Selected Research Projects

North San Francisco Bay marsh at high tide
Sea level has already risen 8" on the coast of California and is projected to rise another 1-2 feet by mid-century. Planners, conservationists, and elected officials are scrambling to figure out how to adapt to these changing water elevations. Typically they rely upon models of future inundation and flood risk. However, these model predictions have not been verified and they map out change over very long time scales. This National Center for Sustainable Transportation-funded project measures actual inundation over time in built and natural coastal environments in the San Francisco Bay and around a coastal island off Georgia. A standard approach will be developed that can be used to monitor actual sea level rise impacts at time-frames (years) and with spatial resolutions (meters-hectares) closer to those used in decision-making.
Highway 7 bridge over LaPlatte River, VT
State Departments of Transportation and other public and private entities are increasingly investigating ways to reduce conflict between traffic and wildlife, to protect drivers and wildlife. These are a compilation of wildlife crossing structure guidance developed by the Road Ecology Center and others.
Coyote considering using a culvert to cross under I-280
During this project, graduate student Amanda Coen and undergraduate assistants will collect genetic samples from coyotes on either side of highways SR 50 and I-80 in the Sierra Nevada and I-680 and I-580 in the Bay Area. We will use landscape genetic techniques to test for local genetic structure and to determine if highways act as barriers to gene flow. If significant population structure is present, population assignment testing will be conducted to identify migrants that have successfully crossed highways. The project will help understand the role of highways in genetic structures of wildlife populations. (Funded by the National Center for Sustainable Transportation)
The Integrated Ecological Framework (IEF) directs transportation agencies to “develop a consistent strategy and metrics to measure ecological impacts, restoration benefits, and long-term performance” (Step 6). This project introduces the results of a study designed to both examine the obstacles preventing transportation agencies and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) from creating meaningful crediting strategies, and to describe methods and opportunities to develop these strategies. REC Co-Director Fraser Shilling developed a method for using crediting approaches early in regional and corridor planning. The method is scaleable and useable across geographies (project to region), complexity (from one to many issues), and planning stage (from route concept ot mitigation planning). Reports are in development and available soon. This project was funded by the Federal Highways Administration
People love watching wildlife and taking pictures of them. Increasingly, people are buying remote wildlife cameras and getting photographs of wildlife in nature. The Wildlife Observer Network is a novel online tool for wildlife camera users at any scale to archive, manage, and show-off their wildlife camera data. From complex research projects to backyard cameras, this system is designed to support them all. Check out our dozen or so international projects, then start your own.
During Phase I of this project (2011-2012), students and Co-Director Fraser Shilling set up and monitored track [plates (for 6 months) and camera traps (for 2 years). During Phase II, graduate student Kate Tiedemann, undergraduate student assistants and staff will maintain camera traps and monitor roadkilled animals and compare these findings to "connectivity maps" to see if connectivity modeling can explain animal movement. (This project was funded by the UC Davis Sustainable Transportation Center and is now supported in part by the Federal Highways Administration)
This web-based system for volunteer reporting of roadkill is the largest system of its kind in the world and so far has >33,000 roadkill observations of over 400 wildlife species and over 1,100 users. There is a similar system for Maine (
Climate change has already been accompanied by sea level rise, up to 8” in the Bay Area in the last century. Sea level is predicted to rise by over 55 inches (1.5 meters) by 2100 and storm-induced wave action is predicted to intensify, even if currently-feasible carbon mitigation is implemented at a global scale. Transportation infrastructure and essential marshlands are at risk of inundation from sea level rise, storms, and tidal deterioration. Disruption of the Bay Area’s transportation network will put at risk billions of dollars/year in economic activity. The Study will inform the Department’s long-range planning effort for State Route (SR) 37 by providing crucial information on the expected shorter- and long-term impacts of SLR on the facility and by developing high-level cost estimates for adaptive road/structure designs to help decision-making on the future of the facility. There are two primary goals for the project: 1. Maintain/improve transportation corridor benefits (mobility and safety, environment, and public access to surrounding areas) and develop long-term solutions for the corridor. 2. Determine how to support large-scale restoration of tidal and other marshes to benefit native species, ecological processes, and decrease the severity of storms and tidal action coastal infrastructure. Phase I of this project was funded by the National Academy of Sciences, Transportation Research Board and Phase II is funded by Caltrans
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