Terrestrial Ecology

Terrestrial Ecology

ESI is an industry leader for terrestrial ecological services, with experience across a range of taxa, including bats, other small mammals, birds, herptofauna, and plants. Many of our scientists hold advanced degrees in their area of specialty. We complete a wide range of surveys including habitat assessments, presence/absence surveys, and population estimates. Our field work is exemplary and our documents are complete and professional.


Bats of Ohio

  • ESI’s founder and Principal Scientist, Dr. Virgil Brack, Jr., completed his Ph.D. on the ecology of the federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and is a member of the USFWS Recovery Team for the species.  Another of ESI’s lead scientists, Dr. Dale Sparks, also completed his Ph.D. on the Indiana bat.  Combined, they have 50 years of experience working with all species of federally endangered and state listed bats in the eastern U.S. (including gray [Myotis grisescens] and Virginia-big-eared [Corynorhinus townsendii] bats).  Both individuals are well published on bats and they, along with academic peers and resource agency personnel, are authors of the books “Bats of Indiana,” “Bats of Ohio,” and “Bats of Kansas”.    

    ESI is unique in our experience with winter intra-cave hibernacula surveys, including vertical single-rope techniques.  We complete assessments of summer habitat and create habitat for various bat species, including Indiana and small-footed (Myotis leibii) bats.  Our staff designed and managed the largest and longest-running habitat mitigation monitoring project for the Indiana bat.  We complete radio-telemetry studies of all scopes and scales, ranging from simple location of diurnal roosts to complex foraging studies and home range analyses.  We are one of a very few private organizations that train our own staff and thus we maintain one of (if not the) largest group of bat surveyors approved and permitted by USFWS.



Other Small Mammals

Other Small MammalsOur staff has many specialties, including graduate or post-graduate research in mammalogy.  We have the personnel, knowledge, experience, and equipment to complete everything from habitat assessments to long-term monitoring on a variety of mammals ranging in size from deer to shrews. 

We complete surveys to identify species within a project area and assess project impacts.  We work extensively with the Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister) including habitat and presence/absence surveys.  We use many field survey techniques that vary by the species of interest, habitat, and study objective.  Low impact techniques like live traps, telemetry, scat and sign collection, and photography / wildlife cameras are often preferred over destructive sampling with pit and snap traps, all of which may be enhanced with funnels and drift fence arrays. 


HerpsESI completes a variety of field surveys for reptiles and amphibians (herptofauna). Studies take the form of habitat assessment and presence / absence surveys.  Methods are tailored to individual species, as is the case with the hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii), wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta), timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), copperbelly water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta), eastern massasagua rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus), crawfish frog (Lithobates areolatus), and cave salamander (Eurycea lucifuga). 

Surveys we conduct take a variety of forms:

  • • Timed or un-timed “meander” search surveys of special habitats (e.g. wetlands, streams, rock outcrops); visual searches for some
  •   species (e.g., aquatic turtles) benefit from use of binoculars or spotting scope, and canoes or boats are used to reach otherwise
  •   inaccessible portions of stream or wetlands
  • • Road  cruising for dead and live animals, especially on warm early summer nights
  • • Placement of, and periodic checks under, “cover boards” throughout one or more seasons
  • • Acoustic surveys for frogs and toads with distinctive calls, often at night, and often at a very specific time of year or under specific
  •   weather conditions

Passive sampling is undertaken by employing techniques like pit traps, drift fence arrays and funnel traps, hoop nets/traps, and baited or unbaited eel pots.  Often, sampling is seasonally constrained and may require either day-time or night-time sampling. 


BirdsBirds are the best known wildlife resource in the U.S.  ESI’s ecologists understand the culture that surrounds the public’s love for birds and bird watching and we understand the many facets of regulatory protection afforded birds.  Often concerns for birds associated with a specific development are related to a unique habitat, such as a prairie or a wetland that supports several species of interest and/or seasonal concentrations of birds.  Regulatory protection may be provided by federal and state protection of rare threatened, and endangered species or their habitats, or increasingly through public participation.  Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also maintain species lists and work with public agencies to conserve many important resources, including such efforts as the Important Bird Areas Program, a global effort to identify and conserve areas vital to birds and other biodiversity, and a required analysis of impacts for many regulatory concerns. 

Raptors are some of the best known and most highly valued species.  Until relatively recently, our National symbol, the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), was listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Now, despite a great deal of recovery and delisting, the species is still afforded protection under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA).  Protection is also provided to the bald eagle and over 800 species of birds by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).    

We routinely assist clients with MBTA and BGEPA compliance and with presence / absence surveys for listed, unique, or concentrations of species that may be present.  We design habitat assessments and field surveys based upon a variety of parameters, including habitat, project size, focal species, terrain, and goals of the project.

Presence absence surveys, use a variety of techniques, including:

  • • Arial and ground raptor nest counts
  • • Nocturnal/crepuscular counts
  • • Point counts
  • • Line transects (often in large, open habitats such as grasslands)
  • • Call playback counts-often for owls and other nocturnal/crepuscular birds, and secretive species in dense vegetation like some herons
  •   and rails in wetlands and grassland sparrows

Bird and habitat surveys are used to assess impacts from proposed developments and avoid and minimize those impacts and aid development of mitigation measures.

Plants / Habitat Mapping / Land Use

Plants / Habitat Mapping / Land UseESI plant taxonomists complete surveys for federal and state listed rare, threatened and endangered plant species.  We hold a federal scientific collection permit for Running buffalo clover (Trifolium stononifera) and northeastern bulrush (Scirpus ancistrocheatus), and are on “qualified surveyor lists” maintained by various state agencies for listed plants, including:

  • • running buffalo clover
  • • eastern prairie fringed orchid (Plantanthera leucophaea)
  • • Virginia spirea (Spiraea virginiana)
  • • northeastern bulrush
  • • small whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides)
  • • smooth coneflower (Echinacea laevigata)

We complete rare plant inventories, and survey for unique plant communities and populations of exotic and invasive species.  On linear development projects, we often combine rare plant surveys with screenings for habitat that support other rare species, land use mapping, and sometimes wetland surveys. 

Plant and habitat surveys are typically completed as a component of or in support of larger projects and analyses.  Our studies are designed to meet the ultimate, intended use of the data.  A frequent objective is to document presence/absence (of habitat or species) for ESA compliance.  We provide our results in scientifically defensible technical reports that expertly address the ecological basis and regulatory factors that elicit surveys.  We are adept at incorporating survey results into habitat models for impact assessment, and notably for  ESA Section 10 conservation planning  We develop management and mitigation plans and coordinate conservation/mitigation efforts, from implementation to monitoring, incorporating adaptive management.


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