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Information iconA salmon monitoring station at Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. (Photo: Lisa Hupp/USFWS)

The National Wildlife Refuge System coordinates an interdisciplinary science team to inform planning and management decisions for frontline managers. By integrating findings from numerous scientific fields — including wildlife biology, air quality and human dimensions — managers can better address complex management challenges. These science programs are administered by the Natural Resource Program Center in Fort Collins, Colorado — where many federal agencies share research operations and facilities.

Brown Pelicans at Oregon Islands Refuge
Wildlife Health
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service monitors wildlife health and conducts disease surveillance, response and management. Experts help curb the spread of wildlife disease that threatens wildlife, people and domestic animals. Specialists track the health of birds, ungulates (hooved animals such as bison, deer and elk) and other species; they also monitor harmful algal blooms and animal diseases that could jump to humans. Experts provide training and technical assistance, conduct field investigations of disease and facilitate lab testing. They aid in policy development, research support and veterinary controlled drugs acquisition and use.
tracking mtn lions cmr NWR photo by carmen luna usfws

Inventory and Monitoring
Researchers assess the status and trends of refuge lands, waters, plants and wildlife, along with their responses to management actions. The Natural Resource Program Center coordinates the design, collection, retention and analysis of this scientific data. Rigorous standards ensure that the Refuge System is a key contributor to the larger body of scientific knowledge.
family at laguna atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Human Dimensions
Social scientists help refuge managers factor local attitudes and human perspectives into conservation planning to improve the likelihood of good outcomes.
smoke monitoring unit photo by lori iverson

Air Quality
Experts work to ensure that refuge lands and waters meet the standards of the Clean Air Act and other applicable laws on air quality.
Noel Turner replacing water sensor Forsythe Refuge New Jersey Photo by Vinny Turner USFWS

Water Resources
Good management of vital water resources at refuges involves knowledge of complex water laws and up-to-date data on water quantity and quality.

Resources for Scientists

Data Repositories
Publicly available national wildlife refuge data sets and documents maintained in ServCat include Comprehensive Conservation Plans, Annual Narrative Reports, Water Resource Inventory and Assessment Reports, and geospatial data. You can also view U.S. Geological Survey data releases in Science Base and the federal government’s Open Data dashboards.

Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS)
This gateway website includes conservation plans, species reports, fish health survey database, and wildlife and contaminants mapper.


Information iconAlpine vegetation monitoring at Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo: USFWS)