The global nonprofit Adventure Scientists was founded in Bozeman just over a decade ago and has sent thousands of volunteers to remote locations – creating the means for outdoor/adventure enthusiasts to make a difference. PHOTO COURTESY ADVENTURE SCIENTISTS

Seeking citizen scientist cyclists

Generating the data to help form mitigation plan for wildlife-vehicle collisions

Bozeman nonprofit Adventure Scientists is actively recruiting cyclists to ride Montana roadways and collect wildlife and roadkill data. The effort on Montana roadways – deemed the “Montana Project” – is part of a global effort. Volunteers record detailed environmental observations and roadkill they encounter. The next ride phase is Sept.18-27. Volunteers apply to participate, select a time period, decide on a 50-mile route and then record observations while cycling.

Katya Koepsel and Ricky Jones rode a 270 mile stretch from Lewistown to Malta for Adventure Scientists. Jones had never been east of Billings before the trip. He told Adventure Scientists that he began thinking about the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”: “Robert Pirsig’s unnamed narrator said about roads, ‘The best ones always connect nowhere with nowhere and have an alternate that gets you there quicker.’ Instead of taking the fastest route, take the scenic one.” Koepsel found the remote nature of the journey interesting – a rare lesson in true autonomy.

“We’ve ridden over 3,000 miles [in Montana] so far this year and they recorded over 2,000 observations of roadkill or wildlife sightings from the road,” Jen Shoemaker, Adventure Scientists’ associate director of communications said. “It runs the gamut from bears, to snakes to big spiders, a lot of birds that would never be recorded otherwise. It’s really interesting. Our goal is to cover 11,000 miles of Montana roads and have hundreds of cyclists [volunteer] every year.”

As noted on the organization’s website, Montana has the second-highest incidence rate in the nation of wildlife/vehicle collisions. More than 365 million animals are killed, 29,000 humans injured, and $8.4 billion in damages incurred every year in the United States alone as a result of wildlife-vehicle collisions, the website stated.

The goal is to fill some critical gaps in information for wildlife and highway officials, Shoemaker explained.

“Previously, they’ve only really had information for where big animals were struck,” she said, but they didn’t have any information about things that might be why they are getting hit there: water, topography, etc. “There wasn’t any information on other animals that weren’t the major threat. This really allows them to have a much fuller picture. And really to understand why those hot spots are where they are so they have a bigger picture in trying to figure out how to reduce the accidents.”

The data collected from the Montana Project will be shared with ecology researchers and transportation policy makers in order to improve transportation systems based on the study findings.

A smartphone app is used by the trained volunteers to gather necessary information including photos, location, species identification, road conditions, nearby infrastructure and other key points.

Just over a decade since its inception, Adventure Scientists has sent thousands of outdoororiented volunteers to collect data from remote, difficult-to-access locations for its conservation partners.

A few of its major accomplishments include “fungus from Everest that has helped double crop yields in India, scat samples are aiding the battle against antibioticresistant ‘superbugs,’ illegal loggers are easier to catch, and more conservation decisions are guided by the data they require.”

Community Organizer Kris Drummond said this effort has the potential to save many lives.

More information can be found at www.adventurescientists.org/ride

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