New Facility Ready for Fish Passage Studies

Two students test waterway used for fish research
Two Montana State University students test waterway used for fish passage research (photo courtesy of MSU News Service)

Researchers in Montana have a new tool for designing fish passage structures that meet the needs of both fish and agricultural producers.   A feature article by the MSU News Service highlights a recently completed artificial waterway at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish Technology Center on the outskirts of Bozeman, which researchers can use to test the designs of small fish passage structures that allow grayling and other species to overcome irrigation structures that might otherwise hinder their seasonal movements.

The state-of-the-art upgrade will facilitate ongoing research by Montana State University’s Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics group, who have collaborated for more than a decade.  The group includes researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MSU’s Departments of Ecology and Civil Engineering, and WTI.  WTI Road Ecologist Matt Blank has been on the team since its inception, and he is currently one of the team members on a new project to redesign fishways to use less water.  As he stated in the news article, “”If we can get the fish to swim through less water, that’s a win. We want to find solutions that benefit not only the fish but the irrigators who use the river, and this study is exploring how to do that.” More information about current and past research is available on the MSU Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics group webpage, and on WTI’s project webpages (Fish Passage Research and Fish Passage Research Phase 2).

MSU News Highlights Upcoming Webinar on Workforce Development

The West Region Transportation Workforce Center (WRTWC), which is based at WTI, will host a webinar on October 7 (11 am Mountain Time), which will focus on “Engaging Multidisciplinary Student Talent to Meet Agency Needs.” Four speakers from MSU and the City of Bozeman will highlight the Community-engaged and Transformational Scholarship Initiative (CATS), a successful 3-year partnership between MSU and the City of Bozeman that offers students the opportunity to work on community-based projects through their university courses.

Thanks to MSU News Service for highlighting the webinar with a feature article on its website!  Read more about the CATS program, the upcoming series of webinars on workforce development topics, and insights from WTI’s Education Program Manager Susan Gallagher, who will be one of the featured speakers.

Time for Kids Introduces Wildlife Crossings to Young Students

WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament is featured in a recent issue of Time Magazine for Kids. A feature article called “Safe Travels” describes the large number of animals that are killed in roadway collisions each year, and how wildlife crossing structures work to protect animals as they move across their habitats. Rob discusses successful designs – like the crossing structures in Banff National Park – and how they are models for new efforts around the world, including a project he is working on in Kaziranga National Park in India.

Time for Kids is a weekly magazine for elementary school children. It offers age appropriate learning material for students and is designed to complement curriculum.

STUDENT NEWS: MSU ITE Student Chapter Honored at Annual Meeting

Group photo of members of MSU ITE Student Chapter
MSU ITE Student Chapter (Photo credit: Prof. Eric Shen, USC)

The Montana State University (MSU) Student Chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) has worked hard in recent years to grow its membership and its professional opportunities for engineering students, and the effort has paid off!  At the annual meeting of the Western and Mountain ITE Districts, the MSU Chapter was selected for the Momentum Award, which recognizes the student chapter that has most improved over the last year.  The MSU attendees also took second place in the Collegiate Traffic Bowl, a team competition that tests the knowledge of students on a variety of transportation planning and engineering topics.

ITE is a national association for transportation professionals, offering technical resources, training, and professional development.  To attract and prepare the next generation of professionals, ITE encourages student involvement through university ITE chapters, leadership summits, competitions, and awards. The student chapter at MSU currently has about 35 active members. WTI research engineer Dr. Ahmed Al-Kaisy serves as the chapter’s faculty advisor.  They have been very busy over the last academic year, with activities that included attending a student leadership conference in Los Angeles, CA, leading activities for K-12 students at the annual MSU Engineer-a-Thon, hosting professional speakers and networking events, and conducting hands on technical activities like traffic data collection.

