A recent bike ride took me past a dead buck lying by the side the road – a testament to the dangers faced by both animals and people as we continue to build out our roadways. A few miles later, after noticing the remains of a couple of unfortunate squirrel-car encounters, I started to wonder whether any scientific or government body keeps track of this kind of thing.
The short answer is yes. Though animal mortality on roadways (a.k.a. roadkill) hasn’t often been the subject of rigorous scientific study, the Linking Landscapes project in Massachusetts aims to do just that by enlisting citizen scientists to document roadkill on the state’s highways. In particular, these researchers need the help of citizen scientists to spot squashed salamanders and turtles, as well as other roadkill in Massachusetts. The goal of Linking Landscapes is to improve Massachusetts roadway safety for both animals and humans, and to collect data that may aid in planning new motorways that will have less impact on animal migrations.
Other scientists use roadkill as a teaching tool. For the past 17 years, high school science teacher Brewster Bartlett (”Dr. Splatt”) has been monitoring roadkill – and encouraging his students to do so as well. His program, Project RoadKill, aims to teach students about the animals found in their community, and to increase awareness about the hazards of motor vehicles with respect to wildlife. Those citizen scientists who want to participate in Project Roadkill can sign up here.
So, for all of you interested in the messier side of biology, keep an eye out for incidents of roadkill and report what you find!