Organization & Development of a spatially referenced database for Agassiz’s Desert Tortoise: a threatened species


Organization & Development of a spatially referenced database for Agassiz’s Desert Tortoise: a threatened species

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Description: Content and context of data, if known:

There is an unprocessed data file spanning seven field seasons over 15 years that includes 3 unique attributes (burrow locations, nest locations, and tortoise locations) in a single, comprehensive database representing the reproductive ecology of Agassiz’s Desert Tortoise. The current state of this database precludes our ability to use these data for understanding the spatial ecology of the endangered Agassiz’s Desert Tortoise at a wind energy farm on Bureau of Land Management in southern California. We propose to hire a spatial database specialist to process, organize, extract, compile, and create 3 digital geospatial databases from the comprehensive reproductive ecology database.

Name of current data holder:

U.S. Geological Survey

Dates associated with data:



one unprocessed file

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Understanding the spatial ecology of federally-protected wildlife species in the industrial landscapes that will accompany utility-scale renewable energy development in the desert Southwest is a critical research need. Despite published recognition as far back as 1986 that utility-scale renewable energy development (wind and solar) had the potential to affect large areas of Agassiz’s Desert Tortoise (hereafter tortoise) habitat, a federally threatened species, almost no research has been done on this topic. The Bureau of Land Management is currently working on a plan to open up 9 million hectares of public land for solar energy development and a significant portion of the area under consideration would directly or indirectly affect tortoises. A recent review of the literature on the effects of renewable energy development on wildlife by one of the authors found very little published information on the topic. Research is urgently needed to fill the information void regarding utility-scale renewable energy development and wildlife of any kind.We have been conducting research on a population of tortoises in a wind energy farm on Bureau of Land Management land in southern California since the mid-1990s. During that time we have marked over 130 individual tortoises and recaptured them almost 3,000 times. Although our research was initially focused on studying the reproductive ecology of this long-lived species, geospatial data were also collected at each capture location. Once organized and compiled as a spatially reference database, these data present an unprecedented opportunity to study the spatial ecology of an iconic threatened species in an industrial landscape, and possibly discover ways to mitigate negative impacts of future energy development on wildlife like the tortoise. Long-term studies of long-lived species like the tortoise are extremely rare in the scientific literature, adding to the urgency of developing these data into a spatially referenced database. Developing a spatially referenced database will ultimately provide us with a long-term data set of Agassiz’s desert tortoise that would contribute to this high-priority research need.

Contact information:

Terence Arundel

About the Original Item

Date Added
May 4, 2012
Data At Risk Inventory
Item Type
DARi Metadata Scheme Ver. 1.0
“Organization & Development of a spatially referenced database for Agassiz’s Desert Tortoise: a threatened species,” Data-at-Risk & Rescue Inventory, accessed November 24, 2015,
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