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Science Spotlights

There is new methodology for fitting ecologically feasible “shapes” to time series of Landsat imagery for modeling, mapping, and monitoring annual forest disturbance dynamics. Through a case study of fire, harvest and bark beetle outbreak, scientists illustrate how resultant fitted values and parameters can be fed into empirical models to map disturbance causal agent and tree canopy cover changes coincident with disturbance events through time.
High severity burned patch from the 2011 Horseshoe Two Fire in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.
This research evaluates the use of citizen science in a region with increased stress from ongoing drought and wildfires. Researchers show how it allows for inexpensive and statistically rigorous monitoring, and fosters greater local involvement in science and conservation. This information will be used to determine optimal protocols for a long-term monitoring plan. Inexpensive and statistically rigorous long-term monitoring fosters local...
Westslope cutthroat trout, native to the Columbia River and upper Missouri River hybridize with introduced rainbow trout and have been extirpated from large portions of their historical range.
Hybridization between westslope cutthroat trout and both rainbow trout and Yellowstone cutthroat trout is a major conservation concern for the species.  A new broad-scale analysis of hybridization patterns found many pure populations of westslope cutthroat trout in headwaters streams.
African lion. Photo: S. Cushman
Populations of large carnivores are declining globally, and in Africa the ranges of lions, leopards, wild dogs and spotted hyenas have contracted dramatically in the past few decades. The goal of this project is to assess current population distribution and connectivity for these species across a vast trans-boundary region of Southern Africa, comprising the Kavango-Zambeizi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA), which consists of most of...
A map of the three focal areas of th Southern Rockies LCC
Rocky Mountain Research Station Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Program is working with the Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative to conduct landscape analyses for conservation planning for natural and cultural resources in two focal areas: the Four Corners and the Upper Rio Grande regions of the Southwest.
Research Forester Emily Heyerdahl prepares samples for archiving (photo by Roger Pilkington).
The Rocky Mountain Research Station is preparing more than 16,000 tree-ring specimens for permanent archiving. Each specimen is a unique record of the environmental conditions from which it came. This tree-ring specimen collection will be permanently archived at the only federally recognized tree-ring repository in the U.S., where its importance will grow as it is used in ways we cannot currently imagine.
Pinyon jays perched atop berry-laden juniper tree.
Over the past century, many pinyon-juniper woodlands in the Great Basin have expanded their range and increased their stand densities. These changes in structure and extent have effects on both the species that use the woodlands and to species whose habitat is being encroached by them. We observed and described where pinyon jays prefer to cache seeds in order to gain an understanding on how and where expansion and infill is likely to occur and...
Western white pine is so named for the light color of its wood. The timber was used for everything from window and door frames to shelving, paneling, and furniture. Photo by Susan McDougall, USDA-NRCS Plants Database.
A fundamental goal of biogeography is to understand the factors that drive spatial and temporal variability in forest growth across large areas. The Interior West Forest Inventory and Analysis program collected tree-ring data from thousands of plots that can be used to investigate controls on growth variability. Understanding the factors that control growth are important for managing species that could exhibit range shifts in response to climate...
Cross section of a dead Utah juniper.
Annual precision of tree-ring data is often sought for detailed analyses. Important, widespread species such as ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir are often used for tree-ring science. However, there are other low elevation species, oftentimes termed woodland trees that could also be useful, including Utah juniper.
Interior West states showing FIA plots and plots with tree-ring data.
Tree-ring data collected as part of the Forest Inventory and Analysis program in the Interior West is being assembled into a massive dataset with many tens- of thousands of trees. Given the underlying sampling approach to the Forest Inventory and Analysis grid, the tree-ring data collected can be used for many novel research applications.

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