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northern research station

Brown Bat Found in Washington State Infected with Familiar Strain of Fungus

When a little brown bat discovered near North Bend, Washington, in March tested positive for White-nose Syndrome or WNS, scientists had a lot of questions.

The bat was found nearly 1,300 miles from the nearest confirmed case of WNS in eastern North America, so the most pressing question was about the strain of fungus causing this disease: was this a known strain of the WNS-fungus, was this an entirely new strain from elsewhere in the world, or was this the same clone of fungus that has been spreading throughout the eastern United States since 2006?

New and Improved Tools Help Adapt Forests to Changing Conditions

Changes in climate and extreme weather are already increasing challenges for forest ecosystems across the world. Many impacts are expected to remain into the future.  This means forest managers, conservationists and woodland owners continually need to address climate change to ensure forests can provide a broad array of benefits and services. The USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub and the U.S. Forest Service provide tools to help address this need.

Collaboration between scientists and managers resulted in the publication Forest Adaptation Resources: Climate Change Tools and Approaches for Land Managers. This publication provides a suite of materials enabling land managers to consider the likely effects of climate change and increase the ability of forests to cope with climate change impacts.

Native American Students Mentored by Forest Service Scientists

The U.S. Forest Service is working with The Wildlife Society to give Native American students a chance to work as research assistants for Forest Service scientists. Forest Service Research and Development funding provides stipends for living expenses for college juniors, seniors and graduate students during their mentorship, while the society provides administrative support and coordination.

The Research Assistantship Program selects Native American students who are interested in becoming wildlife biologists. They gain beneficial hands-on experience while working with a wildlife professional on an approved project. Five students have been selected for research assistantships in this second year of the program, which will last for approximately 12-14 weeks, beginning in late spring and running through late summer.

The Biology of Fall Leaves: It's all about Chemistry

Forests become a veritable garden in the fall, presenting a riot of color in national forests as well as on the streets where we live.

But what exactly is going on in those leaves? How – and why – do leaves change color, and why is there so much variety? It boils down to chemistry.

Land-Marking: Returning to 9/11 Living Memorials Projects and to the People who Continue to Shape, Create and Attend to their Meaning

Living memorials serve as a reminder of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends—but also of the power of community to reflect, rebuild and renew. Our research suggests that living memorials demonstrate the role of nature in contemporary times not only as a symbol, but as an innate and purposeful response to loss that calls forth a common humanity and compassion for others.

In other words, they demonstrate how people use nature to be resilient to loss.

Restoring Appalachian Soils to Restore the Forests

The land of forest-covered hills, mountain music and coal has a lesson for restoration: healthy forests require healthy soils.

The forests of Appalachia, a region that extends from southern New York to Georgia, are considered to be among the most diverse temperate deciduous forests in the world, with as many as 30 different tree species growing together.  Coal has played an important role in the development of Appalachian culture, but mining for coal has also created a need for restoration in extensive areas of the 13 states that make up the Appalachian region.

Deer Sign of the Times: Pellet Surveys Reveal Whitetail Abundance

It’s a cool 37 degrees Fahrenheit as Alex Royo and I step out of the Forest Service truck and on to the muddy forest road. With the meteorologist calling for sun and a high of 66 degrees by lunchtime, I am already faced with the day’s toughest decision – do I keep my warm jacket on or leave it in the truck? Either way, half of my 3.5-mile hike is going to be uncomfortable. A quick glance at Alex reveals that he has opted to leave his jacket behind. As we walk into the forest, I can’t help but notice the contrast of colorful spring beauties and trout lilies against the dull brown forest floor. And already, there is the object of my hike -- deer pellets. To find pellets so early in the day one has to wonder, just how many deer are out here?

That’s the question that vexes hunters, scientists, and land managers throughout Pennsylvania and beyond. Each and every spring, a small army of individuals from the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, the Allegheny National Forest, multiple private land managing partners, and volunteers hike hundreds of miles of Pennsylvania’s forests to help determine how many deer the forest holds by counting the most visible part of a deer – deer pellets, which is the nicest term for deer waste.

Young Scientists Network, Share Urban Research in New York City

For young scientists, the years between completing a dissertation and becoming established in your field of research is sometimes an isolating time. The scholarly support of coursework is behind you just at the moment when you have refined your area of expertise.   As a research social scientist with the U.S. Forest Service’s New York City Urban Field Station, I wanted to help bridge that gap by fostering a network of young scholars and engaging them in New York City as a living laboratory for urban research.

For three days, the Urban Field Station, located at Fort Totten in Queens, New York City, served as a home base for scientists participating in a workshop titled, “Urban Natures: Engaging Social Science Perspectives.” The workshop was a rare opportunity for Ph.D. candidates and early-career faculty members in disciplines including geography, environmental psychology, natural resource management, and environmental studies, to explore the connections between research and practice in social-ecological systems in a peer-to-peer setting.

New International Wood Packaging Standard Stops Bugs Dead in their Tracks

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Wood makes great packaging material—it’s inexpensive, abundant and versatile—but there’s one drawback: destructive forest pests stowaway in the pallets, crates and dunnage (wood used to brace cargo) used in international shipping. Over many years, international trade has resulted in the inadvertent introduction of many non-native wood-feeding pests and plant pathogens in the U.S. and throughout the world. Some of these non-native insects, including the emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorned beetle, have become highly invasive and caused serious environmental and economic impacts.

But an international standard for wood packaging material is slowing the inadvertent export of invasive bark- and wood-boring insects, according to a study conducted by Robert Haack, a research entomologist with the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Lansing, Mich., and a team of scientists. Researchers found as much as a 52 percent drop in infestation rates in the U.S., where the standard was implemented in three phases between 2005 and 2006. The study was published May 14 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Pinchot Award Recognizes Scientist's Passion: Public Relations for Bats

Sybill Amelon is trying to repair the damage Bram Stoker did to bats’ public image.

A research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Columbia, Mo., Amelon has introduced bats to more than 20,000 primary, secondary and college students and teachers. Over the past 20 years, she has explained bat biology and lifecycles to master naturalist classes, Audubon clubs, garden clubs and native plant societies. Through her research and conservation efforts, she has raised awareness about bat species, while inspiring people to save them.

Amelon’s work was recently recognized with a regional Gifford Pinchot Excellence in Interpretation and Conservation Education Award, a national accolade given to Forest Service employees for achievement in environmental interpretation and conservation education. The annual award is named in honor of the first Forest Service chief.