Amphibian and Stream Habitat Assessments

Community scientists collecting water quality samples

Community scientists collecting water quality samples

Our goal is to improve and sustain the overall health of Utah’s alpine aquatic ecosystems. An important indicator of aquatic health is the presence of the boreal toad, once common in Utah’s mountains. The boreal toad is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Utah’s Wildlife Action Plan and listed as “sensitive” by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. For this reason, we partner with the habitat and wildlife decision-makers at Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources and the US Forest Service, the providers of geologic and environmental data at Utah’s Geological Survey, conservation partners at Utah’s Hogle Zoo, and community science volunteers to collect information about frog and toad eggs, tadpoles and adults along with water quality data. Learn more.


Wasatch Wildlife Watch

Community scientists installing a trail camera

Community scientists installing a trail camera

Our goal is to assess wildlife presence in areas where wildlife habitat meets growing urban development. Increased recreation and a booming human population are putting pressure on the Wasatch Mountain’s natural resources. With urban population in the Wasatch predicted to expand 40% through the next 25 years, the Central Wasatch Commission—the entity tasked with preserving the Central Wasatch through transportation planning—has found there is a lack of baseline wildlife data to inform future planning.

2018 was the first year of a five-year study to collect wildlife habitat use and occupancy on the landscape. We partner with researchers at the University of Utah’s Biodiversity and Conservation Ecology Lab, Salt Lake City Trails & Natural Lands, science program directors at the Natural History Museum of Utah, and community science volunteers, to collect and analyze wildlife images in the Central Wasatch Mountains using motion activated trail cameras. These images will enable us to better understand influences of human development and recreational traffic on wildlife habitat. These data will be used to create a predictive spatial model to inform future landscape-level planning decisions that maintain or improve habitat connectivity for wildlife movement, benefiting both residents and wildlife. Learn more.


Stream and Riparian Restoration

Community scientists building beaver dam analogues

Community scientists building beaver dam analogues

Our goal is to create climate adapted watersheds resulting in connected riparian corridors, resilient wildlife populations, and thriving communities. As climate change continues to warm the West, streams can dry out earlier each year and vegetation productivity often declines, with further implications for wildlife and residents. The symptoms of climate change are amplified by degraded stream conditions arising from overgrazing and extirpation of beaver.

Low-tech, process-based restoration, like beaver dam mimicry, can help watersheds adapt to climate change. We partner with the habitat and wildlife stewards and decision-makers at Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources, the researchers publishing novel literature on riparian and beaver habitat restoration at Utah State University, the nonprofit partners focused on stream and riparian habitat restoration at Trout Unlimited, and community science volunteers to conduct assessments of stream conditions and to build beaver dam analogues. These human constructed beaver dams raise water tables, increase water retention in ponds, and encourage the release of water over longer dry periods. This improves water quality, conserves biodiversity and habitat, provides recreation opportunities, absorbs floodwaters, and aids wildfire habitat recovery. Learn more.


Stream Survey (RSRA) Training

Community scientists conducting a Rapid Stream-Riparian Assessment

Community scientists conducting a Rapid Stream-Riparian Assessment

Our goal is to measure an evaluate the effectiveness of our Stream and Riparian Restoration Projects. Rapid Stream-Riparian Assessments generate a score for stream water quality, riparian vegetation, and hydrogeomorphology as well as fish, aquatic, and terrestrial wildlife habitat. This method efficiently assesses stream condition and monitors the effectiveness of restoration activities. By comparing pre-stream restoration scores to post-restoration scores, we are documenting that restoration efforts are working as intended. We house, share, and maintain these compiled data using a centralized database to understand restoration efforts on a landscape level. Learn more.


Plants and Pollinators

Monarch butterfly photo by Rachel Taylor

Monarch butterfly photo by Rachel Taylor

Our goal is to collect and analyze Utah's western monarch butterfly population data to strategically plan future habitat protection, enhancement or creation. The project will also assist with the validation and refinement of the western-wide habitat suitability model for milkweeds and monarchs. The monarch butterfly has shown significant declines in recent years. Since the early 1980's, the overall population is down more than 90%. Experts attribute the decline to a number of factors including, climate change, loss of breeding habitat and/or overwintering habitat, pesticides/herbicides and other unknown causes. Since 2014, USFWS has had the monarch under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act, with a decision pending late 2019.

We partner with Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Utah Department of Natural Resources, and The Nature Conservancy to survey for monarch butterflies and milkweeds throughout the state. Information garnered will be shared with Western Aassociation of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and will assist in decision making regarding monarch habitat going forward.  Learn more.


Black Rosy-finch Study

Black Rosy-finch photo by Janice Gardner

Black Rosy-finch photo by Janice Gardner

Black Rosy-finch are one of the least-studied birds in North America. As such, the future wellbeing of Rosy-finches is hampered by an absence of even basic information about their demography, abundance, and distribution. Identifying relevant conservation measures is particularly pressing in the face of climate change, which is predicted to push alpine habitats upward in elevation and diminish existing habitat. Black Rosy-finches have been identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a “Species of Concern” and a Utah “Species of Greatest Conservation Need.”

Utah’s Wildlife Action Plan has identified measures that can prevent Black Rosy-finches and other alpine species from being listed under the Endangered Species Act. In response to the call to action in Utah’s Wildlife Action Plan, a partnership of dedicated stakeholders comprised of the Department of Defense, Tracy Aviary, U.S. Forest Service, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah State University, and Wild Utah Project developed the Utah Black Rosy-finch Abundance and Distribution Study. The goal of the Study is to fill significant data gaps about Utah’s Black Rosy-finch movement and population size. Learn more.