IN THE NEWS: New York Times Showcases Video of Wildlife Using Crossings

The New York Times has posted an online feature article highlighting excellent footage of wildlife using various forms of highway crossings.  “How Do Animals Safely Cross a Highway? Take a Look” includes footage of a herd of antelope crossing a highway in Wyoming; moose, bear, wolves and deer using crossings in Utah; and an alligator and panther using underground passages in Florida.  WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser was interviewed for the article in which he discusses that despite the upfront installation costs, wildlife crossings yield significant safety and conservation benefits that save money in the long run. Whisper Camel-Means, a tribal wildlife program manager who collaborated with WTI on US 93 wildlife crossing projects in Montana, was also interviewed for the article.

IN THE NEWS: Embracing Biodegradable Erosion Control

Erosion control blankets installed on hillside in Idaho 2018

Stormwater Magazine recently interviewed WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament on advancements in the use of environmentally friendly products for erosion control. “Saving Mowers and Wildlife” highlights state departments of transportation that are working to replace plastic netting used on roadsides with flexible, biodegradable options.  In the article, state DOTs report benefits such as reduced need for removal and disposal of nets, less risk of water contamination, and fewer animals becoming entangled. Ament discusses his research on wool erosion control blankets, which are created from waste wool not suitable for clothing or blanket production.  The wool erosion blankets release nitrogen into the soil as they decompose and are showing promising results related to fertilization of the sites where they are used.

STUDENT NEWS: Meet Alex Musar

outdoor portrait of Alex Musar

Welcome to Alex Musar, who joins WTI this month as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for the summer. He will be working with David Kack, Andrea Hamre, and other WTI team members on a number of mobility projects, including the NADO technical assistance project in Southern Ohio and the MPO Travel Survey project in Montana.

Originally from Seattle, Washington, Alex arrived in Bozeman in 2018 when he transferred from North Seattle College to Montana State University.  He is now pursuing a dual degree in Architecture and Political Science, with a long-term goal of working in public policy development, especially promoting sustainable growth models for small rural municipalities.  This summer, he is excited to learn more about the links between transportation and urban design, and how a community can build a public transit system from the ground up.

Outside of school and work, Alex is an avid rock climber, backpacker, hiker, and “passionate follower of the Everton [UK] Football Club” (yes, that’s soccer to those of us on this side of the pond).

OUTREACH: WTI Director Updates Big Sky Chamber on $10 million Infrastructure Grant

Portrait of David Kack from 2020

In late April, the Big Sky (MT) Chamber of Commerce hosted a meeting focused on upcoming infrastructure projects in the region.  WTI Director David Kack presented an update on the $10 million federal TIGER Grant, which will fund safety and mobility improvements along U.S. Highway 64/Lone Mountain Trail.  WTI partnered with Gallatin County, Sanderson Stewart, and other regional stakeholders on the proposal that secured the grant. In his remarks, Kack emphasized the importance of this partnership in helping a rural region win a major federal award.  Construction is anticipated to begin this summer on individual projects, to include new turn lanes, vehicle pull-out areas, wildlife crossing signs, a pedestrian tunnel, and recreational paths.  More highlights from the meeting were covered in an article by Explore Big Sky.

IN THE NEWS: Reducing Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions in Appalachia

Marcel Huijser

Public Policy magazine In These Times recently interviewed WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser for an in-depth article on wildlife crossings.  “Toward a World Without Roadkill” highlights efforts by residents and local organizations near Great Smoky Mountains National Park to reduce the rising number of bears, deer, and elk being hit by vehicles on Interstate 40.  Marcel discusses how mitigation efforts such as wildlife crossings can have significant conservation, safety, and economic benefits.

IN THE NEWS: High Country News Reports on Montana Passenger Rail

Outdoor portrait of David Kack in 2020

In a recent article, High Country News provides an update on the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, a Montana coalition that is working to revive a passenger rail line that would span 600 miles across the state.   “Montana Counties Band Together to Reinvigorate Passenger Rail” summarizes efforts to secure local, state and federal support, as well as funding, to restore Amtrak service that would connect residents to some of the larger cities in the state, including Missoula, Bozeman, and Billings.  WTI Director David Kack was interviewed for the article, discussing how rail service can provide valuable mobility options for people in rural towns who can no longer drive or who lack access to a vehicle.

MSU Selects Jay Otto for Employee Recognition

Head shot of Jay Otto

On April 14, Center for Health and Safety Culture Principal Scientist Jay Otto was selected for “Pure Gold,” a Montana State University employee recognition program.  Nominated by colleague Annmarie McMahill, Jay was recognized for his meaningful research projects and his “above and beyond” efforts to serve the university and community. Read the full story on the Pure Gold recipients webpage.  Congratulations, Jay!

ON THE AIR: Road Ecologist Highlights Wildlife Crossing Structures Advancements

Head shot of Rob Ament

On February 25, Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament was a guest on Top of Mind with Julie Rose, a BYU Radio program. For a feature segment on wildlife crossings, Rob discussed how crossing structures are designed, how they make roads safer for both animals and motorists, and where the newest structures are being built, both in the U.S. and globally.  The full Wildlife Crossings interview is available to stream on the BYU Radio website.

STUDENT NEWS: Welcome, Sam Coulter!

Portrait of Sam Coulter at ice hockey rink 2021

Meet WTI’s Undergraduate Research Assistant Sam Coulter. A Senior at MSU, Sam will be helping Andrea Hamre with the Commercial Package Delivery through Public Transportation Systems in Rural States project. His participation is through a GPHY 498 Internship for the GIS/Planning program within the Department of Earth Sciences, under the academic advisement of Land Resources & Environmental Sciences Instructor, Nicholas Fox. Sam was born and raised in Gillette, Wyoming. He will be graduating this Spring with a Bachelor of Science in GIS/Planning. Sam’s favorite classes have been GIS and Planning classes, where he has enjoyed creating projects from real life situations. In this project with WTI, Sam is excited to learn more about transportation, especially rural public transportation and ways to help increase its efficiency and effectiveness. When not pursuing his studies and internship from home, Sam is at the ice arena playing and coaching hockey. He also enjoys hunting and skiing.

TRB Annual Meeting Zooms Into Week Three

The NAS Transportation Research Board continued its revamped Annual Meeting last week, holding virtual technical committee meetings on a wide range of research topics. In this “snapshot” of what the forums look like this year, can you spot some familiar WTI faces at a Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands Committee event last week?

screenshot of 15 people attending a virtual committee meeting at the TRB Annual Meeting 2021

As a reminder, if you are attending the 2021 Annual Meeting, look for WTI researchers at the following events this week:

  • January 21 – Moving Research to Practice – Ahmed Al-Kaisy will present on research to create a new method for screening low-volume roads. (Workshop #1016)
  • January 22 – Rob Ament and Natalie Villwock-Witte will facilitate a workshop on National Standards for Wildlife Vehicle Data Collection (Workshop #1041)
  • January 22 – Ahmed Al-Kaisy will participate in a panel discussion on new safety developments on low-volume roads (Workshop #1044)