Region, are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Many refuge stations are considering inventories or monitoring of all forest dwelling bats to be better informed of this jeopardized animal group.

Authors: B. Loges, Last Updated: 11/16/2016

WATER RESOURCE INVENTORY AND ASSESSMENTS


Water Resource Inventory and Assessments (WRIAs) provide a detailed inventory of field station water features, infrastructure, monitoring data, etc., as well as an assessment of climate trends, and water-related threats and needs.

Authors: J. Eash, Last Updated: 11/16/2016

SHARING GIS IN THE CLOUD

In the past, using Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) has required specialized training and sharing data has been difficult. Now ArcGIS Online (AGOL) and its associated tools have made it easy to collect data, conduct basic analyses, and share maps and our interpretations online.

Authors: D. Alessio and A. Allstadt, Last Updated: 11/09/2016

PROJECTED CHANGES IN SPRING PLANT PHENOLOGY

The old saying "timing is everything" is as true in natural systems as it is in our daily lives. Wildlife reproduction, survival and movements are tied to seasonal changes in food and habitat availability. North America is experiencing rapid changes in climate causing earlier onset of spring and later onset of winter that, in turn, is changing the timing and availability of important resources for wildlife.

Authors: A. Allstadt, Last Updated: 11/16/2016

IMPROVING MANAGEMENT THROUGH GEOSPATIAL CAPACITY

Nearly all U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff work with spatial data in one form or another. Even if you're not technically savvy, geospatial data can expand your understanding and improve your decision making. Given the speed at which Geographic Information System (GIS) technology is changing, continued training can improve GIS capabilities for technical users and interpretation skills for those who use the end products.

Authors: D. Alessio and M. Balogh, Last Updated: 11/09/2016

A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON YOUR WORLD

Region 3 aerial photography is collected with the natural resource manager in mind. Spanning five decades, there is a wealth of information available in our archives. Check out the archive to see if there is photography that could be useful to your next planning or evaluation project.

Authors: M. Mitchell, Last Updated: 11/02/2016

TRAINING AND GUIDELINES FOR BANDERS AND STATIONS

Monitoring waterfowl populations on refuge and other public lands has long been a priority of the Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners. Because these efforts often include banding waterfowl, biologists with FWS and partner organizations need resources, materials, and guidelines to train waterfowl banders. Midwest Region biologists have developed a 3 day waterfowl banding workshop, which can be scheduled at your refuge, and course materials are available online for informal review.

Authors: K. Carlyle, Last Updated: 11/02/2016

A RAPID ASSESSMENT OF FOREST ECOLOGICAL STATUS

What is the dominant tree species in the forests on your service lands? How common are invasive species? Is deer browse causing problems? A Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) protocol has been developed to answer these questions and more, and track changes in conditions in space and time. The REA has already been conducted on six refuges and the protocol is available for interested stations.

Authors: J. Booker, Last Updated: 11/02/2016

THE VISUALIZATION OF LAND AND WATER SURFACES

How much water is in my field station's impoundments? Where will flood flows cross levees and roads? How large is the watershed that feeds into my station? What is the appropriate size and location of ditch plugs, spillways, or dikes? Water Resource Mapping combines land and water data to visualize hydrologic patterns and answer key management questions.

Authors: V. Capeder, Last Updated: 10/20/2016

ARCHIVE VALUABLE RECORDS IN SERVCAT

The history of the National Wildlife Refuge System is documented in thousands of plans, maps, photos, and reports, many of which are one-of-a-kind "treasures," housed at field stations and can't be replaced. We now have a secure, digital archive for these valuable records, but they need to be scanned, uploaded, and cataloged so others can find them now and in the future.

Authors: M. Knutson, Last Updated: 10/20/2016

The fate of the migrating population of monarch butterflies depends on having enough of the right habitat in the right places. A group of researchers and land managers are working together to learn what monarchs are using now and where habitat is lacking so we can better target monarch conservation efforts.

Authors: P. Drobney, Last Updated: 10/20/2016

Learning how to consistently plant a diverse prairie that establishes quickly, has minimal weed pressure, and remains in good condition is not about following the “right” formula. Instead, it is about sharing the results of many methods, conditions, and patterns in order to quickly learn the most effective and efficient processes. This is the goal of the Prairie Reconstruction Initiative.

