As an avid mountaineer, adventurer, and environmentalist, it has become my life’s mission to leave this planet in better shape than I found it. As a philanthropist and impact investor, I am able to bring awareness to those for-profit startups and organizations committed to promoting positive and sustainable improvements that affect our environment and overall wellbeing.
With my recent appointment as an advisory board member of Adventure Scientists, I am excited to share the innovative ways the organization and its broad group of volunteers is working to address certain environmental and human challenges facing our communities today. One such project is a Montana-based wildlife connectivity team working to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions that will save both animal and human lives.
Every year, in the United States alone, there are more than 365 million animals killed, 29,000 humans injured, and $8.4 billion in damages from wildlife-vehicle collisions. With more and more roads being constructed, natural wildlife habitats are being disrupted and animals forced to learn how to navigate within this changing space.
Partnering with the Montana Department of Transportation and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the Adventure Scientists have enlisted volunteer cyclists and scientists to collect data from wildlife-vehicle conflicts.
Surveying this data will help inform the Department of Transportation of where they need to place wildlife accommodations, such as installing fencing to restrict wildlife passage into certain areas or building grassy overpasses for wildlife to safely travel from one side of the road to the other.
The project was designed to help human populations and wildlife co-exist. Construction of roads and land development continues to take over what was once a haven for many wild creatures. When a new road is built, many animals that once crossed that path unharmed now come face-to-face with cars moving at high speeds. The dangers of these collisions not only reduce the animal population, but also have harmful effects on human populations, causing injury or death to those drivers and passengers involved.
Cyclists are the perfect group of adventurers to take on a project this specific. They are extremely aware of the landscape that they are moving through, and are able to stop quickly to spot, tag, and record roadkill locations along both rural and major roadways.
Volunteer adventurers must complete online training to learn how to accurately collect data and understand the logistics of the trip. They are also required to ride with a partner, although social distancing is encouraged at all stops.
Over the course of this summer’s project, volunteer cyclists will have covered over 11,000 miles of Montana road. Many research projects have been halted due to social distancing restrictions with the COVID-19 pandemic, but this type of assignment allows scientists and cyclists to continue doing what they love while making an impact on Montana’s wildlife population.
It is encouraging to see how so many individuals are willing to put in the time and effort to improve the relationship between humanity and wildlife on our planet. It is innovative projects such as this that gets me so excited to join Adventure Scientists and help advance their all-important mission.