Road Ecology Support Center, Unlimited – International Leadership and Partnerships

For nearly 20 years, the Road Ecology Program at the Western Transportation Institute – Montana State University (WTI) has studied the effects of roads on wildlife populations, fish passage, vegetation, climate change and other issues. WTI seeks to advance the understanding of how roads, natural resources and the environment interact. We have a team of internationally recognized experts, and we partner with other professionals and organizations from around the world to develop, synthesize and share the latest knowledge.
The solutions we have helped advance and implement, usually focus on reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions and providing safe wildlife crossing opportunities across highways. This knowledge and experience now serve as invaluable resources for colleagues and agencies in other countries.

WTI Road Ecology Program staff offer many forms of expertise at the international level:
• Context-specific research, evaluation, and consulting
• Professional development workshops and presentations to transportation practitioners
• Research exchanges between countries, universities or research centers
• Academic exchanges to provide instruction, develop curriculum, and provide research opportunities to students.

Recent examples of WTI’s work outside of the United States span five continents:

Africa

Gabon: World Bank Forum. In spring 2017, the World Bank Group invited Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament to the west African nation of Gabon’s Lope National Park. He served as an expert speaker for a special meeting of its Global Wildlife Program, which provides more than $130 million in grants to reduce human-wildlife conflicts. Representatives from 19 countries in Asia and Africa that receive funds participated in the meeting. During the meeting, Rob gave a presentation on wildlife connectivity and how it is affected by various forms of transportation. He also discussed several specific efforts in which he is involved, including connectivity conservation initiatives by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and long-range transportation efforts by the U.S. National Park Service and USFWS National Wildlife Refuges.

Asia

 India: Landscape Connectivity. In 2017, Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament attended a week- long meeting in India hosted by the Science for Nature and People Partnership. India currently faces numerous wildlife protection challenges; for example, protected areas are often too small to support viable populations of wide-ranging species, such as Asian elephants and tigers, especially if highways and other development severs habitat connectivity between protected areas. Rob was invited by the Landscape Connectivity in India Working Group to give a presentation and provide his expertise for the workshop, during which participants developed strategies to address the impact of transportation systems on ecological connectivity surrounding various protected areas in the western Ghats region.
Mongolia: Road Impact Studies. A team of WTI road ecologists, including Marcel Huijser, Tony Clevenger and Rob Ament, traveled to the southern Gobi Desert in Mongolia, home to endangered species of gazelles, Bactrian camels and Argali bighorn sheep. Increased mining activity in the area is leading to rapid development of roads and other infrastructure. The European Bank, which is sponsoring some of the mining projects, was concerned about whether the development posed a long-term threat to native wildlife. WTI researchers assessed the impacts of the first paved highway in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, as well as made recommendations on how the impacts should be mitigated.

India: Asian Elephant Conservation. In 2016, Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament participated in an international conservation forum with a field trip to Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India. Rob was invited to participate in a meeting of the IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Asian Elephant Specialist Group, as a support specialist on wildlife corridors and transportation mitigation. This was the first time the world’s leading experts have gathered in 14 years, and representatives from all 13 countries with existing wild Asian elephants attended.

China: Wildlife Crossing Structure Handbook. The China Academy of Transportation Sciences (CATS) requested permission to produce a Chinese translation of WTI Road Ecology’s “Wildlife Crossing Structure Handbook Design and Evaluation in North America,” originally sponsored by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). FHWA authorized the translation, exponentially increasing the tech transfer of this document authored by Tony Clevenger and Marcel Huijser.

Europe

Netherlands: Wildlife Overpasses. In the fall of 2016, WTI Research Ecologist Marcel Huijser coordinated and hosted a tour a multifunctional wildlife overpass in The Netherlands for associates from the Chinese Academy of Transportation Sciences (CATS) associates. Natuurbrug Zanderij Crailoo is almost a half mile long (800 meters) and includes a bridge across a 2-lane highway and another bridge across a railroad and railroad yard. There are embankments for the corridor in between the two bridges and also through a golf course.

