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Elementary Students to Reduce Roadkill with GPS/GIS Technology

By imrdkl in Technology
Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 12:54:32 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

Getting young children interested in science and research isn't always easy, but when the problem involves death and suffering of forest animals, they're more eager to help. Take for example, these 2nd and 4th grade students in Colorado, who are using handheld GPS devices and GIS Mapping to help cut down on roadkill in their own local woodlands. Their local newspaper wrote about their project in early February, and their efforts recently earned them a mention in Newsweek.

These kids and their creative teachers are working on a multi-year project, which they call Critter Control, to record and map the locations where forest animals are being killed by motorists along a deadly section of US Hwy 40. The road, which runs through the dense forest of Colorado between the towns of Craig and Steamboat Springs, is one of the states deadliest highways for deer, elk, and other species which are mowed down in appalling numbers each year. The data that these kids collect about the roadkill will lead to appropriate placement of warning signs for motorists driving along the most dangerous stretches of the highway, and possibly suggest locations for culverts, tunnels and other means for the animals to to safely cross the road.

The data, which is collected during class field-trips, includes the GPS map coordinates and other information which is gathered at the scene. When gathering data, the children don reflective clothing for safety, and handheld GPS devices to obtain location coordinates, then climb aboard a school bus which proceeds down the Hwy 40 route. When a dead animal is spotted, the bus is stopped, and the children climb out and take the measurements.

When they get back to the school, the children record their data on a large map which runs the length of one of the school's hallways. This technique helps give the students a good perspective on the data while it's being collected. The data is also stored electronically, using a Global Information System (GIS) software package called ArcView.

The teachers for these classes attended a course in using ArcView GIS software during the summer of 2001, and are now using it to record and store the data in something called an ArcView "layer", which is analogous to a layer in graphic-editing software. Each layer, including the layer which specifies the exact path of roads and highways, lays over the base geographical map of a given area. When the roadkill layer is shown with the road layer, trends can be observed which help decide the preventive measures. The GIS data is eventually provided to the US Forest Service, which makes the final decision regarding these measures. The Forest Service uses ArcView software for many of its projects, including others involving elementary students. Everything from birds nests to climate change is being monitored using GIS and GPS in classrooms across the US.

In coordination with the field trips, in-class lessons are taught to the children, which help them to understand mapping and geography principals. While GIS software like ArcView isn't very easy to use, the students are learning about mapping and being given a taste of spatial statistical analysis. Spatial statistics in the forest, which we've discussed previously in limited terms, is a complex science. But the hallway-length visual aids and class field trips for this project give the students a good introduction to the process.

The small community of Hayden has also been quite happy to see the project under way, although there was apparantly some initial doubts over whether such a project could provide meaningful instruction to children in this age group. The local animal authority and residents are helping out by placing markers and providing notifications about the latest sightings. Naturally, some of the reports are first-hand accounts. When they began the project, according to one of the teachers, they thought that, "the kids would be scared by roadkill, but it was the opposite - what they (the kids) see is a problem that they want to help solve." Presumably, it changes the dynamics of teaching when the students know that their results will be utilized directly by the Forest Service, as well.

The ArcView GIS Mapping courses, software, and GPS devices for the project have been provided by the Orton Family Foundation, which funds other elementary and secondary-school research projects around the US.


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Most common roadkill
o deer/elk 6%
o dogs/cats 14%
o squirrel/chipmunk 24%
o skunk 10%
o armadillo 10%
o birds 6%

Votes: 50
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o 2nd
o 4th
o GIS Mapping
o roadkill
o local woodlands
o wrote about their project
o mention in Newsweek
o deadliest highways
o large map
o others
o in-class lessons
o discussed previously
o Orton Family Foundation
o Also by imrdkl

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Elementary Students to Reduce Roadkill with GPS/GIS Technology | 32 comments (19 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
What Fantastic Irony (5.00 / 2) (#5)
by HidingMyName on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 09:27:29 AM EST

A story about preventing road kill by imrdkl (which I think is short for I Am Road Kill). For that reason alone, I will vote it up, besides it is kind of interesting.

Blush (none / 0) (#6)
by imrdkl on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 09:32:38 AM EST


[ Parent ]
Our most common roadkill. . . (5.00 / 2) (#12)
by IHCOYC on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 11:37:40 AM EST

. . . here in Indiana is the opossum. You never see them alive, but they're all over the highways. We tried something like this, but it proved impossible to get the 'possums to be interested in what their latitude and longitude was.
The color is black, the material is leather, the seduction is beauty, the justification is honesty, the aim is ecstasy, the fantasy is death.
Besides (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by jabber on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:38:56 PM EST

Opossum pancakes are good eatin!

