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Understanding how roads affect wildlife in the Chignecto Isthmus

excerpted from Landlines - The Nature Conservancy of Canada Blog. By Amelia Barnes

August 27, 2018 | by Amelia Barnes

Whenever I talk to people about my summer field work, I am often initially met with expressions of disgust or sadness. The knee-jerk reactions are not surprising. I work very closely with everyone’s least favourite summer road trip sight: roadkill. No one likes the sight of dead animals on the road, but few are aware of the more serious implications that roads have on wildlife habitat connectivity.

Since late spring, I have been collecting data for my master’s thesis in environmental studies, with support from the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) Dr. Bill Freedman conservation in science intern.

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My project looks at the interactions between wildlife and roads in the Chignecto Isthmus region of Atlantic Canada; the narrow strip of land that connects Nova Scotia to New Brunswick. This area is a bottleneck for wildlife moving between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and I want to understand how wildlife–vehicle collisions are affecting wildlife populations ...

After nine weeks in the field, I have collected over 300 observations of vertebrate road mortality along nearly 400 kilometres of road, photographing and recording each one with its geographic location. My goal is to identify trends in where and when the collisions happen. If this research can ultimately lead to better mitigation measures on important roads in the isthmus, such as targeted signage or wildlife underpasses, it will have been a roadkill summer well spent.

Amelia Barnes is a student in the master's of environmental studies program in the School for Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Photo by the NCC

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