endangered species

Protecting Endangered Species with Better Mapping Technology

by Anita Pease

In a rapidly evolving, tech-savvy world, it’s important that we keep up with new technology in our mission to protect human health and the environment. When it comes to pesticides, technology plays an important role and helps protect endangered species. Thanks to recent technology upgrades, it just got easier to find information on pesticide use limitations that protect endangered or threatened species and their habitat.

We use Bulletins Live! Two to communicate the enforceable, geographically-specific restrictions on pesticide use to ensure the pesticide will not harm a threatened or endangered species nor their critical habitat, which is designated under the Endangered Species Act. The Bulletin’s pesticide use limitations are enforceable under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

Our updated Bulletins Live! application is a valuable, web-based, must-have tool for pesticide users. Using feedback we’ve received over the years from our stakeholders on the original system, we sought to improve the user experience while making information more accessible and easier to find.

Bulletins Live! Two has several new features, including:

    • An interactive map to help users determine if their pesticide application occurs in an area with pesticide use limitations. Users of other mapping applications like Google Maps will find this interactive map intuitive to use.
    • The option to perform advanced searches for products (by name or registration number), active ingredients and location (address or zip code and state).
    • An enhanced system to receive public comments on draft Bulletins. This feature improves stakeholder involvement, a vital part of our effort to protect endangered species.
    • And, last but certainly not least important, this new version is mobile-device friendly, making it much easier for pesticide users to access information while they are out in the field.As we go into the growing season across the country, we are excited to have this improved tool online to help protect endangered species and their habitats. To try out Bulletins Live! Two, and to learn more about our efforts to protect endangered and threatened species, go to our Endangered Species Protection Program website.

About the author: Anita Pease is the Associate Director of EPA’s Environmental Fate and Effects Division in the Office of Pesticide Programs where she oversees EPA’s endangered species protection program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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MCnest: Fly Away Home

Flying geese in a "V" formation against a sunset. By Thomas Landreth 

While recent winter weather storms may suggest otherwise, we are getting closer to the time that birds in this hemisphere begin their journey northward. Just like in the 1996 movie, Fly Away Home, last year’s crop of fledglings will begin their first return journey toward mating and nesting grounds.

However, a host of different variables can affect the success of these new populations year after year. Fly Away Home highlights how habitat loss might threaten migrating geese. But what about other, perhaps less obvious factors, such as those affecting bird breeding cycles?

EPA researchers have been working on a digital, easy-to-use model called the Markov Chain Nest Productivity Model, or MCnest, that estimates the impact of pesticide exposures on the reproductive success of bird populations.

MCnest combines existing avian (bird) toxicity test results, species life history information, and the timing of pesticide application(s) with breeding seasons to quantitatively estimate the potential impact of pesticide exposure on annual bird reproductive success.

McNest developer Matthew Etterson said, “This model is an important first step in moving avian pesticide risk assessment forward.”

Future MCnest results that indicate potential adverse affects on avian reproduction may be cited in Agency orders to regulate pesticide use under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and in support of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, and requires federal agencies to ensure that any action they authorize won’t jeopardize listed threatened or endangered species.

Though MCnest is still in its early stages of development, work continues on a more advanced version that will improve exposure estimates and more realistically describe the length of avian breeding seasons.  The researchers are also applying the concepts behind MCnest to develop a model for fish, and a similar model is possible for mammals.

As its capability grows to take in data about more species, MCnest can play a greater role in EPA’s approach to ecological risk assessment. In time, MCnest may provide a greater understanding of pesticides and their impact on wildlife and our environment.

Click here for more information on MCnest, data libraries and program instructions.

About the author: Thomas Landreth is a student services contractor working with EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor’s note: for more information on McNest and other EPA ecosystems-related research, please see the latest edition of our newsletter, “Science Matters.”

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Spectacular views of bald eagles over the Susquehanna River

By Roy Seneca

Anybody who has witnessed the beauty of a bald eagle soaring above knows that it can be quite exhilarating.  Not only is the bald eagle a proud national symbol, but it is also an incredible environmental success story.

It was not too long ago that bald eagles in our skies were on the verge of extinction due to the impact of pesticides like DDT.  But today, bald eagles can be sighted in the skies across the country thanks to environmental laws that protect them and have allowed their population to surge.

Well, if you get a kick out of seeing one or two bald eagles, you should take a trip to the Conowingo Dam in Darlington, Md. to witness an amazing sight of up to 100 or more bald eagles in one location.  During late fall and throughout most of the winter, the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River may be the best location east of the Mississippi to witness these incredible raptors.

