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Pacific Southwest Highlights

Biologist Jeanne Spaur, of the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office is among three women featured in our story.
Credit: Susan Sawyer/USFWS


Meet the “Women of Science” in the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office

In honor of Women’s History Month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service interviewed three Klamath Falls field office women with varied backgrounds culminating in successful careers in conservation of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats.

Klamath Basin Public Affairs Officer Susan Sawyer caught up with Christie Nichols, Elizabeth Willy and Jeanne Spaur in this second story in the series on Women in Science.

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California condor

Biologist Connie Rutherford has dedicated more than three decades to the recovery of rare plants in southern and central California, some of which teetered on the edge of extinction. Credit: Ashley Spratt/USFWS


The Lion in the Tree: A botanist’s mission to save our natural landscapes

Santa Cruz cypress, Lane Mountain milk-vetch, and Island bedstraw. Few people know them by name, but we can attribute their continued existence on Earth, in part, to one woman’s passion and lifelong commitment to their recovery.

As we celebrate inspirational women in science during Women’s History Month this March, we delve into the inspirational life and career of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service botanist Connie Rutherford, and the plants she helped save from the brink of extinction.

“This is much more than just a job for her,” said Ray Bransfield, Rutherford’s husband of 27 years.

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Ralph Grundel, of U.S. Geological Survey (left) and Dr. Nick Hristov, of Winston-Salem State University set up and test a LiDAR device at Lighthouse Field, an overwintering site in Santa Cruz, California. The team hopes to gain new insights about monarchs using the technology.  Credit: Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS

Researchers are improving the monarch count in new ways with LiDAR technology

Every year, monarchs from as far away as Idaho, Utah, Arizona and other Western states converge to spend the winter in tree groves along the Pacific coast and at a few inland sites. Following the butterflies’ arrival, citizen scientists trek to these coastal overwintering sites, from Mendocino County, California to northern Baja California, Mexico to count the butterflies.

The gathering of monarchs in select areas provides a unique opportunity to gauge the health of the population in the West. These volunteers must rise early, when dew decorates the landscape and morning light breaks along the horizon, in order to accurately assess monarch numbers while they still huddle in clusters.

Today, a scientific surveying tool is being tested for the first time to gather increasingly accurate estimates of monarchs in the West.

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Biologist John Vradenburg gives a "behind-the-scenes" presentation to a Winter Wings tour group on Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.

PHOTO GALLERY: Check out the story and images from this year's Winter Wings bird festival.
Credit: Jon Myatt/USFWS

Winter Wings Festival 2018 on the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Early on a cloudy Saturday morning in mid-February, a city school bus pulled off the road and into the parking lot of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex headquarters near the northern California border. Roughly 20 birders and photographers filed off the bus, eager to meet their guide.

The determined passengers were soon greeted by their tour leader, local professional wildlife photographer Larry Turner, who would lead them to capture images of birds and landscapes at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, as part of the annual Winter Wings Festival. The field trip allowed the birders and photo enthusiasts to experience the Pacific Flyway’s unique avian activity up close under the supervision of one of the region’s notable professional photographers.

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A monarch butterfly at Lighthouse Field State Beach in Santa Cruz, California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners have released a western monarch overwintering site management plan for land managers with tree groves that host overwintering western monarch butterflies. Credit: Samantha Marcum/USFWS

Restoring western monarch overwintering habitat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Groundswell Coastal Ecology and California Department of Parks and Recreation have developed a western monarch butterfly overwintering site management plan that also serves as a template for land managers at other overwintering sites.

The Monarch Butterfly Overwintering Site Management Plan for Lighthouse Field State Beach, presented earlier this month at the Monarch Overwintering Site Management Workshop in Oceano, California, was developed for the overwintering site at Lighthouse Field State Beach in Santa Cruz, California.

Although the plan focuses on a specific site, it is adaptable to other western monarch overwintering sites along the California coast.

