Researchers from the Montana State University Ecology Department and WTI’s Road Ecology program will investigate the roadside habitats of monarch butterflies in Idaho, as part of a new project for the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD).
The monarch butterfly
population has declined drastically in western states since the 1980s, largely
due to habitat loss and fragmentation. In Idaho, the Snake River Plain is a target
location for conservation and restoration activities. ITD manages a large
number of highway miles and adjacent right of way (ROW) acreage in this region,
but there is little data on the amount of land or the specific locations that
support butterfly populations, migration routes, and breeding habitat.
For this project, researchers will conduct a field study to identify the amount and location of existing monarch butterfly habitat within ITD ROW land, as well as additional locations that could be easily restored to suitable habitat. Monarchs and their host plants, milkweeds, are a key focus of the project, and it will also evaluate several other native butterflies and bee species that are of high conservation concern. From the findings, the research team will develop recommendations for ITD on how to manage roadsides that connect natural areas and conserve butterfly and bee populations. The research will be led by Dr. Diane Debiniski (MSU Ecology), in partnership with Rob Ament (WTI) and Dr. Laura Burkle (MSU Ecology).
As the project progresses, updates will be available on the project webpage.
Discover Magazine Interviews WTI Researcher about Wildlife Behavior during Pandemic
Humans are staying home more and traveling less during the current COVID-19 restrictions. What does that mean for wildlife? Discovery Magazine recently talked to WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger for an online article called “National Parks Are Empty During the Pandemic — and Wildlife Are Loving It,” about what happens when there are fewer vehicles, people, and noise on public lands. Tony discusses how large species, like bears, notice and take advantage of the empty travel corridors: “As you get people off trails and reduce the amount of human activity and movement in some of these rural-urban areas, wildlife really seem to key into that.” He also discusses how parks may have opportunities to enhance their habitat conservation efforts based on what they learn about wildlife during these unique conditions.
The Society for Ecological Restoration has started a “Wednesday Webinar” series to promote information sharing and professional development in response to conference cancellations. One of the first invited speakers was WTI Research Scientist Marcel Huijser, who led a webinar on March 25 on “Open Access: Where Road Ecology and Ecological Restoration Converge.” The presentation focused on new approaches designed to shift from providing safe crossing opportunities for large mammals to restoring habitat connectivity for a wide range of species groups. The webinar is available on the ECR Webinar webpage.
The following day, Marcel
also presented via webinar at the University of Montana, which has transitioned
its courses to online delivery. He gave
a remote lecture on road ecology to the students of WILD 370, Wildlife Biology,
a course taught by Professor Mark Hebblewhite, who leads the UM Ungulate
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
Graduate students at Montana State University had a great opportunity to participate in aquatics field research this summer, which was captured in feature article by the Montana State University (MSU) News Service. “MSU engineers, ecologists seek to improve fish passage on Yellowstone River” profiles grad students Haley Tupin and Ian Anderson, who gathered data at the Huntley Irrigation project on the Yellowstone River. The article includes numerous photos of the pair at work on the river and with the fish they studied.
The research project, conducted for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, is investigating the effectiveness of a fish bypass channel that was constructed for the Huntley Irrigation Project. The data collected this summer will help determine if fish are using the bypass to navigate around the dam. WTI Research Scientist Matt Blank is a co-PI on the research project and serves on Haley Tupin’s graduate committee.
WTI, the MSU College of Engineering, and the Bozeman Fish Technology Center (BFTC) will continue their partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study fish passage and the barriers that limit fish movements. Under a 5-year cooperative agreement, USFWS will sponsor a new phase of fish passage research projects, using the open channel flumes and swim chambers at BFTC as well as the hydraulics lab and computational/modeling facilities at MSU’s Department of Civil Engineering. The purpose of the research program is to characterize fish swimming performance and behavior, to enhance the design and operation of fish passages, and to develop new methods that improve landscape connectivity for fish and other aquatic organisms. The program also offers many hands-on research opportunities – in both labs and field sites – for undergraduate and graduate students. Read more about this partnership program on the Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics Research Group webpage.
Installing effective fish passage structures that provide connectivity for Arctic grayling is a promising conservation strategy for imperiled populations. The Journal of Ecohydraulics has published a study by Road Ecology researcher Matt Blank and several colleagues, which examined the swimming behavior of grayling from Montana in an open-channel flume. The results “provide some of the first published information on swimming abilities of grayling from the Missouri River basin.”
The research is a collaboration among WTI, the MSU Department of Civil Engineering, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and Wild Rivers Consulting, and one of several projects the partners have conducted together at the Bozeman Fish Technology Center. More information about grayling research is available on the WTI website, and more information about the collaborative research program is available on the MSU Fish Passage webpage.
Citation: David R. Dockery, Erin Ryan, Kevin M. Kappenman & Matt Blank (2019): Swimming performance of Arctic grayling (Thymallusarcticus Pallas) in an open-channel flume, Journal of Ecohydraulics, DOI: 10.1080/24705357.2019.1599306
The expertise of WTI researchers is in high demand for research collaborations, presentations, and academic exchanges around the world. “Where in the World is WTI?” will periodically feature partnerships and forums that showcase the growing international scope of our work.
