New app will aid volunteer citizen scientists in road ecology project

This spring, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) will launch a Road Ecology Citizen Science Project as well as a new Road Ecology app to help gather data to assist with the validation of the TRCA habitat connectivity model. The app will be available for download for TRCA volunteer citizen scientists who register to participate in this exciting project.

What is Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Connectivity? They are locations where roads act as barriers to habitat connectivity and cause concentrated wildlife road mortality. These areas are termed “hotspots,” making them critical areas to research. The designated Provincially Significant Wetlands along Heart Lake Road have been the site of wildlife fatality data collection for the past five years. By engaging Citizen Scientists to collect data of wildlife vehicle collisions (WVCs), hotspots were identified and additional steps taken in an attempt to reduce fatalities and protect this diverse ecosystem. Historically, this information was collected by manually recording data on field data sheets. This method has been effective but there is element of risk due to human error in transcribing the information.

To date, much of the validation data has been collected by staff, but in 2016, TRCA will expand the program to include sites that will be monitored by citizen scientists. These sites will be distributed across Peel and York Region at  5 locations; The Oak Ridges Corridor park in Richmond Hill, Queen Street in Bolton, Airport road in Caledon, Queen Street at the Clareville Conservation Area and Heart Lake road at the Heart Lake Conservation Area.

Using the new Road Ecology App, citizen scientists will be able to record incidents of wildlife found crossing, basking, feeding, nesting, injured and deceased on and around roadways in their prescribed area. The data collected will help to redefine the habitat connectivity model and will help to prioritize areas for a higher investment in road crossing structures. The data will also support the Research and Development group to validate existing terrestrial habitat connectivity models by quantifying the number of species and number of individual animals that are struck and killed by vehicles on roadways in the monitored areas. With the data collected by citizen scientists TRCA can evaluate the success of habitat connectivity in regards to mitigating the negative impacts of roads.

TRCA is seeking volunteer citizen scientists to assist with data collection across selected sites in the Etobicoke Creek & Humber River watersheds which will support the safe movement of wildlife in this Region.