Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin
Sea Otter Awareness Week
A stranded southern sea otter pup found at Asilomar State Marine Reserve in Pacific Grove, California this May has found a new permanent home at Oregon Coast Aquarium. The young pup was cold and lethargic, and his mother could not be located.
Photo courtesy of the Oregon Coast Aquarium
Help Wanted: Saving California’s only freshwater turtle
Food, water and shelter for California’s only freshwater turtle are all becoming scarcer across the Western U.S. Wildlife experts say that worsening drought conditions, habitat loss and fragmentation, and invasive species could threaten the long-term survival of western pond turtles in the wild.
A blueprint for recovery of endangered wetland plant on California’s Central Coast
La Graciosa thistle (Cirsium scariousum var. loncholepis), a spiny wetland plant with white flowers tinged with a lavender hue, now has a blueprint for recovery, thanks to a draft plan prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners.
Credit: Kristie Scarazzo / USFWS
“Homage” to history
After decades of hard work by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees, volunteers, tribes and partners and after two previous efforts in the '80s and '90s, the Lanphere and Ma-le’l Dunes were finally recognized as a National Natural Landmark on January 19, 2021.
Credit: Andrea Pickart / USFWS
The return of red-legged frogs
“It was serendipitous,”said Clark Winchell from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a recent collaborative endeavor to bring California red-legged frogs back to their natural habitat in Southern California after they were extirpated decades ago.
Photo courtesy of Bradford Hollingsworth / San Diego Natural History Museum
Rumble in the river: brook vs. bull trout
In the fictional world of trout wrestling, one of the most uneven matchups would pit brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) against bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus). When squaring off in their aquatic ‘ring,’ the invasive and scrappy ‘brookies’ are bullies, outcompeting the native bull trout by eating all the food, hogging the best shelter and generally pushing them around.
Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coleman National Fish Hatchery and Mt. Lassen Trout Farm have come together to raise endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon and release them into Battle Creek as part of the Jumpstart Project aimed at reintroducing winter-run to the watershed.
Credit: Jake Sisco / USFWS
Dredging up the past at Antioch Dunes
Over thousands of years, the shifting sands of time built dunes that reached 120 feet high and stretched for 2 miles along the San Joaquin River, about 35 miles east of San Francisco. Isolated from similar habitats, the Antioch Dunes slowly developed species found nowhere else in the world.
Credit: Brandon Honig / USFWS
Pacific Southwest Highlights
Doty Creek, a restored stream using process-based restoration in the Sierra foothills in California. Credit: USFWS
Process-based restoration infographic. Credit: Damion Ciotti, Jared McKee, Karen Pope, Mathias Kondolf and Michael Pollock
Nature’s power to restore: an overlooked tool in stream restoration
For millions of years, nature has been designing and building river and wetland habitats, which are some of the most diverse and productive systems on Earth. These habitats, also known as fluvial systems, benefit society by providing important habitat for wildlife, supplying drinking water and irrigation for crops, delivering electricity through hydropower and more. However, they are imperiled due to human alterations resulting in habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. Overtime, there’s been a growing interest in “Process-based restoration,” whereby the practitioner addresses underlying causes of degradation so the stream can rebuild and restore the wildlife habitat on its own.
To reverse some of the damage, process-based restoration focuses on restoring natural process, for instance, reconnecting streams to floodplains or mimicking beaver presence. While restoring natural process shows promise, many restoration efforts still rely heavily on civil-engineered design requiring large quantities of rock, fossil fuels and heavy equipment to construct stream channels and stabilize banks. These efforts may be counterproductive as they protect streams from the very processes, such as channel migration, needed for a healthy ecosystem.
A team of scientists evaluated projects and reviewed over 30 years of scientific literature and found successful process-based restoration had four common components of space, energy, materials and time. These projects provided more space and connectivity for the stream to move, capitalized on natural energy and materials such as flooding and wood from the project site, and they were adaptively managed over time. They then applied these components as design criteria for project implementation and came back with groundbreaking findings.
“The results were rapid and with higher levels of biodiversity at a lower cost-per-acre than standard stream construction,” said Damion Ciotti, San Francisco Bay Coastal Program coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “With a little training, practitioners can easily integrate these approaches with ongoing stream restoration efforts.”
Administrative officer Andria Grafflin makes a new friend in a park near the San Francisco Bay-Delta Fish and Wildlife Office in Sacramento, where she has worked since 2016. Credit: David Kimbrell/USFWS
People Profile: Administrative officer brings ‘service’ to the Service - Andria Grafflin picked up valuable lessons on her journey to the Service
It’s 2012, and after moving from Utah back to the sunny state of California, Andria Grafflin was ready to return to the workforce. Her children were getting older and she felt the time was right.
What began as “just a job,” at a home furnishing retail store turned into an experience that has had a lasting impact on the way Grafflin approaches customer service in her current position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Hiking in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada as part of the Ecology, Conservation and Evolution Club that I co-founded as an undergrad. Credit: Lory Salazar-Velasquez
National Hispanic Heritage Month
Representation in STEM: How USFWS addresses diversity for a better future
As a person of color, my experience moving into a predominantly White graduate school for a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program was difficult; being surrounded by not just white students, but white faculty and professors made me question the validity of my place there. The field is already so saturated with White people, so where do I fit in? Can I comfortably be part of a group with such a distinct social background from mine?
