Science Spotlight

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Recent accomplishments of CDFW's scientific community


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.

Crime Fighters in Lab Coats: Meet CDFW’s Wildlife Forensics Team

Four women wearing white laboratory coats standing next to each other.
If they weren’t so busy or their work wasn’t so mission-critical, you might find CDFW’s Wildlife Forensics Laboratory team on loan to the California Department of Education. The four-person scientific team is all women with undergraduate and advanced degrees in biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology and forensic science.

Science Spotlight: CDFW Biologist Gives Unlucky Sea Turtle a Second Chance

Green sea turtle laying in gray plastic kennel on top of blue pad while resting head on kennel opening.
CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Mike Harris is credited with the rescue of a green sea turtle that was unintentionally caught from a pier in Morro Bay. Harris and the Morro Bay Harbor Patrol responded to a report of the hooked turtle on Aug. 17, after Harris was alerted by a friend in the area.

Science Spotlight: Oiled Wildlife Experts Make the Case for Rescue and Release Over Euthanasia

Oil covered duck held and soaped by orange gloved person wearing plastic apron
Scientists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and University of California, Davis have published an opinion essay that advocates rehabilitation and release, rather than euthanization, of animals injured by oil spills.

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.

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.

Badly Burned Ursines Get Back on their Feet – Thanks to Teamwork and Fish Skin

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Two talented veterinarians, an environmental scientist and several dedicated staff members at the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab recently put their heads and their resources together to help heal a pair of adult bears that were badly burned in the Thomas Fire. The bears, which were treated at the same time as a young mountain lion with similar, less severe burn injuries, were released back to the wild last Thursday, after several weeks of intensive – and unusual – care.

Deer DNA Study in the Sierra Nevada and Central Coast Ranges

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Deer population estimates are an important element of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) management decisions regarding the species – including setting quotas for deer-hunting seasons, acquiring land and identifying habitat improvement projects. Historically, CDFW has relied upon helicopter surveys to obtain these population estimates, but such surveys can be problematic. While they are effective in open and largely flat areas, they are less so in tree-laden areas where deer are hidden from sight. They can also be extremely expensive.

CDFW and Oregon State University Researchers Estimate the Population Size of Fishers in Northern California and Southern Oregon

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Scientists with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Oregon State University recently published the results of a population study on fishers (Pekania pennanti) in northern California and southern Oregon. Led by CDFW Wildlife Statistician Dr. Brett Furnas and three coauthors, CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Richard Callas, CDFW Research Analyst Russ Landers and Dr. Sean Matthews of Oregon State University, the study produced the first-ever robust estimates of density and size of the fisher population in northern California.

CDFW Captures Tule Elk in Phase One of Multi-Year Study in Colusa and Lake Counties

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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently launched the first phase of a multi-year study of tule elk in Colusa and Lake counties. In partnership with the University of California, Davis and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and with the assistance of capture specialists from Leading Edge Aviation, researchers used helicopter net guns to capture and place satellite collars on 45 tule elk.