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Aaron Eubank served as an education volunteer in Rwanda from 2013 to 2015. He's now a contract specialist for R1/R8, located at the Portland Regional Office. Credit: USFWS

During Peace Corps Week, Pacific Southwest Region recognizes employees who served as volunteers

For more than five decades, Peace Corps Volunteers have worked abroad with community leaders to solve critical challenges. Some, inspired by their service, return home to join civil service.

Throughout the Pacific Southwest Region many Peace Corps Volunteer alumni use skills gained in international service to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. During Peace Corps Week we celebrate the ways that the volunteers made a difference abroad and continue to do so as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service family.

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This October 2017 photograph shows the first ever Green sturgeon verified in the Stanislaus River. Skeptics doubted the San Joaquin Basin habitat could ever support sturgeon; believing that sturgeon could not spawn in the warm, shallow and sandy river. Photo courtesy of Kyle Horvath/ Cramer Fish Services

Confirmed: Green sturgeon find highlights benefits of longtime research and restoration efforts

When a green sturgeon was detected, photographed and confirmed for the first time in the Stanislaus River in October 2017, longtime researchers in the San Joaquin Watershed did proverbial backflips over the news.

The green sturgeon discovery by Cramer Fish Sciences’ Kyle Horvath, in a section of the river near Knights Ferry, California, showed that multi-agency research and restoration efforts, spanning more than a decade, which were primarily focused on the more common white sturgeon in the San Joaquin, were having positive impacts on other species as well.

While there have been angler reports of the armored, prehistoric-looking fish in the San Joaquin Basin for years, none had been verified, until the discovery by Horvath, outside the Delta further southwest on the Stanislaus River.

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A tagged Lahontan cutthroat trout in Glen Alpine Creek in the Lake Tahoe Basin is documented by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist. Credit: USFWS

Lahontan cutthroat returning to Fallen Leaf Lake

With a little help from state and federal fisheries biologists, highly-revered Lahontan cutthroat trout that disappeared from a California alpine lake more than 80 years ago are making their way back home.

“Decades of over-fishing and habitat degradation in the Lake Tahoe Basin caused these unique native fish to vanish from the system all the way back in the 1930s, and now we’re working to bring them back where they belong,” said Stephanie Byers, a senior fisheries biologist for the Lahontan National Fish Hatchery Complex in Gardnerville, Nevada, which has been raising a broodstock of the famed species since 1995.

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A fisher peers from a trap box, where it was lured in by a chicken leg the night before. During the last month of the Stirling study, 61 fishers were trapped one last time to remove radio collars and collect final data. Credit: Aaron Facka/Oregon State University

Long-term collaborative study ends successfully as fishers thrive in northern Sierra forests

A sleek, grizzled brown cat-sized fisher is huddled in a wooden box attached to the back of a wire trap in the bottom of a forest drainage. A shiny chicken bone hanging from twine inside is a reminder of how the 2 year-old female was lured inside the night before. Dr. Aaron Facka of Oregon State University approached the trap quietly as others aimed cameras toward the presumed fisher escape path.

Dr. Deana Clifford, senior wildlife veterinarian for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, swiped a handheld wand over the box, listening for a signal. A beeping indicated the fisher had an implanted microchip from a recent capture. Fisher identity confirmed, Facka pulled the rear panel from the box and gently tapped the top. In a blur of fur, the fisher streaked out, feet flying over leaves and limbs, disappearing deep into the forest in mere seconds.

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Tipton kangaroo rat

Biologists are seeing a significant population increase of Tipton kangaroo rat, a subspecies of the San Joaquin kangaroo rat, on Kern National Wildlife Refuge according to surveys conducted in 2016 and 2017. Credit: USFWS

Tipton kangaroo rat: Don’t call it a comeback; we’ve been here for years

In 2016, for the first time in over 20 years, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff saw a significant increase in the number the endangered Tipton kangaroo rats on the Kern National Wildlife Refuge.

Now according to surveys, 2017 was another record year for the tiny endangered species with a total of 55 (trapped), passing the previous year record of 47.

“Kern National Wildlife Refuge has some areas of high-quality habitat for the Tipton kangaroo rat,” said Geoff Grisdale, wildlife biologist at Kern National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “We are happy our management is contributing to the protection of this species.”

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