Research Theme Profile: Transportation Ecology
Why this is one of our themes
Roads play a key role in enabling people and goods to move across the landscape, but they also have a profound effect on our natural environment. Vehicle emissions affect the air we breathe and our climate, while transportation infrastructure fragments landscapes affecting both terrestrial and aquatic systems and species. The Miistakis Institute aims to generate awareness of the challenges that transportation infrastructure poses specifically to wildlife, promote workable solutions to these challenges and generate support for implementing these solutions.
What we've been doing
Helping wildlife cross Highway 3 is a winning proposition for improving both human and wildlife safety. Working with Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), Western Transportation Institute (WTI) and Road Watch in the Pass, Miistakis is engaging with key government agencies (including Alberta Transportation and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development) to develop informed strategies and implement actions to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, and improve human and wildlife safety, at two key wildlife crossing locations along southern Alberta's busy Highway 3. To learn more please go to www.rockies.ca/crossroads.
Most recently, Miistakis has committed to monitor before and after the construction at these two key sites where mitigation for wildlife ideally could take place. To accomplish this task we have developed a new citizen science project called "Collision Count" where volunteers walk designated transects parallel to key potential mitigation sites along Highway 3. As volunteers walk transects adjacent to the highway they record all road kill observations using a smart phone app. Measuring the success of mitigation actions (such as building wildlife underpasses and highway fencing) to ensure wildlife and human safety is imperative to influence policy change on where and when mitigation infrastructure should be implemented.
The Collision Count data will also be used to determine a correction factor for wildlife-vehicle collision data. Highway maintenance crews currently only record wildlife mortalities on the highway right-of-way. Collision Count will collect information on road kill up to 150m off the highway right-of-way. A correction factor for wildlife-vehicle collision data will be an important contribution to the field of road ecology as we currently do not have a true understanding of the magnitude of the issue as wildlife often travel away from roadways after they are hit by vehicles and perish nearby.
Highway Wilding builds on Parks Canada's multi-decade leadership in road ecology, and is an innovative partnership between Parks Canada, the Western Transportation Institute, Miistakis Institute, Wilburforce Foundation and Woodcock Foundation. Miistakis played both a project management and communications role for this five-year road ecology project. This project has just come to a close and we are proud to share the results of our communications efforts through this final report. Some of the highlights of this work included partnering with award-winning film-maker Leanne Allison to create a 22-minute road ecology documentary that has been screened over 257 times around the world (including at several international conferences and four mountain film festivals), creation of a road ecology infographic and a Twitter handle. The Highway Wilding film is freely available online, and we are encouraging interested people/organizations to host screenings in their communities.
What is coming up
Miistakis and Highway 3 partners are working to expand our efforts along Highway 3 into British Columbia. Working with Wildsight we plan to host a technical workshop on transportation ecology and wildlife and organize a strategy session with key stakeholders to build support for a community-based approach to inform and improve wildlife and human safety along Highway 3. In addition, Miistakis is working on a new citizen science tool called Animal Snap. This internet-based tool will enable volunteers to sort and identify wildlife species images from remote cameras images at highway mitigation sites.