A shot of a bald eagle in Conowingo, MD. Photo courtesy of Flickr photographer daisyj85 from EPA’s State of the Environment Photo Project

A shot of a bald eagle fishing at the Conowingo. Photo courtesy of Flickr photographer daisyj85 from EPA’s State of the Environment Photo Project

The bald eagles congregate at the dam because it provides them with some easy meals.  When the dam’s turbines are running, it provides a steady water flow filled with fish on the surface where the bald eagles and other birds swoop in to feast on.

The location also attracts large numbers of gulls, herons, black vultures and other birds, but the bald eagles are the stars of the show.  When they are not fishing, the bald eagles sometimes perch in nearby trees and perform acrobatic shows in the sky above the river.  Photographers, birdwatchers and families come out to see the birds throughout the season.

It’s peak viewing time if you’d like to see for yourself.   For more details, check out this blog.

About the Author: Roy Seneca works in the press office for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Celebrate Endangered Species Day

Have you ever had the chance to visit a national park or a zoo?  Think about what it would be like if you couldn’t visit these places because there were no more animals and plants or if you no longer had the opportunity to see the grizzly bear, pacific salmon, sea otters, and other endangered species because they didn’t exist anymore.

When I was growing up, I was lucky enough to travel to different areas of the country on family vacations. We went to places like Yosemite National Park in California, the Bronx Zoo (which was a few hours from my hometown in upstate New York), Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and many more, learning more about different animals and plants.  As an adult, I learned about the Endangered Species Act which protects the plant and animal species that are at risk of becoming extinct.  Because of this Act, we are given the opportunity to experience the rich variety of native species that define our nation.  I recently learned that there is a special day, May 17th that is designated to celebrating endangered species.

Visit the Endangered Species Day website to learn about what you can do to celebrate on May 17th.  You can find educational resources and learn about endangered species near you. You can even find ways to help protect endangered species by doing small things in your neighborhood like planting native vegetation to provide habitat for wildlife, discuss the importance of biodiversity and species preservation with your friends and participate in an Endangered Species Day Event.

 

Shelby Egan is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for protecting natural resources, cities she’s never been to and cooking any recipe by The Pioneer Woman. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Endangered Species Coloring Book

Do you like learning about animals?  Do you like to color?  If you answered yes, you are in luck!  The Fish and Wildlife Service just came out with a new Endangered Species Coloring Book.  Check out the link here: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/ESA40/PDF/ESAColoringbook.pdf

I have already learned so much about species I didn’t even know were endangered.  Did you know the Lakeside Daisy is a threatened rare plant found in dry, rocky prairie grassland areas in Illinois, Ohio and Michigan?  Or, did you know bog turtles are threatened animals and are the smallest species of turtles in North America?  Check out the link to learn more and for a fun art project!

Kelly Siegel is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for sustainable development, running, and traveling with friends

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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How Accurate is Too Accurate?

By Jeffery Robichaud

In the world of GIS, accuracy is one of the names of the game.  A map is a two (and lately three) dimensional representation of the earth as well as important features found in our environment.  We expect maps and the underlying geospatial data used to develop maps to be accurate.   In fact we expect them to become more and more accurate as time passes due to advances in technology.  Older GPS units used to be notoriously inaccurate, with an accuracy and precision that sometimes could literally be described as in the ballpark, but many of today’s units have sub-meter accuracy.   There will always be issues associated with accuracy (or at minimum the illusion/perception of accuracy as Casey previously detailed), but are there situations where too much accuracy is a bad thing?  Yes.

If you have ever perused BingMaps or GoogleEarth you know there are certain spots across the country where imagery is not as accurate as it could be.  For instance in Washington, DC everything becomes pixilated at the corner of 17th H St NW, not because one moves into the world of Minecraft (if you are old like me…ask your kids) but because of homeland security concerns.  I used to drive down 17th when I lived in the Northwest section of DC, and believe me it’s there.

And a quick Google of thoughts and comments on Google Streetview will yield you a lively discussion on issues of privacy, oftentimes because of how accurate or inaccurate images can be.  In fact I understand that companies like Google and Microsoft go to great pains to ensure anonymity by fuzzing faces, license plates, and other personal information.

Homeland Security and Privacy are easy to point to as necessitating less accurate information for public consumption but what about the environment and natural resources? Is there ever a need to fuzz data?

