ii. California Roadkill Observation System (CROS)

 

Interaction type Public -Government
Trigger event The collectors of the roadkill data are a University based research organization. Their primary role is to understand the ecological, wildlife behavior, and how transportation contributes to this problem.
Domain Information about where wildlife vehicle collisions occur, what animals are involved, on what kinds of roads are collisions frequent, and other data can help inform policy, management, and financial investment in reducing road-kill.  The mission is to provide a safer environment for wildlife in relationship with California motorways.
Organisation Road Ecology Center at UC Davis
Actors Members of the public are asked to contribute. There is no experience necessary. Anonymous contributions are possible.
Data sets CROS develops a spatial database which is used to store all of the roadkill information. GIS analysis is performed on this database. Web mapping applications are built from the database.
Process The content on CROS employs a Creative Commons license so all of the contributions are openly available. Contributors can register if they wish to have their profile linked with contributions on the website.
Feedback The contributor of roadkill information is provided with feedback to state that the contribution has been successfully submitted to the CROS system. If contributors register on the website their name is placed beside any contribution they make. All contributions are made publicly available. The Top 20 Species Observed and the Top 20 observers are listed on the website.
Goal The collectors of the roadkill data are a University based research organization. Their primary role is to understand the ecological, wildlife behavior, and how transportation contributes to this problem. This includes the application of GIS and statistical modeling to predict road-kill hotspots, to measure the contributing factors to road-kill, to quantify impacts, and to estimate benefits of different remedial actions.
Side effects The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Information Center for the Environment (ICE) teamed up to create a guidance manual for California.
Contact point The information for this case-study has been provided by Dr. Fraser Shilling and from the CROS website.

The California Roadkill Observation System (CROS) system can be used to record observations from reporters out in the field who come across identifiable road-killed wildlife. A roadkill occurs when vehicles collide with or run over wildlife, such as birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. According to the Humane Society of the United States, over a million animals are killed every day on US highways.

CROS mission is to provide a safer environment for wildlife in relationship with California motorways. The collectors of the roadkill data is a University based research organization. Their primary role is to understand the ecological, wildlife behavior, and how transportation contributes to this problem. This includes the application of GIS and statistical modeling to predict road-kill hotspots, to measure the contributing factors to road-kill, to quantify impacts, and to estimate benefits of different remedial actions.

CROS website provides a systematic and consistent way for data input using mainly forms and drop-down lists. The observations recorded include information such as the type of animal and/or species found, where the road-kill was located, when it was found, how long it might have been dead, pictures of the road-kill, and various other additional details about road or traffic conditions. CROS displays a summary of this information for different animal groups across the state. Information about where wildlife vehicle collisions occur, what animals are involved, on what kinds of roads are collisions frequent, and other data can help inform policy, management, and financial investment in reducing road-kill. CROS has been successful in gathering a large amount of data. In April 2017 CROS has gathered a total of 53,192 of road observations and of 421 species, contributed by 1,310 observers.

The observations are used in a geographic information system (GIS) to find stretches of highway where wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVC) occur more frequently (high density) and places where there are statistically-significant clusters of WVC (hotspots). The use of data also includes GIS and statistical modeling to predict road-kill hotspots, to measure the contributing factors to road-kill, to quantify impacts, and to estimate benefits of different remedial actions. Using these biological observations, scientists have: 1) investigated changing distributions of invasive species in California, 2) developed species distribution and wildlife-vehicle collision models, 3) conducted geostatistical analyses of wildlife-vehicle collision hotspots, and 4) demonstrated that systems like this could be legitimate parts of transforming transportation systems. The research organisation collecting this data in University of California Davis hope to use this data and their GIS analysis of the roadkill problem to inform transportation planning in the state of California.  The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Information Center for the Environment (ICE) teamed up to create a guidance manual for California. It is one component of a larger Caltrans strategy to 1) catalog sources of information and knowledge about wildlife crossing, 2) generate, accumulate, and disseminate this information, and 3) develop guidelines for best practices and effective strategies to address road/wildlife conflicts

Information about where wildlife vehicle collisions occur, what animals are involved, on what kinds of roads are collisions frequent, and other data can help inform policy, management, and financial investment in reducing road-kill. CROS plans to present data back to collaborators on the site and use the data to improve the collective understanding of how road-kills occur and what can be done to reduce them. By contributing wildlife observation data, citizen scientists help researchers understand where wildlife live and the threats they face from (mostly) human activities.

CROS has been actively involved in collaboration with other similar projects. In order to support data collection by volunteers for CROS and for other global roadkill reporting systems, CROS has developed a cross-platform app that uses one-click to collect, attribute, and send data to a central hub where it can be distributed to member entities of the globalroadkill.net project. Globalroadkill.net, is primarily a discussion group that meets at conferences. Project partners share their tools and methods and also commonly build things, like the app, to provide to others, in a sense, functioning like a hub for global practice. Moreover, CROS regularly appears in the news (several times per year), gaining publicity which, in turn, promotes the aims and goals of the effort.

The research team plan to collaborate with other organizations to obtain funding to support this work and to inform planning of structures and management practices to reduce wildlife vehicle collisions. Also, the program seeks financing from donations, advertised in their website.

In order CROS to increase access and interpretation of this public source of data for government users, also provide web-services, including automated analytical and data delivery tools. The aim of this is to remove one last barrier to the transformative power of the crowdsourced data – cultural shifts in government to accept this flow of information and knowledge.

One of the main obstacles of the project has been the tension between agency scientists’ desire to use the data produced by the system to inform transportation decision-making and the concerns the same agencies express regarding public access to information about wildlife-vehicle collisions. This might be concentrated in infrastructural agencies – concern for public data collection about impacts. Public and private industry and infrastructure causes the greatest impacts to nature and a high level of aversion to public data collection, even on public roads, lands or waterways has been recorded. Moreover, in California and other US states, it is possible to litigate against public transportation organizations if an individual is injured on a public highway/road in a place where the organization knew or should have known there was a hazard (such as wildlife crossing the road). So these organizations oppose data collection and public dissemination.

Main Lessons

  • CROS hosts the roadkill Android application on GitHUB as they are seeking to crowdsource some fixes to the code base for the application.
  • CALTRANS (California Department of Transportation) have used the data from CROS and the expertise at Road Ecology Center at UC Davis to develop a guidance manual for effective strategies to address road/wildlife conflicts in California.
  • The web-based template for reporting to CROS is easy to use. It also implements some measures to attempt to prevent the entry of erroneous data – such as drop-down-lists and selection of geographic locations from a web-based maps.
  • Contributors are encouraged to upload photographs of the roadkill – photographs of the surrounding area to provide a context of the environment (roadside conditions (e.g. vegetated shoulder, fence, or barrier, etc.)) Additional information including Road Type (drawn from a pre-defined list) and Roadway Speed Limit are also available
  • CROS is an excellent demonstration where VGI has helped bring together citizens, researchers and policy makers from ecology and transportation to design sustainable transportation systems based on an understanding of the impact of roads on natural landscapes and human communities.
  • While ‘on-the-spot’ observations are the most popular type of contribution the website offers training materials on how to properly survey for roadkill. From Biodiversity monitoring the website offers contributors advice on transect management – to observe the same segments of roads at specific periods of time every month.
  • While all content on the website is Creative Commons it is not clear how the data could be downloaded as a KML, shapefile, GeoJSON etc.
  • Tensions exist among the involved agencies due to legal issues that might arise from public dissemination of the data.