Congratulations to two of our hardworking graduate students who have taken important steps over the last few weeks to earn their advanced degrees.
The Center for Health and Safety Culture’s (CHSC) doctorate student, Jubaer Ahmed, presented his Ph.D. comprehensive exam presentation on March 26, entitled, “Emotional Intelligence and Risky Driving Behavior.” His research addresses risky driving behavior among different populations from the perspective of emotional intelligence. Jubaer passed his presentation and will continue with the project in collaboration with his advisor, Nic Ward.
Matt Bell presented and passed his thesis defense for his Masters in Civil Engineering on April 3. His thesis focuses on “An Investigation Modeling the Risk of Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions in the State of Montana.” Matt’s research advisor is WTI’s Yiyi Wang and he also works closely with WTI Road Ecology researchers on projects including an international workshop on new designs for wildlife crossing structures.
Final 7! On Friday, March 1, the MSU College of Engineering hosted the finals of its Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition. Road Ecology Graduate Student Matt Bell was one of seven finalists vying for best presentation of their thesis research in only 180 seconds, using only one slide. Matt’s presentation, “Modeling Risk of Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions,” focuses on his research with mentor Dr. Yiyi Wang to develop a real-time risk model that alerts drivers of areas with higher risk of collisions with large animals.
Three Minute Thesis is a research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland in Australia (www.threeminutethesis.org). It encourages graduate students to develop their presentation skills and learn how to explain complex concepts to general audiences. More than 200 universities in the U.S. now participate.
Fernanda Abra, a Brazilian Ph.D. student who has conducted wildlife research with a leading WTI road ecologist for nearly a decade, is one of only three scientists worldwide to be selected for the 2019 Future For Nature Award, announced on February 19.
A few months ago, eight young conservationists from around the world were nominated for the Future For Nature Award. The nominees came from Brazil, India, Nepal, The Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Rwanda, and the United Kingdom. Today, the three award winners were announced: Fernanda Abra (Brazil), Divya Karnad (India), and Olivier Nsengimana (Rwanda). Fernanda Abra has a long-term connection with Montana and is currently working in Missoula with one of her PhD advisors, Dr. Marcel Huijser.
The Future For Nature Foundation (FFN) is a Dutch organization that supports young, talented and ambitious conservationists, committed to protecting wild animals and wild plant species. FFN states that “The commitment of these individuals is what will make the difference for the future of nature. Through their leadership they inspire and mobilize communities, organizations, governments, investors and the public at large.”
Every year, three awards are available to young conservationists from all over the world. The Award offers the winners international recognition, financial support of 50,000 Euros to carry out their work, and the opportunity to work with an international network of conservationists.
Ms. Abra is a PhD student in the Applied Ecology program at “Luiz de Queiroz” College of Agriculture, University of São Paulo (ESALQ/USP). Her advisors are Dr. Kátia Ferraz (professor at ESALQ/USP, Department of Forest Science, LEMaC Wildlife Ecology, Management and Conservation Lab) and Dr. Marcel Huijser (research ecologist at the Western Transportation Institute, Montana State University).
“As a researcher, Fernanda has already made a positive impact on species conservation in Brazil. For her PhD she is generating knowledge on the number of road-killed mammals, understanding their spatial and temporal patterns, and developing tools to reduce the huge impact of roads and traffic on Brazil’s biodiversity. The combination of hard work and determination will result in reduced unnatural mortality of mammals and reduced habitat fragmentation caused by transportation infrastructure,” Said Dr. Katia Ferraz.
Interested in Road Ecology since 2009, Ms. Abra is now in the final stages of her PhD research. Her work focuses on animal-vehicle collisions along highways in São Paulo State and implications for biological conservation, human safety, and the economy. Dr. Marcel Huijser of the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University has worked with Ms. Abra for nearly nine years, overseeing her 2010 internship on the wildlife mitigation study along US Hwy 93 on the Flathead Indian Reservation, as well as advising on both her Masters research and her PhD in Brazil. Through her work with Dr. Huijser she has been fortunate to be able to study and apply some of the lessons learned from Montana’s investment in wildlife crossing structures along highways and animal detection systems in the region.
