Rob Ament has just returned from a week long meeting in India hosted by the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP). India currently faces numerous wildlife protection challenges; for example, protected areas are often too small to support viable populations of wide-ranging species, such as elephants and tigers, especially if highways and other development severs habitat connectivity between protected areas. Rob was invited by the Landscape Connectivity in India Working Group to give a presentation and provide his expertise for the workshop, during which participants developed strategies to address the impact of transportation systems on ecological connectivity surrounding various protected areas in the region.
The workshop was held near Nagarhole National Park in the Western Ghats mountain range (a UNESCO World Heritage site) of southwest India. Rob shared these photos from his amazing wildlife viewing opportunity within the National Park.
Craig Shankwitz spoke to the Montana Traffic Educators Association conference in Great Falls, Montana last week, delivering a presentation on emerging vehicle technologies. In his remarks, he stated that the connected vehicle technologies are more likely to be widely deployed before autonomous (or driverless) vehicles. Connected vehicles communicate to other vehicles or to roadside infrastructure, which enables important updates and alerts about safety, traffic, or road conditions that can be sent directly to one’s car. Craig’s presentation was featured in a TV news story in Great Falls.
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.
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.
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.”
WTI’s Craig Shankwitz was part of the 10×10 MSU Innovation Road Show: From Tiny Houses to Honey Bees. Sponsored by the Office of Reasearch and Economic Development, the event provided 10 researchers the opportunitiy to present their expertise on a particular topic in 10 minutes. Shankwitz’s presentation focused on, Driverless Cars: The Evolution of the REVolution was dynamic and engaging. In case you missed it, the entire program was live streamed on Facebook and can be viewed here.
Among other things, Craig is currently working to establish CHAPTA, the Collaborative Human Automated Platooned Truck Alliance in order to address future opportunities and challenges with automated and connected commercial interstate trucking.
On Thursday, March 23 at 6 p.m., the MSU Office of Research and Economic Development will be hosting the “10×10 MSU Innovation Road Show” at the Ellen Theatre in downtown Bozeman. The event will feature 10 researchers from across the MSU campus, who will share their research stories in 10 minute segments. WTI Senior Research Engineer Craig Shankwitz was selected to present his research on autonomous vehicles in a talk entitled “Driverless Cars: The Evolution of the Revolution.” Don’t miss Craig’s talk, or the other interesting topics, which will range from honey bees to tiny houses to environmental history issues in Japan. A list of all speakers is included in the MSU news release.
WTI’s Road Ecology program is building a growing presence in Latin America. Recently, researchers have been invited to present at several high profile conservation conferences and workshops, with more collaborations on the horizon for 2017.
In November, Tony Clevenger attended and gave the keynote presentation at the 1st Iberoamerican Congress on Biodiversity Conservation and Transportation at the Federal University in Lavras, Brasil. New environmental impact assessment laws in Brazil have generated growing interest in road effects, impacts assessments, and planning measures to mitigate impacts. Tony is also helping the Congress organizers plan a wildlife crossing design parameters workshop in fall 2017, modeled after the ARC (Animal Road Crossing) Solutions workshop in Bozeman, Montana. Tony is currently co-supervsing two graduate students at the University of Lavras, with additional educational exchanges planned for later in 2017.
Also in November, Tony Clevenger attended a two-day workshop in Mexico City, “TALLER NACIONAL INTERSECTORIAL DE MITIGACIÓN DE IMPACTOS POR OBRAS DE INFRAESTRUCTURA SOBRE EL JAGUAR Y SU HÁBITAT”[National workshop on mitigating impacts of infrastructure on jaguars and their habitat]. The goal of the workshop was to bring together high level administrators from the Ministries of Transportation, Energy, Tourism, Pemex, and Protected Areas, to share information regarding threats and alternatives to mitigate infrastructure impacts on jaguar populations, connectivity, and habitat in the Mayan Forest (Yucatan states of Campeche, Quintana Roo, Merida). From this workshop a pilot project has been initiated with interagency involvement to identify critical areas for mitigating infrastructure impacts on jaguars in Yucatan, Belize, and Guatemala.
Later in 2017, outreach opportunities exist in Central America. There is a high level government meeting planned for the Mesoamerican countries that will take place in Costa Rica in October 2017. In response to a Mesoamerican initiative (Puebla to Panama) to construct more than 30,000 km of new roads in this region, governments are exploring green infrastructure to help protect their rich biodiversity and maintain connected habitats and wildlife populations.
Thanks to the WTI staff members who shared photos from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting, held in Washington, D.C. last week. Numerous staff facilitated workshops, presented their research, or submitted posters.
Natalie Villwock-Witte presided over a TRB session on “Workforce, Millennials, and the Implications of Baby Boomer Retirement.” Session presenters included (from left to right): Dr. Stephanie Ivey (Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Memphis), Joan M. McDonald (most recently former New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner), Natalie, and Yvonne Lopez-Diaz (Human Resources Director and Vice President at HNTB).
Alex Roy (left) and Dan Brooks (right) present posters on alternative transportation on federal lands. Alex and Dan are Transportation Scholars through the Public Lands Transportation Institute.
Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament recently returned from an international conservation forum in Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India. Rob was invited to participate in a meeting of the IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Asian Elephant Specialist Group, as a support specialist on transportation mitigation and wildlife corridors. This was the first time the world’s leading experts have gathered in 14 years, and representatives from all 13 countries with existing wild Asian elephants attended.