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Cover of April 30 WERC Biweekly Newsletter
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WERC Biweekly Update: Apr. 16-30, 2012
MONDAY APR 30 2012

WERC research roundups are now in a biweekly format, complete with PDF version. Check back every two weeks for a run down of new research and events from the USGS Western Ecological Research Center. To add your name to the email distribution list for the PDF newsletter, please contact

Download the current issue (1.07)


New ‘Bumblebee’ Gecko Discovered in Papua New Guinea
WERC scientist Robert Fisher and National Museum of Natural History scientist George Zug have described a new species of gecko from Papua New Guinea. Named Nactus kunans, it was described from two specimens collected in 2010 by Fisher and the Papua New Guinea National Museum from a remote village on Manus Island. The species epithet kunans means “bumblebee” in the local Nali language.


Muzaffar, SB, NJ Hill, JY Takekawa, WM Perry, LM Smith, WM Boyce. 2012. Role of bird movements in the epidemiology of West Nile and avian influenza virus. Human-Wildlife Interactions 6(1):72-88.

Nussear, KE, CR Tracy, PA Medica, DS Wilson, RW Marlow, PS Corn. 2012. Translocation as a conservation tool for desert tortoises: survivorship, reproduction, and movements. Journal of Wildlife Management. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.390


A Case of Uphill Distribution Shift in Plant Species Shown To Be Unrelated to Climate Warming
In a study published in PLoS ONE, USGS fire ecologist Jon Keeley and Texas Tech ecologist Dylan Schwilk respond to a report of climate-driven vegetation shift published in PNAS. The authors demonstrate that the reported “marching upslope” of Ceanothus greggi in California is likely an artifact of fire history, not due to climate warming.


The American Red Cross Santa Cruz County Chapter has nominated WERC scientist Josh Adams for this year’s Red Cross Animal Rescue Hero award. Adams and his wife Hannahrose Nevin, a seabird ecologist with CDFG, were nominated together for their dedication to scientific research on oiled and injured seabirds along the central California coast.


April 17-28, 2012 (Sausalito/Merced, CA) WERC scientist Nathan Stephenson and scientist emeritus Jan van Wagtendonk gave invited talks on climate change and fire history at the 2012 National Parks Institute hosted by UC Merced. The seminar gathers park managers internationally for professional education.

April 18, 2012 (Irvine, CA) Nathan Stephenson gave an invited seminar at UC Irvine on the environmental controls of forest biomass and productivity.

April 20-23, 2012 (Zzyzx, CA) WERC scientist Kristin Berry presented at the 26th annual Desert Symposium, on the populations of the desert tortoises Gopherus agassizii and G. morafkai.

April 24, 2012 (Sacramento, CA) John Takekawa hosted Luo Ze of the Chinese Academy of Sciences for a guest lecture on the Sacramento State campus. Luo spoke on the Academy’s computer technology use in migratory bird research in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.

April 25, 2012 (Honiara, Solomon Is.) WERC scientist Robert Fisher presented a session on endangered Fijian iguanas (Brachylophus spp.) at the IUCN Pacific Islands Species Forum.

May 19-20, 2012 (Menlo Park, CA) The upcoming USGS Open House family science festival in Menlo Park will feature WERC research, including South Bay restoration science and sea otter studies.


The Japanese Nuclear Meltdown May Have Reduced New Zealand’s Muttonbird Population (Radio New Zealand)
Research led by WERC scientist Josh Adams is mentioned in this update on sooty shearwaters returning to New Zealand. To examine whether these migrating birds may have been exposed to radiation from Japan’s Fukushima incident, Adams and New Zealand colleagues collected feather samples from approximately 300 shearwaters in April. Adams and the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center will attempt to analyze the Cesium-137 levels of these specimens.

Metal Threat for Rails? / The Bird Laboratory (Estuary News) Two WERC projects are mentioned in the latest newsletter of the San Francisco Estuary Partnership. Josh Ackerman’s recent study on mercury effects on California clapper rail body condition is highlighted in the news briefs. Another article interviews Laura Valoppi, who spoke on bird usage of experimental islands at Pond SF2 of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project.


On May 1, WERC scientist Laura Valoppi will join high school students at Dinner with a Scientist, a career development event. The evening will be hosted by the Sacramento Area Science Project, which is organized by UC Davis and Sac State.


Ecological Science Helps Tackle Devastating Human Parasite
Caused by a trematode parasite, schistosomiasais leads to internal organ and tissue damage in humans, creating distinctive distended abdomens in infected individuals. The disease is especially prevalent in Africa, and the non-profit group Project Crevette has been testing the biocontrol of the Schistosoma parasite in Sénégal using a native prawn species. WERC scientist and parasite ecologist Kevin Lafferty has been advising the effort, working with a UC Santa Barbara postdoctoral researcher to design a study testing the native prawn Macrobrachium vollenhovenii as a biocontrol agent for the parasite’s intermediate host — snails. The prawn had previously been decimated due to a river dam project which altered the native ecosystem, allowing schisto-vector snails to thrive.

This Biweekly Update is produced as a service to USGS/WERC staff, colleagues, partners and the interested public. To add your email address to the mailing list or to report errors/suggestions, please contact Download the current issue (1.07)

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