As Dr. Huijser explains:“Fernanda has long term vision, concrete goals, and the political savvy to get things done. When I first met her in 2010, she realized that local expertise in road ecology was needed to manage the environmental impacts associated with Brazil’s quickly expanding transportation network. And she made this happen by securing funding for me to teach two graduate level road ecology courses and for two national conferences on transportation ecology. Thanks to her vision, hundreds of Brazilian students, researchers, and policy makers have been introduced to road ecology concepts. As a result, an increasing number of wildlife mitigation measures are being effectively implemented on the ground in Brazil.”
In addition to her academic research and work as a consultant, Ms. Abra volunteers as a road ecologist for several conservation projects including the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative and the Anteaters and Highways Project. She is also responsible for the road-ecology data in the National Action Plans for threatened canids, felids and ungulates, including iconic species such as the maned wolf, hoary fox, jaguar, puma, and lowland tapir.
Dr. Patricia Medici, coordinator of Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative in Brazil, Chair of Tapir Specialist Group of IUCN and Winner of the FFN Award in 2008 has worked with Ms. Abra for several years. She explains that: “Fernanda plays a key role in the conservation of Brazilian mammal species because she knows how to measure the extent of the road-kill impact, the barrier effect of transportation infrastructure, and, most importantly, she knows how to mitigate the problems. I find it very interesting how Fernanda feels confident and comfortable both doing fieldwork under tough conditions along highways and participating in technical and political meetings with professionals and authorities from environmental and transportation agencies. She is extremely versatile and knows how to keep that link between the world out there and the meeting rooms.”
FFN winners are truly inspiring young individuals, who are bringing creative and innovative solutions to pressing environmental problems. Ms. Abra’s win shines a light on the global impact of roads on wildlife and the leadership role that both Montana and Brazil are taking to mitigate these impacts for the benefit of people and wildlife.
In response to winning the award, Ms. Abra said: “I feel so fortunate to work with incredible species such as tapirs, giant anteaters, maned wolf, jaguar, and other Brazilian canids and felids, and to be advised and supported by respected researchers and conservationists! I´m honored to receive the Future For Nature Award – this will help upscale my efforts to work with stakeholders, implement on-the-ground projects, and help protect Brazil’s amazing biodiversity.”
WTI researchers braved heavy snow, transit closures, and the partial government shutdown to attend the 2019 Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in January. Nonetheless, they had a busy week with many productive opportunities to share their research and collaborate with peers.
A few highlights include:
WTI Director Steve Albert received a certificate of appreciation from the TRB Committee on Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands in recognition of his 12 years of leadership on committee activities.
Three Fellows from the Public Lands Transportation Fellows program had the opportunity to present posters highlighting their current projects:
Corinne Jachelski presented on trail, bicycle, and other alternative transportation upgrades underway at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Colorado.
Dylan Corbin’s poster highlighted his efforts to create a transportation plan that will expand public transportation and alternative transportation access to four sites within the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Vince Ziols presented on the bicycle network, shuttle services, and water taxis that are enhancing regional access to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.
Jaime Sullivan’s workshop on the NCHRP Rural Research Roadmap project attracted an audience of more than 70 attendees interested in her progress report on the identification of the most critical research needs related to improving rural transportation. More than 500 research needs displayed on 20 posters inspired a lively discussion.
Karalyn Clouser and Zach Becker, our UTC Students of the Year (read their profiles here), were honored at a banquet during the opening weekend of the TRB meeting. The weather and transportation delays prevented Zach from attending, but Steve Albert and David Kack were on hand to cheer on Karalyn when she received her award.
The 2019 Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting kicked off over the weekend in Washington, D.C. At the Council of University Transportation Center (CUTC) banquet on Saturday, the University Transportation Center (UTC) Students of the Year were honored. Each UTC nominates an outstanding graduate student who receives a certificate from the U.S. Department of Transportation, a $1000 award, and travel expenses to attend the TRB Annual Meeting. The Small Urban and Rural Livability Center (SURLC) and the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM), both led by WTI, each had the opportunity to recognize the research accomplishments of an exemplary student this year.
