Wildlife Vehicle Collision Data Collection System: Second phase of development complete

Project logo with graphic image of deer leaping across highway and title Federal ROaDSThe WTI Road Ecology program, in partnership with the MSU Gianforte School of Computing, has completed a second phase of research on a system to simplify how wildlife vehicle collision (WVC) data is collected and shared among federal agencies.

The research program is sponsored by the National Center for Rural Road Safety, the National Park Service (NPS) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) – the federal agencies want to develop and coordinate the use of a WVC Data Collection System with other federal land management agencies, state and local agencies, and other organizations. During Phase 1, Road Ecology researchers Rob Ament, Matthew Bell, and Kelley Hall, collaborating with MSU Computer Science professor Mike Wittie, developed a pilot WVC system called ROaDS – Roadkill Observation and Data System.  It collects WVC roadkill observations and is available to all Department of Interior (DOI) agencies and bureaus.

During Phase 2, the research team developed recommendations for preliminary national standards for WVC data collection systems, which will promote collection and sharing of consistent data among agencies and partners. The team also made recommendations to modify the ROaDS survey (used for data collection) so it is shorter, easier to use, and more efficient. As part of the development process, team members determined that ROaDS can provide a valuable research function – it captures the observer’s route, how long it took to complete the route and each individual observation made while on that route. Phase 2 also included outreach activities, in which team members began to engage other agencies and organizations to jointly develop national standards for WVC data collection systems via meetings, presentations, and workshops at national conferences that will be continued in Phase 3.

The Federal Lands Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Data Coordination Project Phase 2 report is available on the WTI website.  A new poster, which displays highlights from Phases 1 and 2 and proposed activities for Phase 3, is also available at the WVC Data Coordination Project Phase 2 webpage.

Washington Post Interviews WTI Road Ecologist

Head shot of Rob AmentOne of the country’s leading newspapers consulted a WTI researcher and several of our road ecology publications for a national feature story on wildlife crossings.  “Retrofitting busy highways to let wildlife travel safely, too” explored national and state initiatives to identify wildlife corridors and enhance crossing structures such as underpasses and overpasses.  The Post interviewed Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament, who discussed the potential long-term genetic consequences of highways that restrict wildlife movement and connectivity.  The article also cites WTI/Montana Department of Transportation research on wildlife crossings on US 93 in Montana, and a cost-benefit analysis study that documented the direct and indirect costs of collisions with large animals.

Ament Interviewed on Wildlife Crossing Structures in Wyoming

Head shot of Rob AmentThe Jackson Hole News and Guide has published “Bridging a future for wildlife,” a feature article on proposed wildlife crossings structures for Wyoming highways.  In the article, WTI Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament discusses how crossing structures can be highly effective in reducing collisions between vehicles and large mammals, especially if the locations are carefully sited and the structures are designed to meet the needs of the target species. WTI has conducted wildlife mitigation planning in Wyoming; Marcel Huijser, Rob Ament and the rest of the Road Ecology team collaborated on the development of the Teton County Wildlife Crossings Master Plan, completed in 2018.

Huijser Leads Webinar for USFWS

Marcel Huijser

In September, Research Ecologist Marcel Huijser was invited to present a training webinar for all the Regional Transportation Coordinators in the US Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS).  The topic for this training was “Road Ecology: Issues and Solutions on and for USFWS Refuges.”  WTI has provided technical assistance to US Fish and Wildlife Service refuges on transportation-related issues for several years, through projects such as the Technical Support for National Wildlife Refuges project and the Workshop and Technical Support for USFWS project.

In other news related to Marcel’s research, his 2018 journal article in Biological Conservation on wildlife fencing continues to receive international attention. Last month, his co-author Andrew Jakes was interviewed about the research for a feature article in Der Spiegel, a leading news magazine in Germany.

WTI Welcomes New Researchers

This summer, WTI welcomed two new researchers who will provide multi-disciplinary expertise and support across several program areas.

Matthew Bell presents at a wildlife crossings workshopMatthew Bell is a new Research Associate, but his connection to WTI dates back to 2012 when he worked on a Road Ecology project with one of Marcel Huijser’s grad students in Missoula, Montana.  In 2017, while pursuing grad studies at MSU, he began research with Rob Ament to design wildlife crossing structures from fiber-reinforced polymers.  He also conducted his thesis research on modeling the risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions on Montana roads, under the guidance of Dr. Yiyi Wang.  Now at WTI full-time, Matt will continue with research on designing crossing structures from fiber-reinforced polymers.  He will also assist with projects to test the use of wool products for erosion control and to evaluate friction performance measurement as a winter maintenance strategy.

