New MA Wildlife Climate Action Tool Helps Managers & Landowners Respond to Climate Change

AMHERST, Mass.— A coalition of research institutions and fish and wildlife agencies this week unveiled a new online tool for use by local decision-makers, conservation managers, land trusts, regional planners, landowners and community leaders in Massachusetts who are interested in taking action in response to climate change

MooseUsers of the Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool can look up different species and habitat types to see what beneficial climate actions they can take. Entries include brook trout, which are impacted by warming stream temperatures and fragmented habitat; marbled salamander, which are impacted by changing rainfall patterns; moose, which are at the southern end of their range; blackpoll warbler, which are vulnerable to changing forest habitat conditions; and beech-birch-maple forests, where warming temperatures impact sugar maples and other northern trees.

The online tool was developed by the Massachusetts Climate Adaptation Partnership, made up of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Interior’s Northeast Climate Science Center at UMass Amherst and the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

“This online tool will provide a pathway for citizens and local and state land managers to make intentional, climate-smart decisions about actions they can take to enhance climate resilience for the plants, animals and ecosystems of Massachusetts,” said Virginia Burkett, associate director of climate and land use research at the USGS.

Information provided to protect natural resources even as the climate changes include:

  • - climate change impacts, with projections for over 30 climate variables;
  • - vulnerability assessments for fish and wildlife species and their habitats;
  • - information about non-climate stressors such as development and loss of landscape connectivity that must be accounted for; and
  • - on-the-ground actions including forestry practices, land protection and restoring landscape connectivity.

Michelle Staudinger, an ecologist with the USGS and adjunct faculty member in the department of environmental conservation at UMass Amherst, says the climate is changing rapidly in Massachusetts in ways that have already had an impact on human and natural communities across the state.

Brook Trout“But there are actions we can take now to adapt to climate change and protect fish, wildlife and their habitats, as well as help human communities increase resiliency to better cope with these changes,” she points out. “This tool is designed to inform and inspire local action to protect the Commonwealth’s natural resources, including species of greatest conservation need, and help them adapt to a changing climate.”

The tool can easily be expanded to incorporate new agencies, partners and topics. It could also serve as a model for other states, Staudinger said. Scott Jackson, extension associate professor in the department of environmental conservation at UMass Amherst says, “This tool makes science available to inform on-the-ground action. The information provided is research-based and vetted by scientists.”

John O’Leary, Assistant Director of Wildlife with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, says that while there is an overwhelming amount of information on climate change, it is often not easily accessible to the public and it can be challenging to incorporate scientific information into day-to-day management or planning.

“In this first phase of the tool,” O’Leary says, “we focused on what people can do now to reduce climate change impacts on natural resources such as fish, wildlife and their habitats, in the coming decades. Users can access information and data from the scientific literature or that have been synthesized by scientists for the tool.”

UMass Amherst’s Scott Jackson says, “The tool provides adaptation information that can be integrated into a comprehensive climate adaptation plan for an organization or community, including local actions related to land protection, forestry practices and connectivity across roads and highways. It provides links to relevant resources and experts who can offer additional information and assistance in implementing actions, such as replacing a culvert or conserving land.”

Robert A. Jonas, chair of the board of trustees of Kestrel Land Trust, adds, “We need up-to-date information and guidance about how we can help our 19 communities adapt to climate change, so we are thrilled to discover the Massachusetts Climate Action Tool. In one online package, we can research climate change impacts on fish and wildlife species, forests and forestry practices, landscape connectivity, land protection and conservation planning.”

The developers of the tool point out that the tool is dynamic, allowing them to add new information as understanding of climate science increases and as new adaptation actions are developed in the field. Future updates will include more case studies and actions related to transportation and infrastructure, public health and safety, coastal areas and municipal land use planning.

USGS manages Interior Department’s Climate Science Centers. The Northeast CSC conducts climate change science for Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri.  

The Northeast CSC is supported by a consortium of partners that includes the University of Massachusetts Amherst, College of Menominee Nation, Columbia University, Marine Biological Laboratory, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri Columbia, and University of Wisconsin. The NE CSC also engages and collaborates with a diversity of other federal, state, academic, tribal, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to conduct collaborative, stakeholder-driven, and climate-focused work to help species, ecosystems and human communities adapt to climate change.

Original USGS Press Release

Images on Page:
Top: A young bull moose. Photo courtesy of Karen Laubenstein, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bottom: A brook trout swims in its native stream. Photo courtesy of Eric Engbretson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

South Central Climate Science Center receives DOI Environmental Achievement Award

The South Central Climate Science Center, located on the University of Oklahoma's Research Campus, is the recipient of the Department of Interior 2015 Environmental Achievement Award, a prestigious award for "Climate Science and Partnerships--Increasing the Tribal Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation."

