Make Way for Wildlife: Reaching New Audiences with Road Ecology
Why did the turtle cross the road? Because it had no choice. But turtles by the thousands die every year on America's roads. In Maine, Barbara Charry is a biologist helping to change that. She's a biologist dedicated to helping keep roads away from important habitats, so that threatened Maine wildlife like spotted turtles and Blanding's turtles -- as well as more common animals like bobcats -- either don't have to cross roads or get across safely.
While roads may account for only 1-2% of the national landscape, their negative impact to wildlife and habitat accounts for 20%. Compounding the problem is the fact that many people might not even know just how important good road policies are for the wildlife and habitat that they enjoy. The good news is that road-planning and -building strategies and wildlife-crossing structures can help make roads less dangerous to wildlife and people.
Through Maine Audubon’s co-leadership of Maine’s state-wide Beginning With Habitat program, Barbara has helped communities and local governments make their environments better homes for humans and wildlife by including conservation decisions into land-use planning. As a lifelong scientist and researcher, Barbara has investigated and protected birds for the Massachusetts Audubon Society, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, and Vermont State Parks; she wanted to communicate the lessons she has learned to a public eager for opportunities to help make positive environmental change.
As part of her Toyota TogetherGreen Conservation Fellowship, Barbara built upon her past road ecology work to reduce the negative impacts of roads on wildlife and habitat. To do that, she needed to focus not just on science but on education, legislation and public engagement.
By connecting decision-makers with the public, sharing the Beginning With Habitat program’s habitat connectivity project with even more communities, and collaborating with UC Davis to develop a Maine citizen science road and wildlife observation website, Barbara hoped to encourage more residents to become involved in important land-use planning decisions -- while protecting threatened wildlife species and keeping common wildlife species common. Maine communities care about their wild residents, and thanks to Barbara’s project, they had a way to show it.