WDFW LogoWashington Department of Fish & Wildlife
WDFW LogoConservation

For more information on species & ecosystem science:

Wildlife Science

Fish Science

Habitat Science


Monitoring Resources on State Wildlife Lands


Lead Scientist: Michael A. Schroeder

Ecoregions: Statewide

Map of landcover of eastern Washington
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  Satellite imagery can be used to map broad landscapes such as with this image for eastern Washington (Jacobson and Snyder 2000). This type of effort can also be used to monitor long-term changes.
Aerial phot of shrub and tree cover
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  Aerial photos can also be used to monitor characteristics of the environment such as shrub and tree cover. Some of these features can be difficult to detect with satellite imagery.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) strives to manage its wildlife areas to protect and provide the habitat necessary to support healthy and diverse fish and wildlife populations, and provide compatible recreational opportunities. Effective management of fish and wildlife, and habitats upon which they depend, requires an adaptive approach. This includes the use of experimental designs and techniques, and integration of monitoring and evaluation. Monitoring and evaluation are critical in this process because they provide the information necessary to evaluate management activities in the past and to improve management activities in the future.

Monitoring and evaluation occurs at different levels of intensity. At the simplest level, assessments can be used to evaluate individual projects. This can be done by monitoring focal species or habitats with basic indicators or metrics. A more complex and integrated approach involves an ecological integrity assessment designed to evaluate ecological condition. Ecological condition represents the current state of a resource compared to reference standards or benchmarks for physical, chemical, and biological characteristics.

Ecological integrity assessments can be done at different scales. At the broadest scale, assessments can be done using remote sensing data and Geographical Information Systems. More detailed approaches can incorporate different intensities of field work ranging from ground truthing of remote maps to detailed transects designed to monitor specific characteristics of the habitat. Monitoring can also include citizen science which provides both an efficient and effective way to collect data.

To learn more, watch the presentation, "An Introduction to Ecological Integrity Monitoring."

Current Research & Volunteer Opportunities

Selected Publications

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Top photo by Fred C. Zwickel in 1968 and bottom photo by Michael A. Schroeder in 2007. Photos can also be used to provide insight into long-term changes in ecosystem condition. The above example uses a photo comparison from the Methow Wildlife Area. Note the change in shrub cover (antelope bitterbrush).   Some characteristics, such as recruitment of young shrubs, are difficult, if not impossible, to measure remotely.
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Line transects can be used to get detailed information on habitat and habitat change. Transects can provide: (1) ground truthing data to support remote sensing efforts; (2) information on key habitat characteristics needed for specific indicators of habitat and/or wildlife health; and (3) specific response variables to management practices.   Exclosures, such as this one on the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area, are often used to monitor the long-term impacts of various management practices. Exclosures can be designed to exclude domestic livestock as well as wild ungulates.
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Research on focal species may provide necessary information to test and validate assumptions used in broader scale monitoring and evaluation efforts. The sage sparrow shown here was captured and banded as part of a habitat restoration study (Schroeder and Vander Haegen 2006).   Citizen science can provide an important avenue for collection of data. One excellent example of citizen science is the breeding bird survey, which was initiated in 1966. The breeding bird survey is overseen by the U.S. Geological Survey, but can be integrated into monitoring and evaluation efforts in Washington. The map above shows transects within the state of Washington.

All photos unless otherwise indicated are courtesy of Michael A. Schroeder