Energy and Wildlife

Tools & Solutions

USGS supports the U.S. goal to increase energy production from clean, renewable sources by conducting research into minimizing or mitigating potential negative effects of an expanding renewable energy infrastructure. USGS scientists collect data and develop tools and techniques to minimize potential negative effects of new energy development. These tools are critical for supporting management efforts to monitor and improve effectiveness of how facilities are located, built, and operated.

Monitoring protocols and habitat-use models are providing the basis for understanding how wildlife can be affected by energy development, supporting permitting and siting of new facilities, and guiding strategies for mitigation.

Research Highlights

Fatality estimation and detection tools are assisting in responsible development of energy resources while minimizing negative effects to bats, birds, and other wildlife.

Applied Statistical Methods and Tools

Current protocols for estimating bird and bat fatality at wind-power facilities call for searching designated plot areas below turbines to find carcasses of birds and bats that die at turbines. To account for imperfect detection, trials are conducted to estimate the proportion of carcasses that will remain unscavenged between searches and the proportion of those likely to be detected by a searcher.

Fatality Estimator Software

This software was developed to estimate wildlife fatalities at wind-power facilities, and is applicable to a variety of circumstances in which the objective is to estimate the size of a superpopulation and the probability of detection of the individuals is less than one. Simple counts of carcasses do not accurately reflect fatality and do not allow comparison among locations because carcasses may be detected at different rates. This software uses data collected during carcass searches and knowledge of detection rates to accurately estimate the number of fatalities and to provide a measure of precision associated with the estimate. These estimates are fundamental to understanding acute and cumulative effects of wind power on wildlife populations.

Estimating wind-turbine-caused bird and bat fatality for rare species

Many wind-power facilities in the United States have established effective monitoring programs to determine turbine-caused fatality rates of birds and bats, but estimating the number of fatalities of rare species poses special difficulties.

Related Resources: Evidence of absence (Recorded Presentation)

This is a recorded presentation describing a statistical software package called "Evidence of Absence" that can be used to provide evidence of compliance with incidental take permits. It will be useful to wildlife managers and wind energy operators to estimate, with reasonable certainty, that a certain number of birds or bats have been killed at wind energy facilities, even when no carcasses are found. Recorded by: Sarah Beldin, USGS.

Recent Publications

A framework for decision points to trigger adaptive management actions in long-term incidental take permits

A Collision Risk Model to Predict Avian Fatalities at Wind Facilities: An Example Using Golden Eagles, Aquila chrysaetos

Lead Scientists

Manuela Huso
Biological Statistician
Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
p: (541) 750-0948

Michael Runge
Research Ecologist
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
p: (301) 497-5748


Top Photo: Golden Eagle on Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Tom Koerner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.