"We are particularly honored to receive this important award since it reflects well on our commitment to work closely with our Tribal colleagues on jointly enhancing our ability to adapt to climate change," said Berrien Moore, director of the National Weather Center and dean of the OU Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences.

SC CSC StaffThe South Central Climate Science Center received the award as a result of its partnerships with other agencies to develop programs for building tribal capabilities and conducting climate science research. The Center is a consortium codirected by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Oklahoma. Consortium members include OU, the Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab, Louisiana State University, Oklahoma State University and Texas Tech University.

"Our team had a vision to bring the climate science capacity to our many tribal partners. The vision entails relationship building, educational experiences for youth, tribal environmental and cultural staff, and working on climate-related matters with tribes. It is such an honor to not only be able to bring this vision to fruition with our tribal partners, but to also be recognized by the Department of Interior," said Kim Winton, director of the South Central Climate Science Center.

Primary achievements of the South Central Climate Science Center are the tribal engagement strategy and capacity building. The vision was to develop climate science programs, vulnerability assessments and adaptation plans with tribes to ensure that the Department of Interior has the tools to meet their trust responsibilities to the Tribes. The five-stage process starts with relationship building and ultimately builds capacity in the Tribes to conduct their own climate science research.

"The Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, as our full partners in the South Central Climate Science Center, have been amazing to work with. This award only underscores the value of universities respectfully collaborating with these and other Nations to serve the public good," said Renee McPherson, co-director of the South Central Climate Science Center.

The overarching success of this program is evident by the development of five new Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Liaisons to be placed in other Department of Interior Climate Science Centers. These positions will enable the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Climate Science Centers to assist Tribes nationally with their climate responses. For more information about the South Central Climate Science Center, visit their website or contact Kim Winton, director of the South Central Climate Science Center, at

Original article posted on EurekAlert!

Help Guide the Work of NCCWSC & the CSCs!

Nominations are being accepted for several membership openings on the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science (ACCCNRS)

ACCCNRS advises the Secretary of the Interior on the operations of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) Climate Science Centers (CSCs).

ACCCNRS is composed of 25 members that represent (1) State and local governments, including state membership entities; (2) Nongovernmental organizations, including those whose primary mission is professional and scientific and those whose primary mission is conservation and related scientific and advocacy activities; (3) American Indian tribes and other Native American entities; (4) Academia; (5) Landowners, businesses, and organizations representing landowners or businesses

Written nominations must be received by January 15, 2016. Send nominations to: Robin O'Malley, National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Mail Stop 516, Reston, VA 20192,

Please review the Federal Register Notice for complete information about the nomination process.

Graduate Research Internship Program Opportunities for Current NSF Fellows!

NSF LogoAre you a current National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow? Intern with the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC)!

NCCWSC is offering two 9-12 month long internship opportunities through the NSF Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP). Both interns will work with USGS scientists and university partners on projects related to researching the impacts of climate change on fish & wildlife and understanding the ways wildlife species may be able to adapt to these changes. See below for more information.

Project title: Climate Change Adaptation for Fish and Wildlife 
Contact email:
Center: National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center & Dept. of Interior Climate Science Centers (Reston, Va & 8 National Locations)

Project title: Prioritization of Inland Fish Conservation Efforts in North America
Contact email:
Center: National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center & Dept. of Interior Climate Science Centers (Reston, Va & 8 National Locations)

All GRIP opportunities with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) can be found here

NCCWSC Welcomes Two Postdocs to Support Drought Work

Drought landEcological drought can be defined as a prolonged and widespread deficit in naturally available water supplies — including changes in natural and managed hydrology — that create multiple stresses across ecosystems. As global temperatures continue to rise, the intensity and frequency of such ecological droughts in North America are expected to increase leading to a wide range of social and ecological impacts.

We would like to introduce two new postdoctoral researchers, Shelley Crausbay and Aaron Ramirez, who will be assisting in our efforts to better understand the impacts of ecological drought in the U.S. on fish, wildlife and ecosystems. Shelley and Aaron will specifically be supporting a working group initiated this year by NCCWSC to determine our current understanding of ecological drought, prioritize research and decision-support needs for drought management, and characterize sets of management options that are relevant at the national, regional, and local levels. This working group is a part of the Science for Nature and People (SNAP) program.

