Rob Ament, the Road Ecology Program Manager at WTI, Dr. Tony Clevenger, a WTI Senior Research Scientist, and their colleague Dr. Rodney van der Ree of Australia, are the lead editors of a new technical report published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its World Commission of Protected Areas. Titled “Addressing ecological connectivity in the development of roads, railways and canals,” the report seeks to provide guidance on solutions and best practices that conserve wildlife and maintain ecological connectivity during the development of roads, railways and canals. “This report has been a four-year effort with over 30 contributors from six continents. Tony and I hope it helps improve the design and management of transportation systems to make them more wildlife friendly in all corners of the globe,” said Rob Ament. He noted that the IUCN is primarily a volunteer organization and counts 165 countries and more than 1400 organizations as its members, from indigenous groups to conservation non-profits. It is the world’s premiere organization addressing the biodiversity crisis.
Resources from a first-of-its-kind road ecology study are now available on the web through the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University (MSU). The Wildlife Vehicle Collision (WVC) Reduction and Habitat Connectivity project, a Transportation Pooled Fund Study, was developed through an international partnership of fourteen state departments of transportation (DOTs), Canadian transportation agencies, and the US Federal Highway Administration. The study includes twenty-seven authors, fourteen separate research projects, a Best Practices manual, and a final report synthesizing all findings.
The reports of the fourteen research projects can be explored on the webpage within four foci depending on area of interest: economics, ecology, design, and practice. Notably, the study includes a cost-benefit analysis of the most effective measures that reduce animal-vehicle collisions (AVCs). This report contains an update and expansion of a cost-benefit model addressing wildlife-vehicle collisions and associated highway mitigation measures that was originally calculated in 2007 and published in WTI’s 2008 US Congressional report, Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction Study.
A portion of the study investigates two methods of managing animal crossing infrastructure costs. The first, led by WTI Researcher Matt Bell, is by incorporating fiber-reinforced polymers (FRPs), strong but lightweight materials that have a long service life, highly customizable shape, are inexpensive to maintain, and can be manufactured from recycled plastics and bio-based materials. The second is a cost-benefit analysis that investigates the true monetary losses of an AVC by extending consideration not only to huntable game animals, but to small mammals/reptiles/amphibians, free ranging livestock, and feral donkeys and horses. This novel approach recalculates the money saved by avoiding an AVC as a human and as an animal, revealing that on many roadways it is significantly cheaper to invest in animal crossing infrastructure than to pay for AVCs over the course of a structure’s life.
“Almost everyone agrees on the human safety and biological conservation benefits of AVC mitigation, but the updated cost-benefit model shows that the more we learn and the more the model expands, the more economically feasible mitigation measures become. There are lots of green lights for implementation,” noted WTI Senior Ecologist and the study’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Marcel Huijser. Additionally, while the incorporation of new mitigation technologies like FRP wildlife crossings or raised road concepts may be high, added Nova Simpson, a champion of the study and the Northern Nevada Biological Supervisor & Large Mammal Mitigation Specialist for Nevada DOT, “the long-term benefits will make these structures attainable and less costly, opening up habitat across the landscape.”
Led by Dr. Huijser and a diverse team of ecologists, engineers, and economists, the study is jointly managed by Nevada DOT and maintained by 12 federal, state, provincial, and non-profit partners from the United States and Canada. They have collectively invested more than one million dollars, making this project the largest wildlife-focused highway safety study in North America to date. As such, WTI will maintain a website for the TPF-5(538) study results and outreach. The public, as well as state and federal roadway managers, will have long-term access to all products related to this project, including future presentations and peer reviewed articles as they are published. With the recent passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 and its provision to allocate $350 million over five years to fund a pilot wildlife crossing program in the U.S., content from this study could help inform state DOTs as they make decisions for their roads.
“Working with WTI has been an absolute pleasure,” commented Simpson. “WTI’s team includes some of the best road ecologists in the world, the sponsors of this project are so pleased with the results, and we are eager to share them with the transportation community and its stakeholders.”
To view the research findings and keep up with future resources, please visit http://tpf-5-358-wvc-study.org.
In 2015, WTI’s Small Urban and Rural Livability Center and West Region Transportation Workforce Center embarked on a collaborative project with partners from the Russian University of Transport (RUT), the Russian Federation’s largest university focused on transportation science and engineering. The project assessed and shared education and training resources to foster accessible transit services in small urban and rural areas.
Since that time, the international exchange of information between RUT and MSU has continued. On November 18, RUT hosted an international conference under the auspices of UNESCO and co-organized together with the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO and the Russian Academy of Sciences, titled “The Role of Transport Science and Education in Achieving Social, Environmental and Technological Sustainability of Societies.” RUT invited WTI to identify speakers for the conference on topics related to mobility, accessibility, sustainability and safety.
