Trouble viewing this message? You may also view it online.



September 2011

2010 Idaho National Laboratory Annual Environmental Site Report

Ecological Research at the Idaho National Environmental Research Park in 2010

2010 Breeding Bird Surveys on the Idaho National Laboratory Site

First Quarter 2011 Surveillance Report

Vegetation Community Classification and Mapping of the INL Site

Annual Report of Surveys for Historic Sage-Grouse Leks on the Idaho National Laboratory

Newspaper in Education
Ask a Scientist website

An Animal of the High Desert- Northern Harrier

Desert Species of the
Month Archive

Breeding Bird Surveys. 

Since 1985, official Breeding Bird Surveys have been conducted on the INL.  BBS surveys on the INL have yielded useful information about population dynamics of native birds, effects of weather and fire on avian abundance, and the breeding status of a number of bird species of concern, including sagebrush obligate species and other species exhibiting declines through their range   More

Kid's Activity Pages

  • Wildlife Matching Game
  • Basics of Radiation
  • Plant and Animal Activity
  • Wildlife Coloring Pages
  • Habitat Hangman
  • Guess the INL Animal



















|| Idaho National Laboratory Annual Environmental Site Report

The Idaho National Laboratory Site Environmental Report Calendar Year 2010 was prepared to inform the public, regulators, stakeholders, and other interested parties of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site environmental performance during 2010.

This report includes:

  • Effluent monitoring and environmental surveillance of air, water, soil, vegetation, biota and agricultural products for radioactivity. The results are compared with historical data, background measurements, and/or applicable standards and requirements in order to verify that the INL Site does not adversely impact the environment or the health of humans or biota.
  • A summary of environmental management systems in place to protect air, water, land and other natural and cultural resources impacted by INL Site Operations.
  • Ecological and other scientific research conducted on the INL Site which may be of interest to the reader.

Some highlights of the report:

  • One measure of the achievement of the environmental programs at the INL Site is compliance with applicable environmental regulations, which have been established to protect human health and the environment. The federal laws which apply to INL Site activities include the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and CERCLA. Overall, the INL Site met all federal, state and local regulatory commitments in 2010.

  • All radionuclide concentrations in ambient air samples were below DOE standards for air and were within historical measurements. In addition, gross alpha and gross beta concentrations were analyzed statistically and there were no differences between samples collected on the INL Site, at the INL Site boundary, and off the INL Site. Trends in the data appear to be seasonal in nature and do not demonstrate any INL Site influence. This indicates that INL Site airborne effluents were not measureable in environmental air samples.

  • Potential radiological doses to the public from INL Site operations were calculated to determine compliance with pertinent regulations and limits. The Clean Air Act Assessment Package, 1988, PC version computer code, required by the EPA to demonstrate compliance with the Clean Air Act, was used to calculate the dose to a hypothetical, maximally exposed individual. The maximum calculated dose to the maximally exposed individual, 0.058 mrem, was well below the 10 mrem standard established by the Clean Air Act. For comparison, the dose from natural background radiation was estimated in 2010 to be 382 mrem.

  • The maximum potential individual doses from consuming waterfowl and big game animals at the INL, based on the highest concentrations of radionuclides measured in samples of these animals, were estimated to be 0.059 mrem and 0.004 mrem, respectively. When summed with the dose estimated for the air pathway, (0.058 mrem) the maximally exposed individual could potentially receive a total dose of 0.12 mrem in 2010. This is 0.12 percent of the DOE health-based dose limit of 100 mrem/yr from all pathways for the INL Site.

For more information, access the full INL Annual Site Environmental Report at

|| Ecological Research at the Idaho National Environmental Research Park in 2010

In 2010 there were 13 major ecological research projects taking place on the Idaho NERP. The researchers were from Idaho State University, University of Idaho, Boise State University, University of Nevada Reno, Montana State University, Colorado State University, Texas A&M, and Washington State University, Environmental Surveillance, Education, and Research Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, and POWER Engineers, Inc.

Most of the DOE-ID-funded research and much of the research funded by other agencies address conservation planning issues applicable to the INL Site. These issues include preparing for potential Endangered Species Act listings, understanding wildland fire effects, minimizing invasive species impacts, and understanding long-term trends in plant community composition, sagebrush health, and potential effects of climate change.