Authors: P. Drobney, A. McColpin, M. Knutson, Last Updated: 10/13/2016

The high profile decline of honeybees has raised awareness about the importance of all pollinators in both agricultural and natural systems. National wildlife refuges provide islands of natural habitat in a sea of agriculture, but the role of these wildlife habitats in sustaining pollinator diversity is poorly known.

Authors: B. Loges, W. Watkins, M. Knutson, Last updated: 10/13/2016

THE ROLE OF LAND AND WATER SURFACE ELEVATIONS IN REFUGE MANAGEMENT

Have you ever wondered if your auto tour road is high enough to survive that next big flood event? Or the exact elevation of that staff gage? Or what size and how many acre/feet of water are in that impoundment? Elevation surveys inform many refuge management decisions, such as infrastructure placement and sizing, habitat restoration, water movement, monitoring, water level management, flood risk assessments and more.

Authors: V. Capeder, Last updated: 10/5/2016

Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) evaluations provide an analysis of historic and contemporary abiotic and biotic information at scales ranging from specific National Wildlife Refuge System lands to large contiguous watersheds and floodplains. These reports help field stations determine where different habitat types will be most successful, and which management or restoration actions are necessary to sustain those habitats. Learn more...

Authors: J. Eash, Last updated: 10/5/2016

PROTECTING WILDERNESS CHARACTER THROUGH MONITORING

Wilderness is a uniquely American concept. Many of us value wilderness because it provides opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants, and is required, to protect, its wilderness resources by preserving their wilderness character. Wilderness Character Monitoring reports help us reach these goals. Learn more...

Authors: P. Heglund and N. Roeper, Last updated: 10/5/2016

Managers make decisions every day: many small, some big and complicated. For these complex decisions, a decision framework can help define the problem, articulate your goals, generate novel and creative solutions, and compare costs/benefits. In addition to the classes offered at NCTC, we can now offer a 2-day decision analysis short course within the region. We include an example of the process in action, helping conserve tern populations. Learn more...

Authors: E. Dunton, W. Ford, et al., Last updated: 9/29/2016

Managers have new opportunities to review past fire history, track current fire management, and help them plan for the future. The Fire Atlas program is using satellite imagery to provide previously unavailable historical fire information, and the Fire Management Information System is designed to track current day fire activity on our lands. Learn more...


Authors: P. Charland and P. Heglund, Last updated: 9/29/2016

Breeding habitats have historically been the focus of waterbird conservation, but a full life cycle approach must also account for the quality and availability of migration and wintering habitats. The Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring (IWMM) project was designed to help ensure that non-breeding waterbirds have the right habitat, in the right place, at the right time. Monitoring and modeling tools are available to inform management. Learn more...

Authors: B. Loges, Last updated: 9/29/2016

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR WATER LEVEL DATA

Ah, the staff gage, standing guard over wetland water levels. They are the most common water monitoring activity conducted across National Wildlife Refuge System and are maintained by 75% of all Region 3 field stations. Although important to water level management, they are often underutilized. By collecting some additional data and employing some new techniques, field stations can greatly improve the effectiveness and utility of these submerged sentries. Learn more...

Authors: J. Eash, Last updated: 9/21/2016

WE NEED MORE THAN COMMON SENSE TO SAVE ALL THE "COGS AND WHEELS" OF BIODIVERSITY IN OUR NATIVE PRAIRIE REMNANTS

Native unplowed prairie remnants are the last vestiges of a vast grassland ecosystem that once dominated much of North America. Native prairies are hotspots of biodiversity, but many are in poor condition due to non-native invasive plants. Two projects are focused on better management of our prairies, monitoring the effects of our management, and dealing with non-native plants. Learn more...

Authors: M. Knutson, Last updated: 9/21/2016

OUR STRUGGLES WITH AN AGGRESSIVE GRASS

Reed canarygrass invades and dominates many floodplain forests and wetlands in many conservation areas. We designed an adaptive management project to identify effective control strategies in both floodplain forests and wet meadows. Lessons were learned on reed canarygrass and adaptive management projects in general. Learn more...

Authors: K. Carlyle and M. Knutson, Last updated: 9/14/2016

The PRIMR database documents historical, on-going, and new natural resource surveys for stations throughout the Refuge System. Maintaining your station's PRIMR record preserves the history of surveys conducted, the legacy of science at that station. PRIMR also captures the content to build or revise your Inventory and Monitoring Plan. Learn more...

