The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has begun the planning and development of a wildlife crossings bridge on Highway 17, a commuter corridor that passes through deer and wildlife habitat in the Santa Cruz Mountains. According to a recent article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Caltrans consulted with WTI’s Marcel Huijser during the planning process, and used cost-benefit analysis strategies from a 2009 WTI journal article co-authored by Marcel to assess mitigation options. In addition, WTI Road Ecology staff hosted two forums for Caltrans staff in 2016 to educate them on wildlife connectivity issues and mitigation options.
Many wildlife crossing structures are designed to create safe passage for large animal species. However, there is also a need to reduce the impacts of roads on small animal species, including terrestrial mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. One approach is to adapt road crossing structures that are designed for other purposes (e.g., drainage structures, bridges across streams or rivers, or livestock crossings) so that they are also suitable for small animal species. Through this project, Co-Principal Investigators Marcel Huijser of WTI and Kari Gunson of Eco-Care International will summarize design criteria for structures that provide safe passage across roads, as well as barriers designed to keep these species groups off the highway and guide them towards safe passage opportunities. The team will set up a central repository with case studies, plan sheets for structures and barriers, and lessons learned. The results of this effort will provide transportation planners, road designers, and road builders with a synthesis of the most current information about how best to provide safe passage across roads for small animals and reduce direct road mortality. Further information is available on the project page on the WTI website.
WTI Hosts International Workshop to Inspire Creative Designs
In early May, WTI hosted a group of engineers, ecologists, and landscape architects from Canada and the U.S. for a two-day workshop to create innovative designs for wildlife crossing structures. In particular, they were focused on whether a high-strength, fiber reinforced plastic could be used to build bridge-like structures over roadways. If feasible, using plastic structures could make it easier and less expensive to install wildlife crossing structures in more locations.
The workshop was led by Rob Ament, Program Manager for WTI’s Road Ecology research, and Nina-Marie Lister, Director of the Ecological Design Lab at Canada’s Ryerson University. Participants were split into two teams to create “competing” designs for prototype wildlife crossings at Hyalite Canyon and Bozeman Pass on Interstate 90. Also taking part were WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger, and graduate student Matt Bell, who is conducting research on wildlife crossing structures while pursuing a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at MSU.
MSU News highlighted the workshop in a recent feature story, which is available on the MSU website.
Last week, the Jackson Hole News and Guide published a feature article on the Teton County (Wyoming) Wildlife Crossings Master Plan developed by WTI. The draft Plan, which was recently presented to County Commissioners, identified priority sites for wildlife mitigation and recommended site-specific solutions. As part of the plan, twelve sites were proposed for wildlife crossing structures to increase both roadway safety and habitat connectivity. Principal Investigator Marcel Huijser was interviewed for the article, which is available on the Jackson Hole News website.
Last week, Marcel Huijser opened the 2018 Australasian Network for Ecology and Transportation (ANET) Conference, in Melbourne, Australia with a keynote address entitled “Road Ecology – Are We Taking the Right Turns?” The Conference, co-hosted by the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand in Victoria, explored the theme “Connecting nature, connecting people.” Marcel also participated in a panel discussion of how technology and innovation influence transportation ecology research and practice, as well as field trips to view local road ecology projects. A profile of his work on animal detection systems, habitat connectivity, and of his role as a visiting professor in Brazil was featured on the conference website.
A team of Montana-based fish passage researchers continue to produce notable results using the outdoor experimental flume at the Bozeman Fish Technology Center. Northwest Science has published the journal article “Sprint Swimming Performance of Shovelnose Sturgeon in an Open-Channel Flume.” The article, authored by Luke Holmquist of MSU’s Department of Ecology, Kevin Kappenman of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Matt Blank of WTI, and Matt Schultz highlights research to study the swimming abilities of wild shovelnose sturgeon in fish passage structures. The results indicate that their swimming abilities have been underestimated in the past. These findings will help improve future designs of fish passage structures and facilitate efforts to prevent habitat fragmentation for this species.
The research is a collaboration among WTI, the MSU Department of Ecology, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and one of several projects the partners have conducted together. More information about the sturgeon project is available on the project page and more information about the collaborative research program is available on the MSU Fish Passage webpage.
Citation: Luke Holmquist, Kevin Kappenman, Matt D. Blank, and Matt Schultz. Sprint Swimming Performance of Shovelnose Sturgeon in an Open-Channel Flume. Northwest Science 2018 92 (1), 61-71.
WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger has co-authored a journal article on the impacts of road expansion on cheetah populations. In June, the Journal for Nature Conservation will publish “Road expansion: A challenge to conservation of mammals, with particular emphasis on the endangered Asiatic cheetah in Iran.” The article summarizes a study to identify hotspot locations along an extremely high-risk road for mammals in northeast Iran (Touran Biosphere Reserve [TBR]) and proposes mitigation measures for mammals such as the Asiatic cheetah and Persian gazelles. The full article is currently available on the Science Direct website.
Citation: Mohammadi, A., Almasieh, K., Clevenger, A., Fatemizadeh, F., Rezaei, A., Jowkar, H., and Kaboli, M. (2018). Road expansion: A challenge to conservation of mammals, with particular emphasis on the endangered Asiatic cheetah in Iran. Journal for Nature Conservation. Volume 43 (June 2018): pp 8-18.
Research Scientist Marcel Huijser, of WTI’s Road Ecology program, will travel to Australia at the end of April for the 2018 Conference of the Australasian Network for Ecology and Transportation (ANET). Marcel has been invited to deliver the keynote address, entitled “Road Ecology – Are We Taking the Right Turns?” at the plenary session on the opening day of the conference.
ANET is a professional network dedicated to the research, design and implementation of environmentally-sensitive infrastructure across Australasia (Australia, New Zealand, and neighboring islands). Serving government, industry, scientists and community groups, ANET’s international conferences aim to share global best practices for identifying and mitigating the ecological impacts of all types of linear infrastructure and transport, including road, rail, pipelines and utility easements.