Actually there is a data set that is just as important for those of us who care about flora and fauna; the locations of threatened and endangered species throughout the United States.  Their locations and ranges are important for federal and state organizations charged with protecting and restoring populations in accordance with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  But the presence of exact locations in the hands of individuals with less than scrupulous intentions could result in purposeful takes of species (what the ESA euphemistically calls the killing/harvesting of an endangered species).  Thankfully, governance of this sensitive data is tight and is coordinated through an organization called NatureServe.  Not all countries are so fortunate to have a coordinated program looking out for endangered species sightings.  In the past, well intentioned tourists to Africa have blogged/tweeted about their encounters with endangered mammals, providing poachers with timely and sometimes fairly accurate locational data as well as pictures documenting the whereabouts of Elephants and Rhinos.   This Story ran on NPR last December about elephants in Tanzania.  Hopefully Social Media continues to be used for positive purposes especially when it comes to protection of human health and the environment.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division. Jeff freely admits to not “getting” Minecraft even though his kids have it on every device in the house.  He still thinks of the Creeper as a villain on Scooby Doo.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Celebrate Shad!

By Nancy Grundahl

American Shad, photo courtesy of the National Park Service

American Shad, photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Every spring around this time folks in the Delaware Valley pay homage to shad. Why? We are celebrating their return after many years of reduced populations due to polluted rivers and the construction of dams that blocked their migration upstream to spawn. Healthier waters and fish ladders have been instrumental in their comeback and so we celebrate.

How? By eating shad, of course! Restaurants serve all sorts of yummy dishes that use shad, like seared shad and shad croquettes. On the web there are tips on where to fish, when to fish and how to fish for shad. And there are festivals. Lots of them. Here are a few you might want to visit this weekend.

Lambertville, New Jersey Shad Fest(on the Delaware River just across from New Hope, Pa.)
April 28 & 29, 2012
12:30-5:30 pm

Fishtown Shadfest 2012 – Penn Treaty Park (on the Delaware River in Philadelphia)
April 28, 2012
noon-6 pm

Schuylkill River Shad Festival (on the Schuylkill River in Mont Clare, Pa.)
April 28, 2012
11 am – 5 pm

Can’t make it to the festivals but want to celebrate in your own special way? Then take a look at Philadelphia’s Fish Cam. If you are lucky, you will see shad migrating upstream by using the river ladder on the Fairmount Dam. And listen to our podcast for more about the fish ladder.

Take a look. Take a listen. Celebrate shad.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy likes to garden and during the growing season brings flowers into the office. Nancy also writes for the EPA “It’s Our Environment” blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Atlantic Sturgeon Enter Endangered Species Protection Program

By Kaitlyn Bendik

Have you ever heard of a fish called the Atlantic Sturgeon? I hadn’t until recently. When I sought out to learn about the different endangered species in the District of Columbia, I learned that this fish can grow to an enormous 14 feet long and weigh up to 800 pounds, but it is also endangered. Who knew such aquatic behemoths lived in rivers and estuaries in the Mid Atlantic Region?

I also learned that the Atlantic sturgeon is an anadromous fish species that can live up to 60 years.  It dwarfs the other two sturgeon species found in eastern North America, and is a benthic or bottom feeder.

Have you ever heard of a fish called the Atlantic Sturgeon?  I hadn’t until recently.  When I googled it, I learned that it can grow to an enormous 18 feet long and weigh over 800 pounds, but is also endangered.  Who knew such aquatic behemoths lived in rivers and estuaries in the Mid Atlantic Region!
The Atlantic sturgeon is an anadromous fish species that can live up to 60 years, and dwarfs the other two sturgeon species found in eastern North America.  They are also benthic or bottom feeders.

Recently, the Atlantic Sturgeon was added to the Endangered Species List in the Chesapeake Bay and four other “distinct population segments.”

So how does a species get listed?  A concerned citizen like you may petition the United States Secretary of the Interior to add a species, which begins a process of deciding whether there’s enough information to prove that a species needs listing.  Likewise, an organization such as the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service engages in a candidate species process, where a scientific study is conducted to gather data.  When the study concludes a species needs listing, it publishes its findings in the Federal Register for public comment.  Once that process is complete, the species can get its spot on list.

Why is the Atlantic sturgeon on the list?  Historically, this fish was a part of commercial fisheries in the US.  But due to dwindling numbers, in 1998, a harvest moratorium was put on the Atlantic sturgeon.  Despite that action, sturgeon populations are still threatened today.  They get caught inadvertently by fishermen, and in estuaries and rivers, they face habitat degradation and loss due to human activities like dredging, dams, water withdrawals, and development, as well as being hit by ships.

The Atlantic sturgeon species numbers in the Chesapeake Bay have dropped substantially, from about 20,000 breeding females in 1890 throughout the Bay and its tributaries, to less than 300 breeding females that are found in only the James River.  But a comeback is hopefully soon to come with the actions taken to build back its population.

Keeping our water clean will help keep the Atlantic sturgeon around forever. Visit the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Delaware River Basin Commission website for tips on what you can do to help protect the bays and the endangered species that call them home.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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