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.
At a recent meeting, the county commissioners of Teton County, Wyoming approved a wildlife crossings master plan, which will now become part of the region’s Integrated Transportation Plan. The Plan was developed by WTI’s Road Ecology program, with Research Ecologist Marcel Huijser serving as the Principal Investigator. Focused on key highway segments near Jackson, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park, the Plan identifies and prioritizes locations where the installation of wildlife crossing structures can enhance safety, prevent collisions, and preserve connectivity. During the course of the project, Road Ecology staff also traveled to Wyoming for public meetings to assist with local outreach efforts. Approval of the plan was covered by the Jackson Hole News; the full plan is available on the WTI project page.
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.