Shelley Crausbay received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research addresses the effects of climate change and disturbance on vegetation dynamics.
Aaron Ramirez received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on various aspects of woody plants, including physiology, ecology, and evolutionary biology.
Welcome Shelley and Aaron!

Wildfires May Double Erosion Across a Quarter of Western US Watersheds by 2050

In recent years, wildfires have burned trees and homes to the ground across many states in the western U.S., but the ground itself has not gotten away unscathed.

Wildfires, which are on the rise throughout the west as a result of prolonged drought and climate change, can alter soil properties and make it more vulnerable to erosion. A new study shows that the increase in wildfires may double soil erosion in some western U.S. states by 2050, and all that dirt ends up in streams, clogging creeks and degrading water quality.

"It's a pretty dramatic increase in sediment [entering streams]," write United States Geological Survey (USGS) geologist Joel Sankey and his colleagues, who will speak on the subject on Wednesday, 4 November, at the meeting of the Geological Society of America in Baltimore, Maryland. "The sediment can have a wide range of effects on a lot of watersheds, many of which are headwater streams and important for water supply in the West."

Wildfire and tall treesWildfires whipping across a landscape can burn away ground cover and vegetation, leaving soils exposed and easily erodible by precipitation. In other cases, fires can cause soil surfaces to harden. Instead of gently percolating underground, rain water and melted snow can rush across these hardened surfaces, gaining enough power to erode loose sediments.

Sankey and his colleagues wanted to estimate how projected increases in wildfires would change erosion throughout the West between the start of the 21st century and 2050 -- the first assessment of fire-induced erosion, said Sankey.

The scientists used computer models to simulate future wildfire activity across the West between now and 2050. The models incorporated how climate change may alter the number and size of wildfires. Then, the scientists used a second set of models to estimate the amount of erosion that would result within a year of these wildfires.

"The burned simulations are based on three different climate and wildfire scenarios, and we also used three different erosion models," said Sankey. "We feel we have a nice combination of models to do these forecasts."

The models predicted erosion would increase by at least 100 percent in a quarter of western U.S. watersheds between the start of the 21st century and 2050, a surprisingly large increase in the amount of sediment to enter local streams, according to Sankey. In addition, two-thirds of western watersheds are projected to experience at least a 10 percent increase in erosion by the middle of the 21st century.

The amount of sediment entering creeks after fires increased with the proportion of the watershed that was burned and if the area burned repeatedly, said Sankey.

All that extra dirt can reduce water quality. Soils contain minerals, nutrients and metals, often considered toxic if consumed in large quantities by humans or fish.

Large loads of sediment can even dam rivers, changing the course of a creek through its valley. And if the sediment settles in a reservoir, the reservoir will fill with dirt instead of water, severely shortening the lifespan of the water reserve.

Restoring forests and improving water quality for human consumption or stream habitat for aquatic animals after a fire is costly, said Sankey, but it may be something water municipalities in the west need to prepare for.

In the future, other members of the research team who are co-authors on the study with Sankey will use the erosion results to identify specific communities or watersheds that will be the most prone to fire-induced erosion in the future.

For example, some of the largest predicted increases in erosion occurred in northern California and the mountainous areas of southern California, regions where fire will likely greatly increase. The Colorado Front Range also may experience a large predicted uptick in erosion, a result of small increases in fire initiating high volumes of sediment loss across the steep slopes of the mountains.

"We can identify municipalities that are future hotspots and figure out how fire and erosion impact that individual community," said Sankey. "The next team can work with more detailed, finer-scale models and estimate what conditions will look like in these watersheds."

Original post can be found at AAAS >>

This work was funded by the Northwest Climate Science Center, as a part of the project, Changes to Watershed Vulnerability under Future Climates, Fire Regimes, and Population Pressures

Urban Environments Boost Pathogen Pressure on Honey Bees

Researchers from North Carolina State University have found that urban environments increase pathogen abundance in honey bees (Apis mellifera) and reduce honey bee survival. The finding raises significant questions as urban areas continue to grow at the expense of rural environments, and urban beekeeping becomes more popular.

“We wanted to determine if the increased temperatures and impervious surface areas associated with urban environments have an effect on the number of pathogens bees are exposed to, and to the bees’ immune responses,” says Steve Frank, an associate professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of a paper on the work.

“We also wanted to look at both managed honey bee colonies and ‘wild’ ones, to see if that made a difference – and it did,” says David Tarpy, a professor of entomology at NC State and corresponding author on the paper.

