In it for the long-haul: Education and workforce development for wildlife friendly highways.

Renee Callahan, Executive Director, ARC Solutions
Date From
Date To
Big Sur


  • Nova Simpson (Northern Nevada Biological Supervisor and Wildlife Mitigation Specialist, NvDOT)
  • Dr. Michael Sawaya (Research Ecologist, Sinopah Wildlife Research Associates)
  • LeAnne Lorenz (Teacher, Sacajawea Middle School - Bozeman, MT)
  • Nina-Marie Lister (Director, Ecological Design Lab - Ryerson University)
  • Hilary A. Turner (Road Ecology Wildlife Technician, Idaho Department of Fish and Game)
  • Chris Slesar (Environmental Resources Coordinator, Vermont Agency of Transportation)
  • Sandra Jacobson (retired), Wildlife Biologist, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station


This session will spotlight education and workforce development efforts to increase understanding of the issues of habitat fragmentation by roads and the safety implications of wildlife-vehicle collisions for wildlife populations and motorists.

Inspired by the efforts of a class to integrate Critter Crossings into the Reno community, NvDOT staff and education professionals are working to develop a K-12 curriculum utilizing Project Based Learning wherein students identify a local problem, conduct research, design a solution, and present results to an authentic audience.
Sinopah Wildlife Research Associates and Inspired Classroom partnered with Native Teaching Aids, Salish Kootenai College, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to ask, "Why Did the Bear Cross the Road?" in an educational program that highlights importance of conserving wildlife habitat and population connectivity in the Y2Y Region among school-aged children. The program includes the development of: an art contest and children's book; a platform to connect students with experts to engage in real world problem-based simulation; and a cooperative wildlife connectivity game.

Developed as part of the WTI's Research Experience for Teachers program, the Winning for Wildlife curriculum is aimed at Grades 5-9. A set of activities, designed for teachers with no prior knowledge of road ecology, builds understanding of applied science and solutions that impact wildlife.
Safe Passages is aimed at the development of an integrated approach for the planning, design, and implementation of crossing infrastructure. The partnership is advanced through CoLabs - workshops that bring together academics, community leaders, and professionals across agencies to advance the transfer of knowledge from research to practice.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is leading efforts to conserve wildlife Movement and Migration, with particular attention to mitigating transportation impacts. The Department is engaging with citizen scientists and personnel from multiple agencies to increase the consistency and geographic breadth of roadkill data collection to help agencies prioritize mitigation and build support for mitigation efforts.

Highways and Habitats, led by VTrans, develops understanding of habitat connectivity issues so that transportation professionals can incorporate ecological connectivity into the planning and design of transportation projects. Classroom seminars and field excursions engage participants in a dialog that focuses on road ecology issues in the northeast United States.

Innovative Approaches to Wildlife and Highway Interactions was developed in 2002 as an interdisciplinary, interagency course to help engineers and wildlife biologists recognize issues associated with highway development and operation on public lands, and to design and fund mitigation measures. Over two dozen sessions have been presented to state and federal agency personnel in 13 states and 4 countries.

Renee Callahan is the Executive Director of ARC Solutions, an interdisciplinary partnership working to raise awareness of and promote innovation in the placement, construction and design of the next-generation of wildlife crossing structures. She serves as the Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Large Landscape Conservation in Bozeman, Montana, where she promotes policies to improve ecological connectivity, with a focus on reducing the disruptive effects of roads on motorists and wildlife.

Nova Simpson has worked with the NvDOT for 10 years. She manages the biological needs of projects including compliance with laws and regulations applicable to federal and state protected species. As the Mitigation Specialist she created a program to reduce animal-vehicle collisions, increase driver safety, and decrease habitat fragmentation caused by roadways. This program includes a statewide prioritization of problem areas, integration into early project planning, and public education.

Michael Sawaya has been studying carnivore populations in the United States and Canada for the past 22 years. Mike is a carnivore ecologist with Sinopah Wildlife Research Associates in Missoula, Montana and his current studies include grizzly and black bear thermoregulation at water sources, highway mitigation for wildlife, carnivore ecology in Yellowstone, and wolverine demography and genetics in western North America. When Mike is not wrangling bear hair or following cougar tracks in snow, he enjoys camping, hiking, gardening, and traveling with his wife and two sons.

LeAnne Lorenz is a public school teacher in her 25th year, 21 of those years at the Middle School level teaching Math and Science in Bozeman, Montana. She is a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescent Mathematics, has an MS in Science Education, and is a Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Mathematics and Science, 2010. LeAnne is passionate about Project Based Learning, as this is a focus of her small team at Sacajawea Middle School.

Nina-Marie Lister is an Associate Professor in the School of Urban + Regional Planning at Ryerson University in Toronto. From 2010-2014, she was Visiting Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture + Urban Planning at Harvard University, Graduate School of Design. A Registered Professional Planner (MCIP, RPP) trained in ecology, environmental science and landscape planning, she is the founding principal of PLANDFORM, a creative studio practice exploring the relationship between landscape, ecology, and urbanism. Prof. Lister’s research, teaching and practice focus on the confluence of landscape infrastructure and ecological processes within contemporary metropolitan regions, with a particular focus on resilience and adaptive systems design.

Hilary A. Turner graduated from the University of Montana with a BS in Wildlife Biology and became employed with the IDFG in December of 2017. She started out as a 15 hour/week bio-aide and in just over a year, Hilary has become the face of roadkill data collection in Idaho. She conducts roadkill surveys in an important 63-mile road corridor in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and coordinates similar efforts statewide. When she is not surveying, she travels the state, teaching the tenets of road ecology and training professionals and citizens to report roadkill (when safe and practical to do so!). 

Chris Slesar is the Environmental Resources Coordinator at the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), where he oversees the work of his staff of natural and cultural resources experts. Chris has been engaged in road ecology and habitat connectivity issues since 2002, when he developed the Highways & Habitats Training for VTrans staff. The training is a way to bring transportation professionals from all disciplines into the road ecology conversation. Slesar is involved on the ICOET Steering Committee and is the ICOET 2019 Program Chair. In 2002, Chris helped organize and start the regional Northeastern Transportation and Wildlife Conference (NETWC).

Sandra Jacobson retired from the US Forest Service after nearly 40 years as a wildlife biologist, working on endangered species recovery and then as the agency's subject matter expert on transportation ecology. She has worked on multiple infrastructure projects on federal and state public lands, helping practitioners to identify issues, design mitigation measures customized for their unique wildlife issues, and work together across transportation and natural resource agencies to fund more wildlife-friendly projects. She's been an ICOET Steering Committee member since 2001, and continues to be involved with national and international highway projects, offering training across the country and abroad.