Chapter President Bryce Grame and four other members attended the District Meeting held in early July.  Although virtual this year, the attendees found it very rewarding.  “With some virtual sessions having upwards of 200 attendees, the access to industry knowledge was expanded exponentially by moving the conference online,” said Bryce. “As a student, I had the privilege of learning about new industry findings and best practices through technical sessions, participating in student leadership workshops to better serve our ITE@MSU student chapter, receiving feedback from professionals on my resume, networking with my peers through online social events, and competing in the annual Student Traffic Bowl Competition.”

WTI is pleased to work with the MSU ITE student chapter each year, collaborating on research project activities, providing speakers, and sponsoring activities.  For more information about the chapter, contact ITE.montanastateuniversity@gmail.com or visit https://montanastateite.weebly.com/

Student News: Meet our summer intern

Portrait of Jonathan Fisher in outdoor setting

2020 will always be remembered as the year we all worked remotely – even our summer interns! WTI is pleased to welcome Jonathan Fisher, who is working from his home in Vermont.  While far from Montana, he is well situated to help Andrea Hamre with a Travel Behavior Analysis project, for which he is analyzing and modeling data from traveler surveys in Chittenden County, Vermont.

Jonathan is a recent graduate of Middlebury College, where he majored in Geography and minored in French.  With his skills in GIS and data analysis, combined with an interest in the environment, he sees the internship as an opportunity to learn more about transportation topics like mode choice, transportation behavior, and commuter benefits: “I have always loved working with numbers and I was eager to put my new statistical skillset to use on a professional research project.” Andrea added, “It’s been a true pleasure working with Jonathan this summer. We’ve worked through an ambitious research plan together, and I hope this introduction to transportation research with WTI supports his career development.”

A lifetime Vermont resident, Jonathan is considering a move to Boston in the near future to start his professional career.  When he’s not crunching numbers, learning how to write a journal article, or checking out the job market, he also manages to find time for running, basketball, baking and reading.

Catching Up with the Fellows

The placement year for the Class of 2019-2020 Public Land Transportation Fellows (PLTF) is drawing to a close.  Over the last three weeks, Naomi Fireman, Nate Begay, and Vince Ziols have been featured in “Takeover Tuesday” posts on LinkedIn, reflecting on their experiences working and learning in US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wildlife refuges.

Naomi Fireman at Potomac River Wildlife Refuge 2020
Naomi Fireman

Naomi Fireman has been stationed at Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Northern Virginia, where she has assisted with a variety of projects to enhance transportation facilities within and between the individual refuges that make up the large complex. Highlights included re-designing a refuge entrance, planning and installing new bike racks, and applying for a federal grant to complete a trail project.  Naomi noted, “Especially nowadays we can see how important it is for people to connect to and get out into nature. I am proud to be helping improve my refuge’s accessibility and connectivity to the local area and beyond.”

Nate Begay outside with flag that reads Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge
Nate Begay

On the other side of the country, Nate Begay has been working with staff and partners at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge (VdO) in Albuquerque, NM to improve transportation access, as well as expand educational programs.  Some of his favorite projects have included bringing a bike share station to the visitor center, helping staff design the refuge trail network, and designing an outdoor classroom for field trips. Nate appreciated the chance to collaborate with the many local stakeholders who support the Refuge: “Working with Valle de Oro has allowed me to not only give back to my community, but also follow my passion of working in public lands.”

Nature trail near shoreline in Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

Vince Ziols has had the unique opportunity to spend nearly two years at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge (DRIWR) in Michigan. In his first year, he completed a number of transportation planning projects to facilitate access to the Refuge by residents of Detroit and other surrounding communities.  DRIWR then extended his fellowship for a second year, which has allowed him to put many of the projects into action, including extending a regional bus route to the Refuge Gateway and Visitor Center, helping a nonprofit organization secure a $1.9 million grant for trail development, and implementing a trail signage and safety plan. According to Vince, the fellowship has had several valuable benefits: “I have found another home here in Detroit and know that my experience as a PLTF has prepared me for the next step of my career.”

