People who are cat people know that cats have their own agenda. People who are dog people recognize that dogs want to share their agendas with you. We get to mix these agendas when working a detection dog to find scat from an elusive cat in Costa Rica. In the high forests of this beautiful country, hide a suite of cat species—from jaguar and cougar, to ocelot, margay and jaguarundi. And while always there, but rarely seen, is a small, spotted, nocturnal cat called oncilla. So little is known of this cat, that their scat—or poop—holds precious genetic information that can help us learn more about this declining species, and well… dogs are good at finding hard-to-find things and telling us about it.
A steady rain drenched us head to toe, and as it neared midnight I started to wonder when we would finally head back to camp. The herpetologists, though, were unconcerned with the elements. They scrambled up and down steep muddy slopes in search of reptile and amphibian specimens. In all likelihood, the fruits of their labor would be the discovery of species completely new to science! When the group finally called it quits for the night, the transect had yielded a half dozen frogs, a plump lizard, and a beautiful, non-venomous false coral snake to be documented and photographed.
This past weekend, I visited the newly established Parque Nacional Río Negro Sopladora, a national park that covers more than 30,000 hectares of undisturbed habitat in Ecuador, ranging from high peaks at 12,800 feet above sea level eastwards into the humid Amazon basin, at 2,600 ft. A highlight of hiking in this lesser-known park was seeing hours-fresh footprints of mountain tapir and a large cat (my guess is cougar). It was nice to finally get my boots muddy after two weeks in the city, getting situated in the country I will call home for a month and a half.
The Center for Large Landscape Conservation is pleased to announce the addition of two staff members who are helping to lead our programmatic work in the U.S. and worldwide. Project Director Megan Parker and Senior Conservation Scientist Annika Keeley each bring an impressive array of accomplishments in the field of conservation. We are excited to have these two leaders on our team to further elevate our science, policy, and partnership work.
Emma Spence has been busy circling the globe with one goal in mind: to help answer the question, “Do corridors work?” She recently returned to the US from Poland and Italy, where she and local collaborators collected data and genetic samples at wildlife corridor sites. They want to see whether these linkages between areas of habitat are helping promote gene-flow for native mammal species such as the European pine marten and the yellow-necked mouse. As the Wildlife Corridor Field and Lab Manager at the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Spence is utilizing her expertise in GIS and conservation genetics to identify what factors make a corridor successful.
The opinion piece below, authored by two Center for Large Landscape Conservation staff members, originally appeared on Smerconish.com on November 24, 2021. Since then, the Center has created a “toolkit” to help interested applicants and their partners understand the Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program criteria and design projects that will make the most of this new federal funding.
More than 20 speakers and nearly 200 attendees made history last week as participants in the first-of-its-kind gathering to share knowledge for making transportation infrastructure more sustainable across Asia. As many countries in the region expand their networks of roads, rails, and other modes of transportation, such development can provide vast economic and social benefits but also present challenges to nature conservation and local communities. Therefore, on December 16-17, 2021, the 1st Asia Transportation Ecology Forum was held to explore how this development is already impacting ecosystems—affecting species from butterflies to elephants—and how science-based solutions can be applied to conserve Asia’s rich biodiversity.
An international group of more than 25 elephant biologists and infrastructure ecologists released a report today with an urgent message: All efforts to avoid key Asian elephant habitats and their migration corridors need to be made when developing linear infrastructure like roads, railways, and canals. If this is not possible, wildlife crossings are key to providing safe passage for this endangered species. The report comes in response to an explosion of new linear infrastructure across Asia that is increasingly blocking elephant movement and leading to deadly collisions.
A Montana group that has been recognizing conservation heroes for the past several decades is honoring Kylie Paul. Kylie joined the staff of the Center for Large Landscape Conservation as a road ecologist earlier this year to advance the development and implementation of wildlife-friendly transportation policies and projects. But she has been making a positive impact on wildlife and ecosystems for many years.
Marking an important step to safeguard both people and wildlife, the bipartisan infrastructure package that the U.S. Congress passed late Friday includes $350 million to construct wildlife road crossings. These structures reconnect important habitat and allow animals to pass safely over or under roadways, avoiding traffic. The legislation also makes projects to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions eligible for funding in other transportation programs. The provisions in this legislation will help safeguard biodiversity while stimulating the U.S. economy, mitigating climate impacts, and reducing highway fatalities.