WHERE: Kruger National Park, South Africa
WHO: Rob Ament, Road Ecologist
WHY: African Conference for Linear Infrastructure and Ecology
WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament traveled to South Africa last week with colleagues Sandra Jacobson and Terry McGuire to present a workshop on how transportation, energy and mining sectors can mainstream biodiversity provisions within linear transportation. The workshop was one component of the African Conference for Linear Infrastructure and Ecology. They also presented a poster based on a recently published paper on transportation infrastructure investment in sub-Saharan Africa.
Rob’s work in Africa has expanded over the last few years, in part through his position as the co-chair of the Transport Working Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. At the conference last week, he also gave an individual presentation entitled “Biodiversity-friendly surface transportation infrastructure: A global overview,” based on the recent activities of the working group.
Fernanda Abra, a Brazilian Ph.D. student who has conducted wildlife research with a leading WTI road ecologist for nearly a decade, is one of only three scientists worldwide to be selected for the 2019 Future For Nature Award, announced on February 19.
A few months ago, eight young conservationists from around the world were nominated for the Future For Nature Award. The nominees came from Brazil, India, Nepal, The Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Rwanda, and the United Kingdom. Today, the three award winners were announced: Fernanda Abra (Brazil), Divya Karnad (India), and Olivier Nsengimana (Rwanda). Fernanda Abra has a long-term connection with Montana and is currently working in Missoula with one of her PhD advisors, Dr. Marcel Huijser.
The Future For Nature Foundation (FFN) is a Dutch organization that supports young, talented and ambitious conservationists, committed to protecting wild animals and wild plant species. FFN states that “The commitment of these individuals is what will make the difference for the future of nature. Through their leadership they inspire and mobilize communities, organizations, governments, investors and the public at large.”
Every year, three awards are available to young conservationists from all over the world. The Award offers the winners international recognition, financial support of 50,000 Euros to carry out their work, and the opportunity to work with an international network of conservationists.
Ms. Abra is a PhD student in the Applied Ecology program at “Luiz de Queiroz” College of Agriculture, University of São Paulo (ESALQ/USP). Her advisors are Dr. Kátia Ferraz (professor at ESALQ/USP, Department of Forest Science, LEMaC Wildlife Ecology, Management and Conservation Lab) and Dr. Marcel Huijser (research ecologist at the Western Transportation Institute, Montana State University).
“As a researcher, Fernanda has already made a positive impact on species conservation in Brazil. For her PhD she is generating knowledge on the number of road-killed mammals, understanding their spatial and temporal patterns, and developing tools to reduce the huge impact of roads and traffic on Brazil’s biodiversity. The combination of hard work and determination will result in reduced unnatural mortality of mammals and reduced habitat fragmentation caused by transportation infrastructure,” Said Dr. Katia Ferraz.
Interested in Road Ecology since 2009, Ms. Abra is now in the final stages of her PhD research. Her work focuses on animal-vehicle collisions along highways in São Paulo State and implications for biological conservation, human safety, and the economy. Dr. Marcel Huijser of the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University has worked with Ms. Abra for nearly nine years, overseeing her 2010 internship on the wildlife mitigation study along US Hwy 93 on the Flathead Indian Reservation, as well as advising on both her Masters research and her PhD in Brazil. Through her work with Dr. Huijser she has been fortunate to be able to study and apply some of the lessons learned from Montana’s investment in wildlife crossing structures along highways and animal detection systems in the region.
As Dr. Huijser explains:“Fernanda has long term vision, concrete goals, and the political savvy to get things done. When I first met her in 2010, she realized that local expertise in road ecology was needed to manage the environmental impacts associated with Brazil’s quickly expanding transportation network. And she made this happen by securing funding for me to teach two graduate level road ecology courses and for two national conferences on transportation ecology. Thanks to her vision, hundreds of Brazilian students, researchers, and policy makers have been introduced to road ecology concepts. As a result, an increasing number of wildlife mitigation measures are being effectively implemented on the ground in Brazil.”
In addition to her academic research and work as a consultant, Ms. Abra volunteers as a road ecologist for several conservation projects including the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative and the Anteaters and Highways Project. She is also responsible for the road-ecology data in the National Action Plans for threatened canids, felids and ungulates, including iconic species such as the maned wolf, hoary fox, jaguar, puma, and lowland tapir.
Dr. Patricia Medici, coordinator of Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative in Brazil, Chair of Tapir Specialist Group of IUCN and Winner of the FFN Award in 2008 has worked with Ms. Abra for several years. She explains that: “Fernanda plays a key role in the conservation of Brazilian mammal species because she knows how to measure the extent of the road-kill impact, the barrier effect of transportation infrastructure, and, most importantly, she knows how to mitigate the problems. I find it very interesting how Fernanda feels confident and comfortable both doing fieldwork under tough conditions along highways and participating in technical and political meetings with professionals and authorities from environmental and transportation agencies. She is extremely versatile and knows how to keep that link between the world out there and the meeting rooms.”
FFN winners are truly inspiring young individuals, who are bringing creative and innovative solutions to pressing environmental problems. Ms. Abra’s win shines a light on the global impact of roads on wildlife and the leadership role that both Montana and Brazil are taking to mitigate these impacts for the benefit of people and wildlife.
In response to winning the award, Ms. Abra said: “I feel so fortunate to work with incredible species such as tapirs, giant anteaters, maned wolf, jaguar, and other Brazilian canids and felids, and to be advised and supported by respected researchers and conservationists! I´m honored to receive the Future For Nature Award – this will help upscale my efforts to work with stakeholders, implement on-the-ground projects, and help protect Brazil’s amazing biodiversity.”