USGS Western Ecological Research Center

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Scientists at the USGS Western Ecological Research Center study the many ecosystems of the Pacific Southwest. Follow our expeditions and projects through this outreach page, and learn more about your local landscape with our library of Outreach Factsheets and photos. Thanks for joining us!

Ben Young Landis
Outreach and Communications Coordinator

WERC Headquarters
3020 State University Drive East
Sacramento, CA 95819
Phone: (916) 278-9495
Fax: (916) 278-9475
Email: blandis@usgs.gov
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Sage grouse survey tour in Virginia Mountains, NV, July 2011 --Photographer: Steve Schwarzbach/USGS
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Find the Sage-Grouse In This Photo
TUESDAY JUL 19 2011
The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a master of camouflage. It takes a high-powered camera lense to zoom in and reveal the grouse hen that's nesting in this field in the Virginia Mountains of Nevada.

Starting with this vaguely dark spot in the thickets:
Sage grouse survey tour in Virginia Mountains, NV, July 2011 --Photographer: Steve Schwarzbach/USGS

Zoom in just a bit:
Sage grouse survey tour in Virginia Mountains, NV, July 2011 --Photographer: Steve Schwarzbach/USGS

Can you see an eyeball?
Sage grouse survey tour in Virginia Mountains, NV, July 2011 --Photographer: Steve Schwarzbach/USGS

At last, the hen's head in view:
Sage grouse survey tour in Virginia Mountains, NV, July 2011 --Photographer: Steve Schwarzbach/USGS

The USGS Western Ecological Research Center has ongoing studies on sage-grouse and sage-grouse habitat in Nevada and California, to provide scientific analyses for other government agencies. Select areas of Nevada's sagebrush-steppe ecosystem are being considered as sites for renewable energy infrastructure, such as electricity transmission corridors. At the same time, the sage-grouse is a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Ecologists Mike CasazzaPete Coates and colleagues from our Dixon Field Station are tracking grouse with GPS tags to create detailed maps of grouse movement and preferred habitat corridors throughout Nevada, as well as monitoring predatory raven populations and fire-prone invasive plants that impact the sage ecosystem. These scientific efforts and findings will help other government agencies formulate optimal management plans for this important region.

Here are some more photos from the spectacular landscape of the Virginia Mountains, taken this July by WERC center director Steve Schwarzbach.
 
Check out this field of mules ear in bloom (Wyethia mollis):
Sage grouse survey tour in Virginia Mountains, NV, July 2011 --Photographer: Steve Schwarzbach/USGS

Mules ear are a favorite habitat for sage-grouse, and these thickets sport nutritious fodder like this grub:
Sage grouse survey tour in Virginia Mountains, NV, July 2011 --Photographer: Steve Schwarzbach/USGS

These steppes are home to brilliant summer wildflowers...
Sage grouse survey tour in Virginia Mountains, NV, July 2011 --Photographer: Steve Schwarzbach/USGS

...and they're also where the antelope roam.
Sage grouse survey tour in Virginia Mountains, NV, July 2011 --Photographer: Steve Schwarzbach/USGS

Meanwhile, research continues on this dramatic landscape, as WERC biologist Zach Lockyer is seen here with a tracking antenna searching for previously tagged sage-grouse:
Sage grouse survey tour in Virginia Mountains, NV, July 2011 --Photographer: Tom Kimball/USGS

Read more about this research at the WERC sage-grouse research homepage.

-- Ben Young Landis

Image Credits: Steve Schwarzbach/USGS. Bottom-most Image Credit: Tom Kimball/USGS.

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