Bee on FlowerWorking with volunteers, the researchers identified 15 feral colonies, living in trees or buildings without human management, and 24 colonies managed by beekeepers in urban, suburban, and rural areas within an hour’s drive of Raleigh, N.C. The researchers collected worker bees from all of the colonies, and analyzed them to assess the bees’ immune responses and their overall “pathogen pressure.” Pathogen pressure accounts for both the types of pathogen species present and the abundance of those pathogens.

The research team found that colonies closer to urban areas and those managed by bee keepers had higher pathogen pressure.

“Overall, we found that the probability of worker [bee] survival in laboratory experiments declined three-fold in bees collected from urban environments, as compared to those collected in rural environments,” Frank says.

However, the researchers also found that immune response was not affected by urbanization.

“Since immune response is the same across environments, we think the higher pathogen pressure in urban areas is due to increased rates of transmission,” Tarpy says. “This might be because bee colonies have fewer feeding sites to choose from in urban areas, so they are interacting with more bees from other colonies. It may also be caused by higher temperatures in urban areas affecting pathogen viability or transmission somehow.”

“Feral bees expressed some immune genes at nearly twice the levels of managed bees following an immune challenge,” Frank says. The finding suggests that further study of feral bee colonies may give researchers insights that could improve honey bee management.

“Honey bees are important pollinators and play a significant role in our ecosystems and our economy,” Tarpy says. “This work is really only a starting point. Now that we know what’s happening, the next step is to begin work on understanding why it is happening and if the same negative effects of urbanization are hurting solitary, native bee species that are presumably more sensitive to their local environment.”

The paper, “Urbanization Increases Pathogen Pressure on Feral and Managed Honey Bees,” was published Nov. 4 in the journal PLOS ONE. The co-lead authors of the paper are Elsa Youngsteadt, an entomology research associate at NC State, and Holden Appler, a former graduate student at NC State. The paper was co-authored by Margarita López-Uribe, a postdoctoral researcher at NC State.

The work was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture; the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; a Dean’s Enrichment Grant from the NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; a gift from the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association; and by the Department of the Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center (SE CSC).

This research was partially funded by these two SE CSC projects:
• Tree Eaters: Predicting the response of herbivores to the integrated effects of urban and global change
• Integrating the Effects of Global and Local Climate Change on Wildlife in North America


Original Press Release

Photo by Elsa Youngsteadt

Climate Change Refugia Research in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

Toni Lyn Morelli, USGS Research Ecologist at the NE CSC, is working to tease apart mechanisms causing ecological changes in northeastern U.S. mountains. The White Mountains of New Hampshire offer some of the most breathtaking views in the Eastern United States. But it wasn't always so beautiful.  After the Civil War, logging ravaged the landscape and heavily damaged watersheds.  Public outcry led to a National Forest larger than Rhode Island. Today, it isn't logging that threatens ecosystems in the White Mountains; rather, it’s the rapidly changing climate that is impacting many of the native species.  

Red Squirrel

As temperatures warm, snowpack decreases, and rainfall patterns shift, plants and animals are responding in a variety of ways. This includes indirect effects from interactions between species.  For example, researchers at the NE CSC are finding that bird distributions are shifting and that some birds are producing fewer young.  What is not well understood are the exact mechanisms causing these changes.

Toni Lyn and her students seek to understand how American red squirrels, a key predator of vulnerable montane birds, are responding to climate change.  In addition to analyzing long-term survey data, she and her team are working in the Presidential Mountains to trap red squirrels, put radio collars on them, and collect DNA samples in order to understand how far red squirrels have shifted up in elevation.  She explains that “This research will allow us to determine whether climate change is increasing predation on threatened birds like the Bicknell’s thrush, which until recently could nest at high elevation in relative safety.”
Toni Lyn Morelli in fieldThe Effects of Climate Change
More generally, Toni Lyn studies the effects of climate change on mammals ranging from squirrels to moose. "I study the impacts of climate change on animal communities," she said, "and what actions can be taken to help species adapt to climate change."  Her research takes her to the White Mountains, where she studies climate change refugia – places that have changed less in terms of temperature or precipitation over the last century because they are buffered from climate change.  These locations are often found in mountain environments.  Because of the unique physical features of mountains, these systems are buffered from the effects of climate change and allow species to stay in the same place, but move around to follow temperature and precipitation needs.  Toni Lyn points out that these areas are all around you, once you begin to notice. “Maybe there is a low place in your yard or on your commute where it is always wetter or cooler.  If the area is big enough, it can provide protection for plants or animals from climate change.” 