Latin America

Colombia: Symposium and technology transfer on reducing road impacts on wildlife. In November 2017, Tony Clevenger was invited by the Instituto Tecnologico de Medellin (ITM) to lead 3-day symposium for academics, federal transportation and environment staff addressing impacts of new highway infrastructure on wildlife populations. As part of the visit, Clevenger presented current road ecology practices to the City of Medellin Department of Parks and Conservation, developed future collaborative projects with ITM and mentoring graduate students in ITM’s Department of Sustainable Development.

Mexico: First Road Ecology Workshop. The Mexican Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes (National Transportation Department) sponsored its first national Road Ecology workshop in Hermosillo, Senora, Mexico in October 2017. WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger was one of three presenters invited to lead this inaugural forum. Organizers, including the Secretaria, the NGO Wildlands Network, and other partner agencies, anticipated only 50 attendees, but the event attracted more than 110 participants.

Brazil: Congress on Biodiversity. In November 2016, WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger attended and gave the keynote presentation at the 1st Iberoamerican Congress on Biodiversity Conservation and Transportation in Lavras, Brasil. New environmental impact assessment laws in Brazil have generated growing interest in road effects, impacts assessments, and planning measures to mitigate impacts. Tony is also co-supervising two PhD candidates at the at the Federal University in Lavras, Brazil.

Brazil: Road ecology courses at the University of Sao Paolo. WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser partners with colleagues in Brazil on both education and research projects. In 2014 and 2017, he taught road ecology courses at the University of Sao Paulo (USP). Most of his students are studying Wildlife Ecology, Management and Conservation at the Forest Science Department at the USP campus in Piracicaba. Over the years, Marcel’s work in Brazil has included teaching, guest lectures, mentoring MSc and PhD students, international exchanges with Brazilian researchers, presentations to government agencies, toll road companies and at conferences, and consulting on road development projects.

Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala: Jaguar Habitats. In November 2016, WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger attended a two-day workshop in Mexico City, “Taller Nacional Intersectorial De Mitigación De Impactos Por Obras De Infraestructura Sobre El Jaguar Y Su Hábitat” [National workshop on mitigating impacts of infrastructure on jaguars and their habitat]. The goal of the workshop was to bring together high-level administrators from the Ministries of Transportation, Energy, Credit: Tourism, Pemex, and Protected Areas, to share information regarding threats and alternatives to mitigate infrastructure impacts on jaguar populations, connectivity, and habitat in the Mayan Forest (Yucatan states of Campeche, Quintana Roo, Merida). From this workshop a pilot project has been initiated with interagency involvement to identify critical areas for mitigating infrastructure impacts on jaguars in Yucatan, Belize, and Guatemala.

Mexico: Ministry of Transportation Road Congress. In 2016, Tony Clevenger was invited by Juan Carlos Bravo of the Wildlands Network Mexico to present on Sustainable Highways at a Road Congress of more than 1000 transportation engineers in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The Mexican Minister of Transportation and Environment attended and gave presentations. Tony and Juan Carlos were approached by the head of Environmental Assessments for the Ministry of Transportation regarding WTI and Wildlands Network Mexico’s possible involvement as independent reviewers for highway project assessments done in wildlife sensitive areas.

North America

Canada: Trans-Canada Highway. WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger led an unprecedented 17-year project to research the effectiveness of 44 wildlife crossing structures on the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park. Findings from this research conclude that wildlife crossings have provided demographic and genetic connectivity and reduced collisions with wildlife by as much as eighty percent.

Canada: Wolverine Research. WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger led a 6-year research project to more fully understand landscape and human effects on wolverine abundance, distribution and connectivity in the Canadian Rocky Mountain ecosystem. The purpose of this research in the Canadian Rockies was to collect information on wolverine occurrence, population genetics and connectivity with the aim of assessing the sustainability of trapper harvest and identifying core habitat and the corridors that (Photo credit: National Park Service) link them.

For more information about individual projects, visit the WTI website at https://westerntransportationinstitute.org/programs/road-ecology/