Congratulations to Karalyn Clouser, who was selected as the SURLC Student of the Year. Karalyn has been a Research Associate at WTI for five years and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Sustainable Transportation at the University of Washington. With her background in Planning and GIS, she has provided invaluable research assistance not only to SURLC, but also to the National Center for Rural Road Safety and the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Technical Assistance Center. Most recently, she completed a project where she developed four different bus route combinations for a potential new transit service in Lebanon, Missouri. She also helped update the Rural ITS Toolkit, a USDOT-sponsored resource on advanced transportation technologies.
Kudos also go out to Zachary Becker who was selected to represent SURTCOM. Zach attends Eastern Washington University, where he is nearing completion of a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning. His research focuses on the mobility and accessibility challenges faced by tribal reservations in northwestern states. He created a parcel-level, GIS database containing network distances from nearly every parcel in Washington state to the nearest healthcare facility. The database compares distances on tribal reservations to distances on nontribal lands. Zach has been invited to present this research at four national conferences.
Congratulations to the WTI staff members who were recognized last week for their years of service to Montana State University. Many of them were able to attend the Milestones in Service ceremony on October 2, during which they received congratulations and service awards from MSU President Waded Cruzado. Thanks to all of you for your (combined) 75 years of dedication and contributions to WTI and MSU!
Congratulations to WTI’s own David Kack, who was honored with a Big Sky Chamber of Commerce Award at the Chamber’s Annual Dinner last week. David was selected for the “Business Person of the Year” Award, in recognition of his 15 years of work to establish and grow the Skyline bus service, as well as his more recent leadership efforts in partnership with the Chamber and other stakeholders to successfully secure a $10 million federal TIGER grant for improvements to the transportation network in the Big Sky region. The Awards dinner was also featured in today’s issue of Explore Big Sky.
WTI was well-represented at the Montana State University graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 5. Congratulations to Amir Jafari, Ph.D., and Amir Jamali, Ph.D., who were awarded their doctorates in Engineering. Both students conducted transportation research at WTI during their graduate studies, under the mentorship of Dr. Ahmed Al-Kaisy and Dr. Yiyi Wang. Best of luck from everyone at WTI!
For the second time in less than six months, TR News magazine has selected a WTI project for its “Research Pays Off” section, which highlights research that has produced tangible and valuable benefits. “Wyoming Intercity Bus Service Study: Finding and Filling the Gaps in Rural Areas” is featured in the March/April 2018 issue of TR News, published by the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board. Authored by Principal Investigator David Kack, the article describes a project conducted for the Wyoming Department of Transportation to identify potential Intercity bus routes that would increase access for underserved communities. The study led directly to the expansion of available services after a transportation provider contacted the Wyoming DOT to initiate a partnership that resulted in new service on one of the identified routes. The full article is posted on the project page.
The November/December 2017 issue of TR News highlighted the One-Stop Shop Traveler Information project in the “Research Pays Off” feature. This article is also available on the WTI website.
(TR News is copyright, National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; posted with permission of the Transportation Research Board.)
On Monday, October 23, Montana State University honored professional and classified staff reaching significant milestones in their tenure of service to the university. Honorees were recognized at a campus reception, at which Provost Robert Mokwa presented individual certificates and MSU gifts.
Seven WTI employees have achieved the 5, 10, 15 or 20-year milestone in 2017:
Steve Albert, 20 years
David Kack, 15 years
Neil Hetherington, 15 years
Carla Little, 15 years
Rebecca Gleason, 10 years
Genevieve Houska (LTAP), 10 years
Annmarie McMahill (CHSC), 5 years
Congratulations, everyone! All combined, that’s 90 years of service to WTI and MSU by these seven employees alone!
Rebecca Gleason, Carla Little, Steve Albert, and David Kack at the Milestones in Service Ceremony.