Fourteen WTI researchers, affiliated faculty, fellows, and staff have returned from a busy and productive week at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The premier transportation research event of the year, the meeting is attended by more than 13,000 transportation leaders, practitioners, and researchers from around the world. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, addressed attendees at the Chair’s luncheon, speaking on initiatives to deploy innovative technologies such as V2X, or “vehicle to everything” communication.
WTI staff played key roles across numerous topics and forums – presenting research at panels and in poster sessions, participating in committees, and leading workshops. One of the highlights was the well-attended workshop on “Rural Transportation for Everyone: Policy and Practice in 2020,” led by Jaime Sullivan.
The Idaho Transportation Department is currently considering wildlife crossing structures for a segment of U.S. 20 near Island Park. High Country News recently published an extensive feature article exploring both support and opposition to this proposal: “When wildlife safety turns into fierce political debate.” WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser was interviewed for the article, discussing the potential role and effectiveness of animal detection systems. The article also cites his research on the costs to society of vehicle crashes with deer and other large mammals.
Interested in Road Ecology research? Check out these recent and upcoming publications.
WOLVERINE TRAPPING: The Journal of Wildlife Management has published “The Sustainability of Wolverine Trapping Mortality in Southern Canada,” by Garth Mowat, Tony Clevenger, and their research team. It summarizes the team’s research study, in which they observed wolverines over a large area of southern British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, used spatial capture‐recapture models to estimate density, and calculated trapping kill rates using provincial fur harvest data. The study was also highlighted in a December feature story by the Wildlife Society: “Are southwest Canada wolverines being overharvested?”
Citation: Mowat, G., Clevenger, A.P., Kortello, A.D., Hausleitner, D., Barrueto, M., Smit, L., Lamb, C., DorsEy, B. and Ott, P.K. (2019), The Sustainability of Wolverine Trapping Mortality in Southern Canada. Jour. Wild. Mgmt.. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21787
EFFECTS OF ROADS IN LATIN AMERICA. In 2020, the Environmental Impact Assessment Review will publish “Effects of Roads on Terrestrial Vertebrate Species in Latin America,” co-authored by Tony Clevenger. It summarizes a review to qualitatively and quantitatively assess scientific research papers addressing road impacts on vertebrate species in Latin America. The paper also summarizes research gaps and recommends an approach for future research.
Citation: Pinto, F., Clevenger, A., and Grilo, C. (2020). Effects of Roads on Terrestrial Vertebrate Species in Latin America. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 81 (2020) 106337.
NIGHT-TIME SPEED LIMITS: The National Transportation Research Database (TRID) has posted the final report for the project “Effectiveness of Night-time Speed Limit Reduction in Reducing Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions.” For this project, Research Scientist Marcel Huijser and his partners investigated the effects of speed limit reductions at mule deer collision hotspots in Wyoming. The researchers studied the effects of the speed limits on vehicle speeds, on the interactions between wildlife and vehicles, and on the number of observed collisions.
Citation: Riginos, C., Fairbank, E. Hansen, J. Kolek & M. Huijser. 2019. Effectiveness of night-time speed limit reduction in reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions. Report No. FHWA-WY-1904F. Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Jackson / The Nature Conservancy, Lander, Wyoming, USA. https://trid.trb.org/view/1659707
The 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.
One 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.
The 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.
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.
This summer, WTI welcomed two new researchers who will provide multi-disciplinary expertise and support across several program areas.
Matthew 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.
Danae 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.