Science Spotlight

Science Institute News

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Recent accomplishments of CDFW's scientific community


CDFW’s Annual Bighorn Sheep Count

About 30 men and women who volunteered to help department conduct sheep survey
On March 1, 2020, about 160 volunteers gathered near the rugged terrain for the annual sheep count. Their goal was to use spotting scopes and binoculars to locate sheep, and determine and record their gender and approximate age.

Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area Pioneering Wild Turkey Banding, Research Effort

A male wild turkey is released from a cardboard box after being banded, weighted and measured recently at the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area.
Scientists at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and volunteers from the National Wild Turkey Federation conduct annual spring trapping and banding of wild turkeys at the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area in order to better understand the characteristics, habitat preferences and the dynamics of the growing population of wild turkeys using the wildlife area and surrounding properties.

Roosevelt Elk Collaring Effort Seeks to Reduce Conflicts Along North Coast

A tranquilized Roosevelt elk is tagged and collared by two CDFW staffers
Despite their massive size and majestic appearance, Roosevelt elk have proved an elusive research subject because of the dense forests they inhabit. CDFW recently initiated one of the largest Roosevelt elk capture and collaring efforts in state history.

Habitat Study Shows How American Pikas Fare in Warming Temperatures

Closeup of small brown and gray rodent atop rocks chewing on leaves
CDFW staff recently conducted a study to determine whether American pika in California are able to find sufficient refuge from elevated temperatures in their natural habitat. Previous CDFW collaborative research and related work has suggested that pikas in California and Nevada have been declining in warmer areas, but some scientists contend that underground temperature refuges will protect pikas from warming temperature trends.

Science Spotlight: Increasing the Genetic Diversity of White Abalone

Scuba diver underwater holding white board and mesh bag near rocky floor with kelp in background
At nearly 130 feet underwater, CDFW abalone researcher Dr. Laura Rogers-Bennett didn’t have much time. Her dive computer told her it was time to ascend, which meant that she would have to stop searching for the endangered white abalone hiding in the waving fields of red and gold gorgonians.

CDFW Pilot Study Establishing Foundation for Enhanced Study of Porcupines

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Not to put too fine a point on it, but studying California’s porcupines hasn’t traditionally been a high priority for CDFW. Wildlife research funding is limited, especially for non-game species, and species listed as threatened or endangered are typically given top priority. That means that scientists sometimes need to be creative – and frugal – in their efforts to survey and manage non-listed, non-game species.

Saving the Burrowing Owls

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A dwindling population of a tiny owl in Southern California has a chance at a comeback, thanks to a collaborative effort by scientists from CDFW, the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research (ICR), Caltrans and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For 21 Years, Volunteer Has Kept Tabs on Morro Bay’s Black Brant

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John Roser began hearing the stories shortly after he moved to Los Osos, San Luis Obispo County, on the shores of Morro Bay in the mid-1990s.

California Fish and Game, Volume 103, Issue 3

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The latest issue of California Fish and Game, 103-3, makes a significant contribution to the body of research related to longfin smelt in California. A paper titled, “Historic and contemporary distribution of Longfin Smelt (Spirinchus thaleichthys) along the California coast” analyzes and presents observation data for this species from a variety of published and unpublished sources dating from 1889 to 2016.

The Challenges of Studying Roosevelt Elk

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For residents of Humboldt and Del Norte counties, the majestic Roosevelt elk is a common sight. Although Roosevelt numbers were dwindling in California by the 1920s, conservative management strategies and limited hunting opportunities have helped them to rebound. Today, researchers have identified more than 20 distinct groups of elk in these two counties, many of which consist of well over 50 animals.