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.

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.

DNA testing of tusk, bone, teeth

2 female forensic specialists crouch, looking at tusk
In Southern California, there are two facilities that offer fascinating looks at the types of animals that roamed the land millions of years ago. The Western Science Center in Riverside County is home to 100,000 fossils and artifacts, all unearthed during construction of a nearby reservoir. The La Brea Tar Pits in neighboring Los Angeles County serves a similar purpose, storing a staggering 35 million prehistoric specimens discovered in and around the natural pits that continue to seep asphalt in the area.

Saving the Amargosa Vole

Man in dirty brown pants, blue jacket, and headlamp on forehead kneeling with jug of water pouring into small metal dish next to white drawer. Tall grass in foreground and fence immediately behind man.
Wildlife veterinarians recently hit an important milestone in their collective efforts to conserve a tiny endangered mammal native to the Mojave Desert. The population of Amargosa voles (Microtus californicus scirpensis), restricted to one small town in Inyo County, is now perilously small, due to habitat destruction, climate change and water diversions created to benefit humans.

California’s Disappearing Kelp Forests: What Scientists and Divers can do to Reverse this Trend

Abalone attached to top of kelp stalk underwater.
The view of northern California’s beautiful coastline has historically been pristine and breathtaking. With dense kelp forest canopies blanketing the surface of the nearshore areas and protecting the abundant rockfishes, red abalone, sea stars and red urchins that lived below, it was a healthy, natural ecosystem rich with thriving inhabitants. Unfortunately, the ocean is now changing, and this idyllic scene is no more.

CDFW Documents Statewide Impact of Recent Drought on Fish and Aquatic Species

Collage of three different images. Top image is rocky, barren dirt area in front of small lake amongst trees and mountains. Bottom left photo is two women on rocks in front of water and large walls of rock. Bottom right photo shows three people pulling and pushing metal boat over shallow riverbed with trees in background.
One silver lining to emerge from the severe drought that impacted California earlier this decade was that it whetted an appetite to study the event and compile data designed to help fish and aquatic species better weather future droughts.

CDFW Biologists Confirm Green Sturgeon Spawn in Yuba River

Underwater photo of a green sturgeon swimming along rocky river bottom.
CDFW biologists have been taking a new approach to looking at reproduction in one of the oldest fish species in existence. Green sturgeon, which are listed as threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act, are in effect a living fossil, having swam in both the fresh and ocean waters from California to Alaska for more than 200 million years.

Creel Survey Keeps Tabs on Quality at Crowley

Crouching man in brown and beige uniform and ball cap on boat with pencil and chart on clipboard next to open cooler filled with fish.
Mono County’s Crowley Lake is a destination fishery that attracts trout anglers of all kinds – bait fishermen, lure casters, trollers and fly anglers – throughout the state during its open season.

Identifying the Oily “Fingerprint” at CDFW’s Petroleum Chemistry Laboratory

Man wearing white lab coat, clear safety goggles, and green gloves holding graduated cylinder with clear fluid in laboratory setting
You've seen television forensic dramas where sleuths use science to help find a killer. What many don’t know is these same types of similar techniques like fingerprinting can help investigators track down the source of an oil spill.

Biologists Work to Restore Kirman Lake’s Trophy Trout Fishery

Small green and brown spotted fish held in hands
It’s a question that has been asked by more than a few eastern Sierra trout anglers: What happened to the fishing at Kirman Lake?