Using citizen science to survey roadkill at wide spatio-temporal scales: examples from the developing and the developed world

Wendy Collinson, The Endangered Wildlife Trust

As the global road network expands, roads pose an emerging threat to wildlife populations. One way in which roads can affect wildlife is wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVC), which can be a significant cause of mortality. In order to successfully mitigate these problems, it is vital to understand the factors that can explain the distribution of roadkill. Preventing WVC begins with recording locations of conflict, such as vehicle crashes, animal carcasses, or animal behaviour around roads, such as avoidance of roads or crossing-behaviour. These data are ideally used to inform transportation policy and planning and to retrofit roadways to reduce conflict. Globally, a number of organisations manage regional and national systems for reporting WVC, both in developing and developed countries. As a developing country, the work of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has improved our understanding of the impacts of road infrastructure on wildlife in South Africa. Collecting the data required to enable this can be expensive and time consuming, but there is significant potential in partnering with organisations that conduct existing road patrols to obtain the necessary data. Repeated road surveys conducted by trained personnel are the ideal way to monitor the impacts of roadkill on wildlife populations but are impractical to conduct over large areas. However, the development of public participation for data collection (often dubbed 'citizen science') has facilitated monitoring at broad spatial and temporal scales, far beyond the limit of traditional field studies. Similarly, the global ecosystem of systems for recording WVC use a range of methods and devices that contribute a wide range of decision-support. Although large-extent WVC systems have been deployed throughout the world, there have been few evaluations of their features and no recommendations for future developers. I report on the parallels and differences between the range of data collection methods, contributing populations, data management systems, and data visualizations used in different countries. The majority of these global systems have combined goals of protection of wildlife and driver safety and as records become more standardized, more people are participating in volunteer observations of all kinds, including of the environment.