Vince conducted a wrap-up presentation webinar last week, which is available to view on the Fellows project page of the WTI website.  Naomi will present her wrap-up webinar on Wednesday, June 3, at 11 a.m. (EST), and Nate’s will be scheduled for later this summer. To read the Fellows’ entire “Takeover Tuesday” posts, visit the Federal-Public Lands Transportation Institute page on LinkedIn.  For more information on the Fellows program, go to the PLTF page on the WTI website.

Road Ecologist Helps Launch Wednesday Webinars

Marcel Huijser

The Society for Ecological Restoration has started a “Wednesday Webinar” series to promote information sharing and professional development in response to conference cancellations.  One of the first invited speakers was WTI Research Scientist Marcel Huijser, who led a webinar on March 25 on “Open Access: Where Road Ecology and Ecological Restoration Converge.” The presentation focused on new approaches designed to shift from providing safe crossing opportunities for large mammals to restoring habitat connectivity for a wide range of species groups.  The webinar is available on the ECR Webinar webpage.

The following day, Marcel also presented via webinar at the University of Montana, which has transitioned its courses to online delivery.  He gave a remote lecture on road ecology to the students of WILD 370, Wildlife Biology, a course taught by Professor Mark Hebblewhite, who leads the UM Ungulate Ecology Lab.

Do You Know a Good Candidate for the Public Lands Transportation Fellows Program?

ogo: Transportation icons including, shuttle bus, hiker, cyclist, tour boat and car. Text: Public Lands Transportation Fellows Program

The application process for the 2020 Public Lands Transportation Fellows (PLTF) Class is now open!! The PLTF program provides fellowships to recent graduates (sometimes current graduate students) in a transportation-related engineering, planning, or resource management program. They receive a unique opportunity for learning, career development, and public service within a federal land unit or agency headquarters.  This year, the program is seeking applications for five positions: one at the Southeast National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Louisiana, one at the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Complex in Massachusetts, and three within the National Park Service.  Learn more at the PLTF Application webpage, then help us get the word out!

CHSC Grad Student Competes in Finals of Thesis Competition

Jubaer Ahmed making research presentation with large presentation slide projected behind him in 2020Congratulations to Jubaer Ahmed, who was one of seven finalists in the “Three Minute Thesis” Competition hosted by the Montana State University College of Engineering. On February 27, he presented “How Does Emotional Intelligence Predict Driving Behavior?” before a full house of faculty, students, and community members in the COE Inspiration Hall.  The topic builds on his research for his Ph.D. and for the Center for Health and Safety Culture, where he works in collaboration with his advisor (and CHSC Director) Nic Ward.

Three Minute Thesis is a research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland in Australia. It encourages graduate students to develop their presentation skills and learn how to explain complex concepts to general audiences. Competitors must give an engaging summary of their research in only 180 seconds, using only one slide.

WRTWC Releases “Playbook” for Launching University-Public Agency Partnerships

Cover image of University Partnership Playbook with 5 photos of rural settings and transportation professionalsThe West Region Transportation Workforce Center has released the University Partnership Playbook, a step-by-step guide for creating multi-project collaborations between public agencies and universities.  The collaborations offer students hands-on transportation project experience within their university courses and provide agencies with added expertise and capacity for community-based projects.

The Playbook uses the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities (EPIC) Model, a framework for making university resources (faculty, students, laboratories, specialized and multidisciplinary expertise, etc.) available to public entities to help solve their priority challenges.  At the same time, it promotes professional development and career awareness opportunities for university students.

Designed for public agencies and other potential partners who are interested in starting or expanding a partnership with a university, the playbook includes:

  • Tried and true implementation steps for organizing a successful university partnership
  • Common challenges and fixes
  • Adaptations to the model
  • Success stories from different locations around the country, which highlight potential outcomes and benefits

The University Partnership Playbook is available to read or download on the WRTWC Resources webpage.