Raised in Florida and California, Matt has lived in Montana for nine years.  He earned his B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana in Missoula and his M.S. in Civil Engineering at Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman.  Outside of WTI, he loves backpacking and trail running, with his energetic dog Pi usually leading the way.

headshot of Danae Giannetti in 2019Danae Giannetti has joined WTI as a Research Engineer, focusing on projects for the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM).  Initially, she will assist with a new transit feasibility study in rural Arkansas, the pop-up neighborhood traffic calming program in Bozeman, and bike/pedestrian technical assistance projects.  For the last three years, she served as a Civil Engineering Specialist at the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) MSU Design Unit where she designed roadway projects and mentored MSU undergraduate students on the road design process.  (If she looks familiar, the MDT/MSU Design Unit office is in the WTI building!)

Danae came to Montana nine years ago from northeast Florida to study at MSU Bozeman.  She earned her B.S. in Civil Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer.  When not at work, she loves to travel, garden and hang out with her husband and two dogs.  An avid biker, she is active in the Pedal Project for local mountain biking and serves on the Bozeman Area Bicycle Advisory Board.

Wolverine Research Featured on MSU Website

Black and white image of a wolverine walking through snowy forestMontana State University News Service published a feature story last week on Tony Clevenger’s wolverine research and also highlighted the story on the MSU website homepage.

“MSU research shows impact of major transportation corridor on wolverine movement” summarizes the findings from a multi-year study by Clevenger and his colleagues in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks.  Their research showed that interstate highways in the area limit the movements of female wolverines, causing isolation that can negatively impact the rare species’ population stability and growth.

The results from this research, which used noninvasive genetic sampling methods to collect wolverine DNA samples, were published in the journal Biological Conservation this summer.

The final report for the Mapping the Wolverine Way project is available on the WTI website.

NEW REPORT: Hot Spot Analysis of Large Mammal-Vehicle Collisions in California

Two deer crossing guard rail and road on Hwy 191 approaching Jackson Hole, WY.The final report is now available for a wildlife vehicle collision study conducted for the California Department of Transportation.  Road Ecology Research Ecologist Marcel Huijser and Research Associate James Begley authored the final report for “Large Mammal-Vehicle Collision Hot Spot Analysis,” which provides guidance on the implementation of mitigation measures aimed at reducing collisions with large wild mammals along all state managed highways in California, with an emphasis on mule deer. These analyses identified the road sections that had the “highest” concentration of deer-vehicle crashes and mule deer carcasses. The hot spots were prioritized based on parameters related to human safety, biological conservation, and economics. Finally, the researchers provided practical guidelines for the implementation of mitigation measures and suggest mitigation strategies for the highest-ranking hot spots in each Caltrans district.

The report is available on the Hot Spot Analysis project page of the WTI website.

MSU News Highlights Fish Passage Research on Yellowstone River

Haley Tupen and Katey Plymesser with monitoring equipment next to Yellowstone River
Haley Tupen talks with assistant professor of civil engineering Katey Plymesser, right. MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez

Graduate students at Montana State University had a great opportunity to participate in aquatics field research this summer, which was captured in feature article by the Montana State University (MSU) News Service.  “MSU engineers, ecologists seek to improve fish passage on Yellowstone River” profiles grad students Haley Tupin and Ian Anderson, who gathered data at the Huntley Irrigation project on the Yellowstone River.  The article includes numerous photos of the pair at work on the river and with the fish they studied.

The research project, conducted for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, is investigating the effectiveness of a fish bypass channel that was constructed for the Huntley Irrigation Project.  The data collected this summer will help determine if fish are using the bypass to navigate around the dam.  WTI Research Scientist Matt Blank is a co-PI on the research project and serves on Haley Tupin’s graduate committee.

USFWS Sponsors New Phase of Fish Passage Research

WTI, the MSU College of Engineering, and the Bozeman Fish Technology Center (BFTC) will continue their partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study fish passage and the barriers that limit fish movements.  Under a 5-year cooperative agreement, USFWS will sponsor a new phase of fish passage research projects, using the open channel flumes and swim chambers at BFTC as well as the hydraulics lab and computational/modeling facilities at MSU’s Department of Civil Engineering.  The purpose of the research program is to characterize fish swimming performance and behavior, to enhance the design and operation of fish passages, and to develop new methods that improve landscape connectivity for fish and other aquatic organisms.  The program also offers many hands-on research opportunities – in both labs and field sites – for undergraduate and graduate students.  Read more about this partnership program on the Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics Research Group webpage.

Ongoing information about this project will be posted to the Fish Passage Research (phase 2) project page.

NEW PROJECT: Assessing the Costs and Benefits of an Animal Detection System

WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser will lead a cost-benefit analysis of an animal detection system (ADS) for the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT).  MDT is considering a possible installation of an ADS along U.S. Highway 89, near Livingston, Montana.  The analysis will investigate factors such as the number of wildlife vehicle collisions (WVCs) on the road segment; the costs associated with large animal WVCs; costs to purchase, install and maintain a system; and the life span and effectiveness of a system.

Ongoing information about this project will be posted to the Animal Vehicle Collision Cost Analysis project page.