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

But then... (2.00 / 1) (#13)
by tang gnat on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:18:16 PM EST

If it involves the death and suffering of people, these cold-hearted little buggers won't move a finger.

That's because (none / 0) (#17)
by jt on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 03:29:10 PM EST

Little fluffy animals are so much more lovable than people.

And most people know enough to not wander onto a busy highway in front of oncoming traffic.

I saw a cat get hit by a car once, it was not fun :(

[ Parent ]

Yep (none / 0) (#27)
by jabber on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:37:58 PM EST

And remember that scene in Meet Joe Black, where Joe gets hit by a car? Fucking hilarious is what that was! I had to rent the DVD and go frame by frame.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

What's your point? (none / 0) (#29)
by greenrd on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 09:11:52 AM EST

Was that intended to be a joke?

"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Interesting article (none / 0) (#14)
by jabber on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:27:56 PM EST

Too bad about the flippant poll.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

I've self flagellated (none / 0) (#23)
by imrdkl on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 05:41:03 PM EST

And the poll's been repaired.

[ Parent ]
Kinky (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by jabber on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:36:13 PM EST

It'd make a great article though. I'd vote for it. :)

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

GPS (1.00 / 2) (#15)
by Dickie Crickets on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 01:57:57 PM EST

GPS, such usefulness,
Always know where you are.
Baby loves how GPS
Helps kids scoop up that deeeeeeeeer.

King of Megaphone Crooners
GPS (none / 0) (#32)
by Kid Jersey on Sat May 03, 2003 at 05:03:10 PM EST

Counterfeit GPS,
Oh! Counterfeit GPS,
Doesn't tell me where I am.
Counterfeit GPS,
Oh! Counterfeit GPS,
Doin' the Charleston in Siiiiiaaaammm!
Thank you, ma'am!

Thank you
[ Parent ]
The benefits of meaningful teaching (5.00 / 3) (#18)
by Cheetah on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 03:35:46 PM EST

As others have said (c.f. esp. the stupid Murder By Numbers movie), the lack of any practical meaning probably causes a lot of the "school is stupid" attitude in many students.  Even if the actual things being taught in a class like this are not quite as valuable as the more basic topics, I think projects like this help provide students with a much needed connection between what they are learning and the real world.

Also, projects that put kids into the real world help teach many of the intangibles about getting things done there.  Overall organization, recognizing practical considerations, working in real groups (as opposed to the standard 2-3 kids chat & bully the one kid doing the work type "group project" typical of schools), and no doubt many other things.

So, hurrah to Hayden for finding something meaningful and at least marginally educational for their students to do!

Roadkill Rates (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by KWillets on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 03:57:11 PM EST

My sister used to live in Steamboat (and I expect her ex-husband will appear on one of their maps soon).  That area's economy is mostly driven by winter tourism, with loads of skiers coming out from Denver and other areas.  

Most of Highway 40 is open country, covered with cattle ranches.  Hayden itself is on the flat valley floor,  home to the local airport.  The only forested regions are up Rabbit Ears pass, and possibly towards Craig where I haven't been much.  

The roadkill rate is probably more related to the high traffic rates in the winter, and the snow and cattle fences keeping wildlife on the highway.  

That makes me wonder (none / 0) (#24)
by imrdkl on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 05:59:46 PM EST

If crossings will help at all. Especially if it's all fenced prairie. Upon closer inspection of the map linked under "local woodlands" above it appears that the entire section between Craig and Steamboat Springs is not forested. Thanks for pointing out the flaw in the story.

[ Parent ]
Riverine habitat though (none / 0) (#25)
by KWillets on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 06:15:17 PM EST

The Yampa River is near the road North of S.S., with trees and brush along the banks.  There's plenty of wildlife along there, although it's a few hundred yards away from the highway.

[ Parent ]
[OT] Denver? (none / 0) (#31)
by DodgyGeezer on Mon Apr 07, 2003 at 06:01:49 PM EST

When I lived in Denver, Steamboat was considered too far away to bother with. Most people considered Vail too far for the price. Steamboat was certainly very impractical for the day skiiers, which must be a big part of the other resorts in Summit County.

[ Parent ]
Let's relate this to Iraq (none / 0) (#30)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sun Apr 06, 2003 at 08:30:17 PM EST

How do they deal with the relative uselessness of GPS imposed by the military because of the war?

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."

Elementary Students to Reduce Roadkill with GPS/GIS Technology | 32 comments (19 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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