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  • Writer's pictureMarika

Innovations Underfoot and Overhead: Road Ecology with Sandra Jacobson and Julia Kintsch 5/6

Updated: May 18

The Intersection of Wildlife and Highways....

In a world that moves with the constant hum of traffic, the delicate balance of wildlife and the asphalt arteries that crisscross our landscapes often goes unnoticed. Our roads, essential for connecting us, present profound challenges for the non-human inhabitants of our planet. It's a topic that Sandra Jacobson, a retired wildlife biologist, and Julia Kintsch, an ecologist specializing in wildlife connectivity, explore in depth during this episode of The Deal with Animals, Part of Series 10: Anthropogenic Change.


Dr. Julia Kintsch and Colleagues, standing near a road in High Vi Jackets and hardhats, having a discussion
Julia Kintsch and Colleagues

Between Lanes and Lands: The Plight of Wildlife

The disruptive impact of roads on wildlife is multifaceted and profound. Roads act as physical barriers that fragment habitats, making it difficult for animals to find food, mates, and shelter. This fragmentation not only poses immediate risks, such as wildlife-vehicle collisions, but also long-term genetic consequences as populations become isolated. Jacobson shares alarming insights into how roads transform into unintended predators, introducing risks that most wildlife aren't evolutionarily prepared to navigate. Animals like frogs or barn owls, for example, don't recognize the imminent danger posed by an approaching vehicle, often with fatal consequences.


Innovations Underfoot and Overhead: Bridging the Gap

The conversation then shifts towards solutions that can mitigate these impacts. Wildlife crossing structures—underpasses and overpasses designed specifically for animal use—emerge as a beacon of hope. Kintsch, with her wealth of experience in designing such structures, emphasizes their importance in reconnecting fragmented habitats. These structures, coupled with fencing to guide animals towards them, have proven to be an effective measure in reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions and improving ecosystem connectivity.

Community involvement plays a pivotal role in supporting these initiatives. Whether it's through advocating for wildlife considerations in road planning, supporting local conservation groups, or even participating in citizen science projects, the collective action of concerned individuals can drive significant change.


From Sad Beginnings to Hopeful Horizons

An emotional recount by Jacobson about witnessing the aftermath of a roadkill incident during her childhood underlines the personal connections many of us have with wildlife, however fleeting or indirect. Such moments spark a deeper consideration of our shared spaces and the often invisible lines that connect or divide us from the non-human world.


A Junction of Needs: Conservation in the Fast Lane

As our network of roads expands, so too does the urgency to consider their design and impact through an ecological lens. The conversation with Jacobson and Kintsch underscores a critical message: the paths we lay down don't just connect places; they intersect with lives, ecosystems, and futures.

While the challenges are complex, the solutions—like wildlife crossings and community involvement—highlight a route towards coexistence. By integrating ecological considerations into our transportation infrastructure, we can navigate a road less divided, where both humans and wildlife can safely cross paths.

In this ongoing journey of conservation, each of us plays a vital role. Whether by raising awareness, contributing to local conservation efforts, or simply fostering an appreciation for the natural world around us, we can help ensure that the road ahead is safe for all travelers, no matter their species.


(This blog post was based on an AI generated script and edited by me for accuracy and additional information)

Show Notes


Episode 5 of Series 10: Anthropogenic Behavior Change Transcript


This Episode highlights the challenges faced by wildlife due to roads, such as habitat fragmentation and vehicle collisions, and presents solutions like wildlife crossing structures and community-led projects.


Guests: Julia Kintsch works at the intersection of the human and natural environment to address the effects of roads on landscape connectivity and wildlife movements. She is the founder of ECO-resolutions, one of North America's leading consultancies in transportation ecology, and has been involved in the planning and design of over 20 constructed wildlife crossings with more on the way! She enjoys problem-solving with interdisciplinary teams and partners to develop solutions that offer the greatest benefits for wildlife and people.


Sandra Jacobson is a retired wildlife biologist with decades of experience working with the U.S. Forest Service, focusing on the intricate interactions between roads and wildlife. Her expertise lies in road ecology, where she assesses the impact of highways and other linear infrastructures on wildlife behavior and movement. Sandra's career is marked by a commitment to understanding and mitigating the effects of human-made barriers on natural habitats, aiming to foster a harmonious coexistence between human progress and wildlife conservation.


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