Andrea Hamre, Research Associate at the Western Transportation Institute, presented “Poverty, Race, and Transport Justice in Rural and Small Urban Communities.” Former WTI graduate research fellow and current Wildlife Biologist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Whisper Means, presented “Relationships Across a Highway: Roadkill, Politics and Landscape Connectivity on the Flathead Indian Reservation.” Judy Shanley, Assistant Vice President at Easterseals and Director of the National Center for Mobility Management, presented “Developing a Transportation Workforce that Values the Inclusion of Individuals with Disabilities in Service and Operations.”
Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) Director, Dr. Nic Ward, will be a keynote speaker at the EU Safety Conference in Luxembourg in October 2019. Dr. Ward’s presentation is titled, “Safety Culture: Creating a Sense of Responsibility for Safety in the Population at Large.” The Conference, organized by EuroSafe and the Luxembourg Institute of Health, will cover a wide range of topics related to injury prevention and safety promotion, such as road safety and safety at work. There will be opportunities for cross-cutting communications between sectors and disciplines to address issues such as: translating research into practice and policy, injury related socio-economic inequities, ageing societies, technological developments, social marketing, alcohol, fatigue, and distraction. More information about this international conference is available at the EU Safety 2019 website.
WTI Research Scientist, Tony Clevenger, presented his research on wolverines to the Bow Valley Naturalists in Alberta, Canada recently, resulting in a feature article in the Rocky Mountain Outlook. “Wolverine populations at risk without connectivity” discusses his study that found that the numbers of wolverines in southwest Alberta and British Columbia are much lower than previously thought, and that busy highways are one of the major barriers to species connectivity. Tony has conducted several wolverine research projects in the Canadian Crown of the Continent (CCoC) region between Banff National Park and Glacier National Park at the US border, in collaboration with both public agencies and non-profit foundations.
WTI Road Ecologists Rob Ament and Tony Clevenger traveled to Kuala Lumper, Malaysia in April to present at the Road Ecology – Transportation Infrastructure and Wildlife Conservation Workshop. Co-sponsored by WTI, Association of Consulting Engineers – Malaysia (ACEM), ERE Consulting, the Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME), and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, the main goal of the workshop was to encourage discussions between wildlife practitioners and engineers that will lead to innovative solutions that enhance both transportation networks and wildlife conservation efforts. Rob and Tony spoke on effective wildlife mitigation measures in North America, such as wildlife crossings, and how they may be applicable to large species in Malaysia, which include both elephants and tigers. One of the highlights of was a field trip to Royal Belum State Park, via houseboat!
The workshop also provided an opportunity to hold the kick-off meeting for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Asian Elephant Transport Working Group, under the auspices of its Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group. “It was our first face-to-face meeting and the 10 members put together a work plan for the next year,” said Rob, who serves on the working group.
Center for Health and Safety Culture researchers Annmarie McMahill and Jay Otto attended the World Appreciative Inquiry Conference at the end of March in Nice, France. The theme of the conference focused on “Generating constructive conversations for the common good.” Participants had the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from around the world to share their cutting-edge work on positive approaches to improving organizations, communities, and public health.
The expertise of WTI researchers is in high demand for research collaborations, presentations, and academic exchanges around the world. “Where in the World is WTI?” will periodically feature partnerships and forums that showcase the growing international scope of our work.
WHERE: Kruger National Park, South Africa
WHO: Rob Ament, Road Ecologist
WHY: African Conference for Linear Infrastructure and Ecology
WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament traveled to South Africa last week with colleagues Sandra Jacobson and Terry McGuire to present a workshop on how transportation, energy and mining sectors can mainstream biodiversity provisions within linear transportation. The workshop was one component of the African Conference for Linear Infrastructure and Ecology. They also presented a poster based on a recently published paper on transportation infrastructure investment in sub-Saharan Africa.
Rob’s work in Africa has expanded over the last few years, in part through his position as the co-chair of the Transport Working Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. At the conference last week, he also gave an individual presentation entitled “Biodiversity-friendly surface transportation infrastructure: A global overview,” based on the recent activities of the working group.
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.”
More information about Future for Nature: https://futurefornature.org/
More information about ESALQ/USP, Department of Forest Science, LEMaC Wildlife Ecology, Management and Conservation Lab: https://www.esalqlemac.com/
The October issue of Current Biology will feature an article entitled “Roads threaten Asiatic cheetahs in Iran,” about the impacts of wildlife vehicle collisions on the endangered species (there are fewer than 50 free roaming cheetahs in the country). The authors reached out to WTI Research Ecologist Marcel Huijser to provide input and assistance on the road ecology components, and they recently contacted WTI to acknowledge Marcel’s “invaluable comments.” The final article is available online.