"Another example is the colder water found in streams that are deeper or shaded by vegetation”, Toni Lyn said. "Species like the brook trout are protected from climate change in these areas." "Recognizing these areas allows managers to act to make them more resilient to other stressors," she went on.  "For instance, planting vegetation along a brook or stream or preventing damage to the riverbank are ways to manage refugia."
Stakeholders Affecting Change
Interactions with stakeholders such as the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, the White Mountain National Forest, the North Atlantic LCC, and bird conservation groups throughout the Northeast allow her research to be applied within the environment.  And it's a mutual endeavor: by working with stakeholders, Toni Lyn is able to increase the impact of her research. "We were trying to figure out which ecosystem to focus on," she said. "There were a lot of directions that we could have taken.  But through repeated conversations we received strong and clear input from our State and National resource management stakeholders, pointing us to a particular ecosystem to focus on.  The result was a more important and relevant study" 

Refugia partner groupToni Lyn works with stakeholders such as Leighlan Prout, a land manager for the U.S. Forest Service at the White Mountain National Forest; the decisions Prout makes every day affects long term environmental conservation – and she needs climate change expertise from researchers like Toni Lyn.  “It's very important for us to understand where the most likely places for refugia will be so those sites can be conserved and we can help to focus development or other uses in locations that are more likely to become common habitats,” said Prout. “We need to better understand the interactions between wildlife species -- such as red squirrels and their prey, in the face of climate change because it has the potential to disrupt and alter those connections that we're familiar with and result in population changes we hadn't anticipated.”
Written by Andy Christian Castillo, NE CSC Communications Intern, UMass Amherst

Originally posted on the NE CSC's university website:

Join the Climate Science Center Review Team!

The American Fisheries Society and the Human Dimensions Research Unit of Cornell University are leading 5-year reviews of the eight DOI Climate Science Centers (CSC).

Potential members are being solicited for three different Science Review Teams (SRT) to conduct reviews of the CSC’s in Oregon, Alaska, and North Carolina in early 2016:

CSC Review Team Announcement over CSC MapCorvallis, Oregon: Northwest Climate Science Center - January 20-22, 2016

Fairbanks, Alaska: Alaska Climate Science Center - February 10-12, 2016

Raleigh, North Carolina: Southeast Climate Science Center - February 24-26, 2016

Potential members of these Science Review Teams (SRT) should have expertise in the general area of the development and/or application of climate science to fisheries, wildlife, and cultural resource issues. 

SRT members must be able to participate, to the greatest degree possible, in 2-3 conference calls prior to the onsite review, dedicate necessary time to read preparatory materials (CSC documents and a limited number of science publications from the CSC), and be available to provide written material for the CSC review report during and after the onsite review. It is anticipated that this will require, in addition to the onsite review commitment, an additional 8-12 hours prior to the review and 5-10 hours after the review.

Please see full details about the expertise sought, the review team member expectations, and the general solicitation in the Member Solicitation Announcement.

Application Process: 
Please submit a cover letter specifying the review that you are interested in participating in, a resume of no more than 5 pages, and a one-page or less statement of interest describing the unique qualifications that you would bring to the SRT.

Northwest CSC - 5:00 p.m. (EDT), Wednesday, November 4, 2015 (revised deadline)
Alaska CSC – 5:00 p.m. (EDT), Friday, November 13, 2015 (revised deadline)
Southeast CSC - 5:00 p.m. (EDT), Friday, November 20, 2015 (revised deadline)

Submit applications to:

For more information contact: Dr. Douglas Austen, Executive Director American Fisheries Society,

Information on the NCCWSC and CSC’s can be found at

Come See Us at The Wildlife Society's Annual Conference!

If you are attending The Wildlife Society's Annual Conference in Manitoba, Canada on October 17-21, 2015, then check out these presentations from staff and researchers from the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC):

Bridging the Gap between Knowledge and Practice to Manage Impacts to Wildlife under the Combined Effects of Climate Change and Land Use
Monday, Oct 19, 1:30 – 5:20 pm
Robin O'Malley, Policy & Partnership Coordinator with NCCWSC will present on Actionable Science – Mandate and Methods.

The Importance of Evolutionary Adaptive Capacity When Preparing for the Impacts of Climate Change
Sunday, Oct 18, 1:30 – 5:20 pm

Laura Thompson, Biologist, and Shawn Carter, Chief Scientist, with NCCWSC are leading this symposium. 

The TWS annual conference will feature over 500 presentations, numerous networking opportunities, panel discussions, and field trips. NCCWSC is looking forward to this opportunity to collaborate with and learn from fellow researchers and wildlife managers.