Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament just returned from a week in the West African nation of Gabon. The World Bank Group invited Rob as an expert speaker for a special meeting of its Global Wildlife Program, which provides more than $130 million in grants to reduce human-wildlife conflicts. Representatives from 19 countries in Asia and Africa that will be receiving funds participated in the meeting. During the meeting, Gabon received notification that its projects were approved and will receive $9 million in funding. Rob gave a presentation on wildlife connectivity and how it is affected by various forms of transportation. He also discussed several specific efforts in which he is involved, including connectivity conservation initiatives by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and long range transportation efforts by the U.S. National Park Service and USFWS National Wildlife Refuges.
Presentation by Les Craig from the MSU Innovation Campus.
The West Region Transportation Workforce Center at WTI and Moscow State University for Transport Engineering (MIIT) in Russia have completed a unique, year-long collaboration designed to make transportation in rural communities more accessible to people with disabilities. In both countries, rural transit agencies struggle to meet accessibility requirements because of limited funding and large service areas. After recognizing their mutual goals, the two institutions realized that both would benefit from sharing research findings and other resources. The project was jointly sponsored by the Eurasia Foundation’s University Partnership Program and by the Small Urban and Rural Livability Center.
After WTI researchers collected information about different accessibility training programs, they shared the information with MIIT, as well as with transit providers in the U.S., both on the West Region Transportation Workforce Center website and through a series of webinars. The researchers also compared accessibility education programs and data from surveys of transit providers in their respective countries to identify barriers and successes to providing accessible transportation services. For more information, check out the feature article published by the Montana State University News Service.
Last week, WTI Director Steve Albert traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the third annual Summit of University Transportation Centers for Safety. UTC Directors from across the country met to exchange ideas on how UTCs can better collaborate to address real world transportation problems and emerging safety issues. This year, the panels and group discussions focused on three topics: rebuilding infrastructure with technology for improved safety, how to safely deploy connected and autonomous vehicles, and key safety challenges for rural transportation. Steve facilitated the panel on rural transportation, and presented an update on WTI’s safety research, with a focus on our new research initiatives for connected and autonomous vehicles.
Start spreading the news… Recently, the New York Times published a feature article titled “Omaha’s Answer to Potholes? Go Back to Gravel Roads,”describing cities that are choosing to maintain low usage streets in disrepair by converting them back to gravel roads as a lower-cost alternative to repaving. The article cites the NCHRP study on unpaved roads authored by WTI Program Manager Laura Fay, which documented similar conversions in 27 states across the country, as well as best practices for this type of road project.
On Saturday, March 4, students and families had the opportunity to experience a free showing of Dream Big: Engineering Our World at the Ellen Theatre in downtown Bozeman as part of the Bozeman Film Society Science on Screen Film Series. The film showcases the creativity, commitment and compassion of four engineers through an exploration of amazing engineering accomplishments around the world. Dr. Michael Berry, Assistant Professor in the Civil Engineering Department and KLJ Engineer Shari Eslinger, Vice-President of the Montana Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers introduced the film by sharing their personal stories of becoming engineers. After the film, MSU Engineering students led fun, hands-on projects for kids, such as building domes out of marshmallows and toothpicks. The MSU robot that competed in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition also made an appearance!
The film screening in Bozeman was a community initiative, co-sponsored and co-organized by the Bozeman Film Society Science on Screen program, the Montana section of ASCE, KLJ Engineering, WTI, West Region Transportation Workforce Center, MSU Extended University, and the Montana Girls STEM Collaborative. The MSU units involved offer pre-college science and engineering outreach programs that introduce students to potential careers in these fields. “Many students have never considered engineering as a career only because they have no idea of the vast array of opportunities that engineering encompasses,” said WTI Education and Workforce Program Manager Susan Gallagher. “Events like these can open their ideas to a new world of exciting possibilities and we were thrilled to be a part of this collaborative effort.”