Science Spotlight

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Recent accomplishments of CDFW's scientific community


CDFW Drone Program Provides a Bird’s Eye View for Environmental Scientists

two scientist and a drone flying in the air with the ocean and blue skies in the background
In March 2019, there was late winter flooding at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area in Yolo County near Davis. Wildlife area supervisor Joe Hobbs wanted to check a series of old railroad trestle mounds to make sure there was no wildlife stranded there. In previous years when there had been flooding, staff went out on a boat to check the trestle mounds. But that approach had downsides: From a boat, it could be difficult to see exactly what was on the mounds, and the sound of the boat’s motor could potentially spook the animals.

Creating a New Fishery at Mountain Meadows Reservoir

Scientist, Monty Currier, holding a small green fish (perch) on a lake with tall trees and cloudy grey sky
Monty Currier’s heart sank when an excited angler told him recently of catching trophy-sized crappie at Mountain Meadows Reservoir in Lassen County.

Fish Tags Identify Spring-Run Chinook Salmon Broodstock

Feather River Fish Hatchery staffer inserts two fish tags on either side of a Chinook salmon's dorsal fin identifying the fish as a spring-run Chinook salmon before returning in to the Feather River
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Feather River Fish Hatchery in Butte County recently completed the tagging of 2,746 spring-run Chinook salmon in May and June.

CDFW’s Balancing Act to Restore Native Frog Habitat While Preserving Backcountry Fishing Opportunities

CDFW scientist Isaac Chellman works out of a float tube to fill net non-native trout from a lake to restore native frog habitat
In the Tahoe National Forest, California Department of Fish and Wildlife scientists are working to balance native species restoration with recreational fishing. This summer, for the first time in the Tahoe National Forest, CDFW will begin work to restore Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae) habitat by removing introduced trout from four alpine lakes and four small ponds within the Five Lakes Basin area. The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog is listed as threatened under California’s Endangered Species Act and endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

CDFW’s Science Institute: Providing Our Scientists with the Tools for Success

Large butterfly with orange and black with white spots on wings and a black and white spotted body with dirt and blue sky in background.
CDFW is a department with about 1,200 employees in scientific classifications, spread from Yreka in the north to Blythe in the southeast. Their expertise spans a broad spectrum of subjects – wildlife management, fisheries management, marine issues, habitat conservation and restoration, veterinary science, pathology, genetics, invasive species and so much more.

Wildfire shapes diversity of hermit warbler songs in California

small gray bird with yellow head with black beak in a tree with branches and bushes
New research shows that fire history seems to be shaping the diversity of bird songs throughout the state. The new paper, published in leading bird journal The Auk: Ornithological Advances, addresses the diversity of song dialects sung by hermit warblers – birds which get their name because they are rarely seen and spend much of their time in forest canopy. They are, however, very vocal and easily heard.

Saving Endangered Coho Salmon in Central California

wide view of a fish hatchery building with a river trees mountain and sky in distance
Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), also known as silver salmon, have lived in California’s coastal watersheds for thousands of years. Today their populations have declined to just a fraction of historical levels, endangered by a wide range of factors. In Central California in particular, the situation is dire, with the species listed as endangered under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts. Many populations are in danger of declining to the point of local extinction.

Following the Unusual Migration of a Trailblazing Elk

bull elk with large antlers in a field with trees and blue sky
About a dozen years ago, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologist Nathan Graveline heard rumors that a sole elk had been spotted in a highly unusual location – the Stanislaus National Forest, between the Clavey and Tuolumne rivers. At the time, scientists didn't have the technology to confirm the reports.

Rare coastal San Mateo County plant is in dire straits

2 cdfw scientist and a cdfw warden standing in san mateo bay near a field of yellow leptosiphon flower patch
The world is closing in on coast yellow leptosiphon. The endangered plant exists in only one known location on earth — an 1,800 square foot plot on Vallemar Bluff in Moss Beach, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. The low-growing annual from the Phlox family features bright yellow flowers with fused petals and typically blooms in April and May.

Counting Mountain Lions in California’s Back Country

scientist Justin Dellinger driving in mountain lion territory
CDFW wildlife biologist Justin Dellinger has a most unusual job -- since 2015, he’s been capturing and collaring mountain lions in California’s back country. Justin aims to achieve something unique, which is the first-of-its-kind comprehensive population assessment of California’s mountain lions.