Authors: J. Herner-Thogmartin, Last updated: 9/7/2016

THE UNTOLD STORY OF LAND AQUISITION WITHIN THE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE SYSTEM

Refuges face a variety of waterborne threats, but few are more pervasive than the steady accumulation of sediment within refuge waterbodies. Land is piling up in the National Wildlife Refuge System-in some refuges at the rate of 20,000 tons of waterborne sediment per year. This unwelcome acquisition chokes wetlands, hampers management, and smothers wetland productivity. A solid understanding of the source, rate, and extent of sedimentation drives effective responses to this complex issue. Learn more...

Authors: J. Eash, Last updated: 9/14/2016

SHOULD WE BE WORRIED?

Water levels throughout the Midwest are threatened. The dramatic impact to our water resources are starting to hit mainstream media.

It is important that field stations understand and protect their rights to adequate supplies of clean water now and into the future. Learn more...

Authors: J. Grueztman, Last updated: 9/7/2016

Navigation locks, dams, and flood protection levees have negatively impacted wetland habitats adjacent to the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Restoring biological integrity to these habitats is often dependent on manipulating water levels to gain a respite from this altered hydrology. Learn more...

Author: B. Loges, Last updated: 8/30/2016

WE GET IN THE WATER, SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO!

Water is the driving force behind the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But we cannot effectively conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plant habitat without understanding the basic hydrologic processes that underpin them. Learn how our hydrology team is helping to support Service habitat management and decision making processes, and how we can help you! Learn more...

Authors: J. Grueztman and D. MacDonald, Last updated: 9/7/2016

DON'T GUESS, LEARN FROM YOUR ACTIONS AND IMPROVE YOUR EFFECTIVENESS

Are we getting the most bang for our buck when managing invasive plants on refuge lands? The Forest Invasives Adaptive Management (FIAM) project was developed to document the refuge's invasive plant distribution and treatment effectiveness. This 10-step process walks managers and biologists through data collection, data analysis, decision support, effectiveness monitoring, and evaluation. Learn more...

Author: J. Booker, Last updated: 8/30/2016

TESTING THE EFFICACY OF REMOVING SEDIMENT FIRST

Small wetlands add biodiversity to the agricultural landscape and support nesting ducks. But, thick stands of cattails and grass can reduce biodiversity and preclude waterfowl nesting. Can new restoration methods reduce these invasive species problems? A long term project from the Minnesota's Private Lands Program and the FWS Wetland Management Districts aims to find out.
Learn more...

Author: M. Knutson, Last updated: 8/31/2016

RECORD YOUR SIGHTINGS ON THE NATIONAL PHENOLOGY NETWORK

Observing and documenting seasonal changes in plants and animal activities is an excellent way to get in touch with nature; this was a favorite activity of some of our most respected ecologists, including Aldo Leopold. Phenological mismatches may threaten populations and sometimes require management action. Refuges can use the USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) to support citizen science and better understand how phenology on our refuges and how it may be changing. Learn more...

Author: M. Knutson, Last updated: 8/30/2016

DON'T LEAVE YOUR MARSHBIRD AND LANDBIRD DATA IN LIMBO

Prothonotary Warbler

Legacy marshbird and landbird data were moved from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) databases to the Avian Knowledge Network (AKN). If your station has legacy data in those databases, we need to help you review, move, and share it appropriately. We can also help you store data for new monitoring projects. Learn more...

Author: M. Knutson, Last updated: 8/23/2016

A STRONG BIOLOGICAL PROGRAM IS AN INVESTMENT IN SUCCESSFUL REFUGE MANAGEMENT

Great Horned Owl

Managing a refuge without a strong biological program is like driving your car in the dark with no headlights. You move forward, but don't know your path or the hazards ahead. A good biological program illuminates management and can fuel your decision-making with science and careful observation. The "Building a Strong Biological Program" course can help biologists and project leaders develop a program that supports the station's needs. Learn more...

Author: P. Drobney, Last updated: 8/23/2016

WHY IS IT SO HARD TO LEARN IN A NATURAL RESOURCES SETTING, AND WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

Learning in the field

Learning in a natural resources setting can be difficult due to long-delayed feedback and the need to make sense of our shared experiences. If we are not at the top of our management game, learning as fast as we can, many species and natural communities will suffer because we failed to learn. Learn more...

Author: M. Knutson, Last updated: 8/23/2016