These thoughts and feelings are not unfounded. Pew Research Center reports that in 2016, Black and Hispanic people made up only 16% of those working STEM jobs. Additionally, 44% of Asians, 42% of Hispanics and 62% of Black employees stated they experienced some sort of racial or ethnic discrimination at work, as opposed to a smaller 13% of Whites. The apparent imbalance in racial, ethnic, and gender representation across STEM is widely acknowledged, but addressing it often falls through the cracks.
Nathan Grill gets a good shot at the dry lake bed — the first stop on the 40 mile route. Photo courtesy of Mark Duncan
Ride the Refuge - Nevada’s Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge edition
Did you know that many national wildlife refuges across the nation are open to cyclists? Refuges offer open roads, beautiful vistas, and opportunities to see diverse wildlife in their natural habitat. Skip the crowds at more well-known places and find plentiful parking, bathrooms, and friendly staff at a refuge near you.
We talked to local cyclists who gave us their favorite routes in and around refuges. They gave us insider knowledge on road conditions, places of interest along the way, and the best time of year to complete the ride. If you go, post your photos and tag @usfws or use the hashtag #ridetherefuge. We’d love to see your adventure! Make sure you check the refuge website before you go to make sure roads are open to cyclists.
A young short-tailed albatross that has been spotted along the California coast. Photo courtesy of Brad R. Lewis
Don’t Chum the Albatross! - Guidelines for Ethical Wildlife Viewing
We need your help
We are asking members of the birding community to be ambassadors for ethical wildlife viewing.
We’ve received reports of illegal chumming and baiting of a critically endangered short-tailed albatross along the central California coast. Feeding or getting too close to this imperiled bird may cause undue stress, lead to habituation, and reduce its chances of being able to survive in the wild. While we’re excited to see this remarkable bird paying a visit to California waters, short-tailed albatross are a federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act, and any form of harassment or disturbance is a violation of federal law.
A Conversation with Liquidverve - Connecting with nature through photography
Alex Miller is a Los Angeles-based portrait photographer who was born and raised in Berlin, Germany. With over three years of professional photography under her belt, many within the social media community may recognize Miller as “Liquidverve.” Unlike most photographers, Miller uses natural light in her work 99% of the time. We caught up with her recently to find out how nature impacts her art and why we should preserve these wild places.
Daniel Cisneros, first-ever Kendra Chan Conservation Fellow, stands beneath an island oak (Quercus tomentella) in a cloud forest on Santa Rosa Island, one of the northern Channel Islands off the California coast. Photo courtesy of Daniel Cisneros
A legacy lives on through the Kendra Chan Conservation Fellowship
Daniel Cisneros stood atop one of the highest peaks on Santa Rosa Island off the California coast, admiring the island oak and bishop pine trees, an ancient forest among the clouds brought back to life after years of human disturbance.
Cisneros, an ecology student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Santa Barbara Botanic Garden to conduct a germination study for five rare plant species on the Channel Islands. Their work will shed light on the role seed banking can play to help struggling plant populations.
Cisneros’ research is made possible by the Kendra Chan Conservation Fellowship, a first-of-its kind annual program that honors the late wildlife biologist Kendra Chan by giving budding scientists an opportunity to learn about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission and help endangered species.
The Clayton family has donated 8.1 acres of riverfront property to the Bureau of Reclamation to enable the creation of a “nature-like fishway” that will allow salmon to swim around Sack Dam. “We decided to work with the Program because we believe that restoration is a good thing,” said Connley Clayton, far left. “Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could create some habitat on their land to help the environment?” Credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Land donation helps threatened salmon in San Joaquin River - Spring-run Chinook salmon will get a needed path around Sack Dam
When Connley Clayton, a third-generation farmer in California’s Central Valley, looks over the San Joaquin River flowing past Sack Dam, he can see that the river — and its salmon — are on their way to recovery.
“We are so happy that the river is running again,” said Clayton, 75, who lives with his wife in El Nido, about 10 miles north of the dam.
Before 2016, the river would often run completely dry below Sack Dam, he said, because the entire flow was diverted for agricultural use. Then the San Joaquin River Restoration Program — a collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and California Department of Water Resources — began releasing water through Friant Dam specifically for river restoration.
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The Western Monarch
The Monarch Story...
The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species of wildlife in all of America. They undertake one of the world's most remarkable and fascinating migrations, traveling thousands of miles over many generations from Mexico, across the United States, to Canada. Learn about their amazing journey and how you can help them.
Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office - 2020 Year in Review
California Condor Website
California Condor Recovery Program
The California Condor Recovery Program (Recovery Program) is a multi-entity effort, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to recover the endangered California condor. Cooperators include the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Game and Fish Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, San Diego Zoo Los Angeles Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, Peregrine Fund, and Ventana Wildlife Society, among others. Learn more here...
And see the condor nest cameras here!
FieldNotes showcases the activities, events and conservation work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including here in the Pacific Southwest Region. The articles inside are written by our employees and reflect the efforts of the Service and our partners in conserving and preserving the unique natural resources across the nation. You can find stories specific to California, Nevada and the Klamath Basin. After you've visited FieldNotes, follow us on these social media channels...