Two of the projects are highlighted below. To see a report of all projects conducted in 2010, please go to

Determining Greater Sage-Grouse Abundance and Seasonal Landscape Use Patterns on the Idaho National Laboratory Site

The U.S. Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Office (DOE-ID) recognized that if sage-grouse or other sagebrush-obligate species were listed under the Endangered Species Act, further development and current activities on the INL Site potentially could be delayed or halted to assess the possible effects on sage-grouse. Radio telemetry data gathered from sage-grouse fitted with radio transmission collars will be used to delineate the areas most used by sage-grouse on the INL Site and locate and document nest success.

Sage Grouseifty-two sage-grouse, including 31 hens, were collared in 2008 and 2009. In 2008, 20 nests were initiated, six of which were successful (30 percent), meaning that at least one egg hatched. Four of the six broods survived until the end of September 2008. In 2009, 24 nests were initiated, 11 of which were successful (46 percent apparent nest success). At least seven of the 11 broods survived until the end of the season in September 2009, and the fates of two broods were unknown. In 2010, five males and six females captured in previous years were still being monitored. Males and females exhibited high lek and nest site fidelity. After a mortality in March, five females were tracked into nesting season, but only one nest was documented.

The telemetry study concluded in 2010. Over the two-year study, sage-grouse exhibited high variation in annual distance traveled. Some sage-grouse remained on or near the INL Site year round, whereas others traveled large distances seasonally. The greatest one-way seasonal movements were 108 km (67 miles) and 66 km (41 miles) for a male and female, respectively. After the breeding season and throughout the summer, both males and females tended to disperse off of the INL Site, so that the lowest occurrence of collared sage-grouse on the INL Site was in September.

Evaluating Transient Habitat use by Migrating Tree-Roosting Bat Species (Hoary Bats and Silver-Haired Bats)

The objective of this research was to document activity by migrating tree bat species at INL caves in order to identify stopover habitat to be investigated by further study. The two target species were hoary bat and silver-haired bat. These two species comprise the bulk of bats killed by wind turbines, with hoary bats comprising half of known fatalities.

The 2009 field season resulted in the collection of 42,978 files of bat call sequences from two INL Site caves and a single off-site cave (Crystal Ice Cave) over 93 sampling nights. Data collection during the 2010 field season continued from early September until midwinter; these data are still being analyzed.

The original intent of this work was to focus on two target species (hoary bats and silver-haired bats); however, the methodology employed at cave entrances revealed aspects of INL Site bat communities and bat behavior not previously described. Late summer and fall activity presents a mix of summer resident, transient migrators, and pre-hibernation swarming bats all converging at cave features to obtain resources. Review of call files has revealed the presence of the little brown bat (a species at risk from white-nose syndrome) as well as several species that may be new records for INL (Yuma myotis and pallid bat).

|| 2010 Breeding Bird Surveys on the Idaho National Laboratory Site

Breeding bird surveys (BBSs) have been conducted annually since 1985 (no surveys were conducted in 1992 and 1993) to monitor bird populations on the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site. In 2010, we conducted surveys from June 8 to July 1 along 13 established routes, five of which are part of a nationwide survey administered by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and eight of which border INL Site facilities. We documented 5,601 birds from 51 species during these surveys. Bird abundance was greater than the 1985-2009 average of 5,045 birds, but the number of species (i.e., species richness) was lower than the 23-year average of 58.

Great Blue HeronCompared with past surveys, we observed similar patterns of bird abundance among those species that are typically the most numerous. In 2010, the six species that were surveyed in greatest abundance were the horned lark (n = 1,447), western meadowlark n = 927), Brewer’s sparrow (n = 772), sage sparrow (n = 520), Franklin’s gull (n = 520), and sage thrasher (n = 469). During 24 years of breeding bird surveys on the INL Site, with the exception of the Franklin’s gull, these species have been the five most abundant 19 times, and in the remaining five years they were among the six most abundant species. Considering declines reported in populations of sagebrush-obligate species throughout the intermountain west, this trend indicates that the quality of sagebrush-steppe habitat on the INL Site remains stable.

Although three new species were added in the past three years to the list of birds that have been observed at least once during BBS on the INL Site, no new observations were made in 2010. Two species were observed during the surveys that had been recorded in less than 4 of the past 23 years. These include yellow warbler and great blue heron (left).

Species observed during the 2010 BBS that are considered imperiled or critically imperiled in Idaho include the Franklin’s gull (n = 520), burrowing owl (n = 3), greater sage-grouse (n = 1), and grasshopper sparrow (n = 1).

To read the rest of the 2010 Breeding Bird Survey Report, go to


Web site | Contact | Surveillance | Ecological Support | Education | Publications | About ESER | Subscribe

ESER Program
Gonzales-Stoller Surveillance, LLC
120 Technology Drive
Idaho Falls, ID 83401