When the Citizen Times in North Carolina wants to know about wildlife crossings, its reporters call on WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser. Columnist Bill McGoun interviewed Marcel about the installation costs of wildlife crossings and fencing for an opinion piece last week, entitled “In rural WNC, human must progress in harmony with wildlife.” As part of an ongoing series in the Times about wildlife corridors, Marcel’s expertise has already been included in three articles since the start of 2019! Read about the previous articles on the WTI News page.
The Asheville (NC) Citizen Times interviewed WTI Research Scientist Marcel Huijser for the feature article “Bridges for Bears: Do Wildlife Corridors Work?” Marcel discusses wildlife crossing structure success stories in Banff National Park and on U.S. 93 in Montana. Read the full interview or learn more about the WTI Road Ecology program on our website. The Citizen Times also interviewed Marcel on the costs and benefits of wildlife crossing structures for a follow up article called “Bringing Back Historic Wildlife Migration Corridors to the Mountains.”
With the start of the new year, WTI Director Steve Albert sees a busy calendar ahead for himself and the organization as a whole – and that’s a good thing. “Over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of amazing advancements in the transportation field, but also a lot of uncertainty about the future – not to mention a lot more competition for research projects,” Albert said in a recent interview. “Recently, though, we’ve been awarded several nationally significant projects that I’m very excited about, so I’m looking forward to a busy and productive 2019 at WTI.”
For example, in fall 2018, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) selected WTI and Intrans (at Iowa State University) to lead the development of a Research Roadmap on Rural Transportation Issues, which is scheduled to be completed and released in 2019. “Our team is focused on identifying the research issues that can make the most difference in improving rural transportation across the country including infrastructure, safety, mobility, freight movement, and workforce shortages,” said Albert; “it’s an amazing opportunity to help shape and prioritize the future of transportation research at the national level.”
WTI is also gearing up to lead the team that is launching a major Wildlife Vehicle Collision Reduction and Habitat Connectivity project. WTI’s Road Ecology scientists will partner with other leading researchers from the U.S. and Canada on a three year $700,000+ pooled fund study administered by the Nevada Department of Transportation that includes seven other states, from Alaska to Iowa, and one Canadian province. It will include a cost-benefit analysis of various mitigation measures, a series of research projects and the development of a manual. The project will identify and evaluate the most cost-effective strategies and tools that DOTs can use to reduce the number of collisions between animals and vehicles and those measures that require additional research. “Ten years ago, WTI’s Road Ecology team completed the first nation-wide study that looked at the cost of these collisions and the cost-effectiveness of potential solutions,” Albert explained; “new mitigation options have emerged since then, and state DOTs need concrete information on what works, what is promising but might need some more study, and what is economically feasible to implement.”
In addition to conducting new research, WTI will host the 12th Transportation Research Board (TRB) International Conference on Low Volume Roads this September in in Kalispell, Montana. According to Albert, “TRB sponsors this conference to highlight new technologies and new techniques in the design, construction, and maintenance of low-volume roads; researchers and practitioners come from all over to discuss practical solutions to common problems on these roads.”
Overall, the WTI Director sees opportunities ahead for all of WTI’s Centers and research programs. “We continue to find critical transportation needs in both our longstanding program areas as well as some emerging ones,” said Albert. “Our Mobility and Public Transportation program is doing innovative work right here in Bozeman, Montana as well as in small towns around the country related to public transportation options (see News section). The Center for Health and Safety Culture has also had tremendous success in growing its training efforts to introduce amazing, culture-based approaches to health and safety initiatives.”
The October issue of Current Biology will feature an article entitled “Roads threaten Asiatic cheetahs in Iran,” about the impacts of wildlife vehicle collisions on the endangered species (there are fewer than 50 free roaming cheetahs in the country). The authors reached out to WTI Research Ecologist Marcel Huijser to provide input and assistance on the road ecology components, and they recently contacted WTI to acknowledge Marcel’s “invaluable comments.” The final article is available online.
Road Ecology Researcher Marcel Huijser and his colleagues have a newly published journal article in Biological Conservation. “A fence runs through it: A call for greater attention to the inﬂuence of fences on wildlife and ecosystems” is one of the first empirical investigations of the interactions between fences, wildlife, ecosystems, and societal needs. It illustrates the global prevalence of fencing, outlines fence function and common designs, reviews the pros and cons of fencing relative to wildlife conservation, and identifies knowledge gaps and research needs in fence ecology. The full article is available at online.
CITATION: Jakes, A.F., P.F. Jones, L.C. Paige, R.G. Seidler & M.P. Huijser. 2018. A fence runs through it: A call for greater attention to the inﬂuence of fences on wildlife and ecosystems. Biological Conservation 227: 310-318.
In September, the Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE) held its International Conference in the Netherlands, focusing on the theme of “Crossing borders for a greener and sustainable transport infrastructure.” WTI’s Road Ecology staff members were front and center throughout the 5-day event, presenting their research and experience on wildlife crossings, habitat connectivity, and related topics to more than 300 attendees from around the world.
At the West Region Transportation Workforce Center (WRTWC), the first Research Experience for Teachers in Innovative Transportation Systems (ITS-RET) program is well underway. Ten middle, high school, and community college faculty participants are conducting multidisciplinary transportation research for six weeks at Montana State University this summer. The research topic areas focus on the unique challenges of rural transportation systems and developing solutions to transportation challenges through innovation. In addition to working with faculty and research mentors on research, the ITS-RET participants are translating their research experiences into classroom curricula.
On July 31 and August 1, the teachers were able to implement new teaching materials they developed during a two-day workshop held for middle and high school students. The classroom activities demonstrated what an excellent vehicle transportation is for integrated STEM learning. The young workshop participants were able to hone computational thinking skills during a programming challenge, test the strength of different materials, build and test crash attenuators, and use drones to survey a landscape before designing and building wildlife crossing structures. The classroom modules will be posted to the WRTWC website next month as a resource for other teachers. Teachers interested in participating in the RET program next summer can visit the Center website for additional information: http://wrtwc.org/resources/for-educators/
View the WTI project description
WRTWC is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration and based at the Western Transportation Institute.
When the Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE) meets for its International Conference this fall, one of the keynote speakers will be WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger. Tony will travel to the Netherlands in September to present “Through the lens of time: Long-term research integrating behavior, landscape ecology and conservation along the Trans-Canada Highway.” He will discuss his 17 years of research in Banff National Park, which IENE describes as “one of the best testing sites of innovative highway mitigation in the world.” Additional information about the conference and Tony’s presentation is available on the IENE conference website.
In September 2018, the journal Biological Conservation will publish an article whose lead author is Fernanda Abra, one of Marcel Huijser’s Ph.D. students at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. “How reliable are your data? Verifying species identification of road-killed mammals recorded by road maintenance personnel in São Paulo State, Brazil” was based on research to investigate more than 3000 images of roadkill animals along toll roads in Brazil. The species in these images were identified by wildlife experts and compared to the species identification previously done by maintenance personnel. The results suggested that non-experts can reliably identify common mammals, but reliability decreases with rare species or those that closely resemble another species. An advance copy of the article is currently available online at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320717318906.
Citation: Abra F.D., M.P. Huijser, C.S. Pereira & K. Ferraz. 2018. How reliable are your data? Verifying species identification of road-killed mammals recorded by road maintenance personnel in São Paulo State, Brazil. Biological Conservation 225: 42-52.