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The Science of Roadkill

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the southern-bbq-feast dept.

Earth 52

Hugh Pickens writes "Sarah Harris writes that roadkill may not be glamorous, but wildlife ecologist Danielle Garneau says dead critters carry lots of valuable information providing an opportunity to learn about wildlife and pinpoint migratory patterns, invasive species, and predatory patterns. 'We're looking at a fine scale at patterns of animal movement — maybe we can pick up migratory patterns, maybe we can see a phenology change,' says Garneau. 'And also, in the long term, if many of these animals are threatened or they're in a decline, the hope would be that we could share this information with people who could make changes.' Garneau turns students out into the world to find dead animals, document them and collect the data using a smartphone app RoadkillGarneau and she has already received data from across New York, as well as Vermont, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Florida and Colorado. Participants take photos of the road kill, and the app uploads them through EpiCollect, which pinpoints the find on the map. Participants can then update the data to include any descriptors of the animal such as its species; sex; how long the dead animal had been there; if and when it was removed; the weather conditions; and any predators around it. 'People talk a lot about technology cutting us off from nature,' says Garneau. 'But I found that with the road kill project, it's the opposite. You really engage with the world around you — even if it is a smelly skunk decaying on the side of the road.'"

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but why... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42178117)

do they put the deer crossing signs on such busy highways??

Re:but why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42178309)

Deer are pretty stupid. I hit one at 50mph because it was trying to jump between cars in traffic. I had about 0.5 seconds to react - did a precision hit that took out the radiator and AC compressor. I'm glad I had comprehensive coverage.

Or as they say around here ... (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | about a year ago | (#42178145)

Thems good eats!

Re:Or as they say around here ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42178185)

Hard to believe we have starving people in this country, when there is so much delicious roadkill available for the barbecue.

Re:Or as they say around here ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42178283)

Statutory Carlin link..


Re:Or as they say around here ... (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year ago | (#42178379)

Thems good eats!

Years ago I was driving late at night in western Pennsylvania during winter, and was listening to the local AM talkback shows. Someone called up with the serious question of "How long left on the road was roadkill safe to eat?". And the host gave him a serious answer.

Re:Or as they say around here ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42179463)

Yep. Pennsyltucky...

neat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42178161)

my gf is a biologist and had a job for a while riding a bike 30km a day examining road kill for surveys.. Possibly the data went to this project.

Smartphone not needed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42178227)


"To upload data without a smartphone please visit:

I don't know if all those students have smartphones, but I know not every person in "first world" countries has a cell phone. I still have a "dumb" phone. I'm not sure if I'm even interested in one. I don't know if I want to be "that" connected all the time.

Re:Smartphone not needed (5, Informative)

Inda (580031) | about a year ago | (#42178273)

Or do what I did:

1. read the website, find it interesting
2. Search Google Play for app, couldn't find it
3. Read website again, found link to G-docs, which wont work with IE6/corporate nanny software
4. Email link to myself
5. Click link on phone, click link on webpage.
6. Read page 1 of 17 on G-Doc, it has QR code, wonderful, how to fucking scan that from my phone when reading it on my phone??? Hyperlinks are so last century.
7. Come back to Slashdot hoping to find download link.

8. Give up. Ain't nobody got time for this shit.

I notice there is an app for Irish Roadkill. It might be quicker and easy to move to Ireland.

Smartphones are cool. Every nerd should own one or three.

Re:Smartphone not needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42180975)

With two smartphones, you could display the QR code on one and scan it with the other.

But it really should not come to that.

There's a book about this subject (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42178235)

Flattened Fauna [amazon.com]. It's both hilarious and fascinating. At first I thought it was just a joke, but actually it's pretty insightful. I particularly liked the discussion about the 3D->2D transformation of the critters. Gruesome and technical.

What could possibly go wrong? (1, Informative)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#42178287)

Students, if you are driving, it is important to STOP THE CAR before attempting to photograph the road kill. (It should go without saying, but with all due respect to the smart teenagers, 50% of all teenagers are below average.)

Flattened Fauna (1)

mrhippo3 (2747859) | about a year ago | (#42178449)

"Flattened Fauna" is an older book by Ten Speed Press. The subtitle of the revised edition is, "A Field Guide to Common Animals of Roads, Streets, and Highways." One of the more amusing notes is that unlike most guides that list the type of camera used to take the photos, this book lists the type of copier.

Sure, it's science (4, Funny)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year ago | (#42178545)

Yeah, there's some science to it, but not always.

I know of a business that involves teams of a couple of guys in vans roaming areas of the country doing repair services.

