The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) has a new webpage dedicated to facilitating collaboration among the many partners working to reduce animal vehicle collisions and enhance wildlife connectivity.
In December 2018, the Montana Wildlife & Transportation Summit (Summit) was held at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. It was co-convened by the Montana Governor’s office, Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), Western Transportation Institute (WTI), and Montanans for Safe Wildlife Passage (MSWP). The purpose of the Summit was to bring stakeholders together to strengthen working relationships and share information. The long-term goal is to develop strategies to plan and implement wildlife accommodations, reduce animal-vehicle collisions, and protect wildlife and their movement across state highways. The emphasis of this first meeting was to build common ground among stakeholders around wildlife and transportation issues in order to build a foundation to engage additional stakeholders and partner on collaborative initiatives.
Citation: Arnold, E. M., Hanser, S. E., Regan, T. , Thompson, J. , Lowe, M. , Kociolek, A. and Belthoff, J. R. (2019), Spatial, road geometric and biotic factors associated with Barn Owl mortality along an interstate highway. Ibis, 161: 147-161. doi:10.1111/ibi.12593
The National Park Service (NPS) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have partnered with the Western Transportation Institute – Montana State University (WTI) to develop a federal lands wildlife-vehicle collision (WVC) data collection system. This system is being designed to efficiently and effectively collect information on large animal – vehicle crashes, to address motorist safety concerns on federal land management agency (FLMA) roads, as well as carcass data of medium- and smaller-sized fauna relevant to FLMAs’ conservation missions. This project offers user-friendly tools to collect and manage data key for analyses identifying specific areas where measures may be used to reduce WVCs on roads in National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges.
Phase 1 of the project entailed developing “ROaDS” (Roadkill Observation and Data System) as a mobile device application (an “app” for smart phones and tablets) for collecting WVC data in the field. In this Phase 2 project, the research team will continue development of the application, by developing data standards and refining the data collection fields that will be incorporated into the next version of the app. The final system will help agencies identify and monitor locations where wildlife vehicle collisions occur, and facilitate the planning and implementation of transportation, conservation, and safety efforts on federal lands.
Animal-vehicle collisions (AVCs) are a threat to both humans and wildlife, and they have an economic cost to society. PLOS ONE has published a study by WTI researcher Marcel Huijserand his international research partners that documents the impacts of AVCs in São Paulo State, Brazil. Based on the findings, the research team estimates that there are 2611 AVCs each year, and more than 18% of them result in human injuries or fatalities. The total annual cost to society is approximately $25 million. The study also includes policy and management recommendations for reducing AVCs and enhancing safety.
Citation: Abra F.D., B.M. Granziera, M.P. Huijser, K.M.P.M.d.B. Ferraz, C.M. Haddad, R.M. Paolino. 2019. Pay or prevent? Human safety, costs to society and legal perspectives on animal-vehicle collisions in São Paulo state, Brazil. PLoSONE 14(4):e0215152. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0215152
WTI has released a new report investigating Key Deer mortality along a segment of Highway 1 within the National Key Deer Refuge in Florida. Road Ecologists Marcel Huijser and James Begley found that 75% of all reported mortalities in this area were related to collisions with vehicles. The team also investigated and mapped how the locations of collision “hotspots” have changed since the installation of wildlife fencing, underpasses, and deer guards. The final report (“Exploration of opportunities to reduce Key Deer Mortality along US Highway 1 and other roads, National Key Deer Refuge, Florida, USA”) summarizes the pros and cons of eight different strategies aimed at reducing collisions with Key Deer on Highway 1.
Final 7! On Friday, March 1, the MSU College of Engineering hosted the finals of its Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition. Road Ecology Graduate Student Matt Bell was one of seven finalists vying for best presentation of their thesis research in only 180 seconds, using only one slide. Matt’s presentation, “Modeling Risk of Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions,” focuses on his research with mentor Dr. Yiyi Wang to develop a real-time risk model that alerts drivers of areas with higher risk of collisions with large animals.
Three Minute Thesis is a research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland in Australia (www.threeminutethesis.org). It encourages graduate students to develop their presentation skills and learn how to explain complex concepts to general audiences. More than 200 universities in the U.S. now participate.
WTI Road Ecologists Marcel Huijser and James Begley have completed recommendations for reducing wildlife road mortalities on highways that serve two national wildlife refuges along the coast of Virginia. “Exploration of Wildlife Mitigation Measures for the Roads through and around Fisherman Island and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia,” now available on the WTI website, includes specific recommendations for enhancing barriers, culverts, fencing and other methods to reduce vehicle collisions with several species of concern, including the diamondback terrapin (turtle) and the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel.
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.”