I happen to KNOW that one of these teams hit an armadillo in TX, and, in a creative fit of boredom, threw it in their cooler with ice and headed on their northern circuit. The next day, in Michigan, they dumped it out beside the road....I'm nearly certain some state biologist in MI got to spend weeks studying the invasion of armadillos.

(Now, that story has become a lot grimmer with the suggestion that handling armadillos - and probably, throwing it in your lunch cooler with your pop cans & sandwiches - may transmit leprosy...)

Migratory patterns (1)

Nimey (114278) | about a year ago | (#42178669)

We never used to see armadillos here in southwest Missouri, but around 7-10 years ago I started seeing dead ones on the highway.

Global warming is why they're migrating north, no doubt.

Re:Migratory patterns (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | about a year ago | (#42179113)

Global warming might be at fault here. On the other hand, the second post above yours suggests an alternative explanation.

Re:Migratory patterns (1)

Nimey (114278) | about a year ago | (#42179165)

The sheer number of dead armadillos I see on the road makes that explanation unlikely.

Re:Migratory patterns (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#42183933)

Right... because a temperature change of less than .2 degrees is more likely a factor than development, a change in flora, growth or shrink in other animal populations, etc.

Re:Migratory patterns (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#42180755)

LOL! No, the dillos have been on the move as more roads are being built. This forces them to stay on one side of the road (due to traffic) for longer than expected. Eventually, they settle in that patch of land and have babies. rinse lather repeat

It's the roads man! The roads causing migration.

Natural selection? (1)

TheUglyAmerican (767829) | about a year ago | (#42178749)

I've always wondered why, if natural selection was such a powerful force in evolution, we still have road kill. Seems to me that genes causing an animal to stay away from roads would be selected for and dominant within a relatively small number of generations.

Re:Natural selection? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42178861)

Hmm, do you think that there are genes that cause animals to stay away from roads? Even though genes precede the invention of roads by millions of years?
Maybe that is the cause of agoraphobia?

Stupidity by be propagated by genes. That is a bleak prospect for your offsrping...

Re:Natural selection? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42178881)

The number of roadkills is very low compared to the number of animals, and it's not like they could avoid the roads anyway. Roads are everywhere.

Re:Natural selection? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#42180885)

I remember back in the mid 80s (north of Houston) in a subdivision we would constantly see squirrel roadkill. It was not uncommon to see one of them critters zigzag back and forth indecisively of which side of the road to stay on. Their indecisiveness is what causes them to get run over. Mid 90s on later, I rarely see any roadkill at all. Either the city has been doing a much better job at cleaning them up, or natural selection has been at work. Meanwhile, the local squirrel population is as strong as it ever was.

Ya, that's all we need. More intelligent squirrels... Ahhh nature.

Re:Natural selection? (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year ago | (#42182235)

Millions of years of selection without automotive traffic as a factor, then a hundred or so years with it. If we're still driving several thousand years from now, there might be some real shifts, particularly with small animals such as squirrels that have short generations.

Incidentally, this applies to humans too. Driving is nothing like anything we evolved to do, which is why it's so incredibly dangerous. Again, if we're still driving in the distant future--and if the activity we call "driving" hasn't been entirely automated--then maybe we'll see the evolution of Homo automobilicus, especially since car accidents have a nasty habit of killing off members of the species at or before prime breeding age.

Re:Natural selection? (1)

jedwidz (1399015) | about a year ago | (#42185683)

I wonder what the Darwinian impact of motorcycles was on human gene stock in the 20th century...

Re:Natural selection? (1)

jedwidz (1399015) | about a year ago | (#42185653)

Hedgehogs here in NZ are a lot cockier than they were 30 years ago. They used to roll up into a ball when frightened (e.g., caught in headlights), but now they'll likely run away instead.

I also see them less as roadkill. I expect this is explained partly by smaller populations, due to loss of habitat, roadkill, disease, etc, but also behavioural change seems to be a factor.

This isn't science, just my anecdotal observation. If anyone has citations, please share.

Re:Natural selection? (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | about a year ago | (#42185829)

Cars have been a significant factor for less than a hundred years, considering early cars were a lot slower and not that common. Evolution takes a lot longer to effect changes.

Leave them alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42178839)

And also, in the long term, if many of these animals are threatened or they're in a decline, the hope would be that we could share this information with people who could make changes

relevant [youtube.com]

epicollect android app (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42179929)


Self-incrimination (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42180151)

> Participants can then update the data to include any descriptors of the animal such as its species; sex;

It asks them to report whether they had sex with it?

Bigfoot (1)

teaserX (252970) | about a year ago | (#42183049)

Anyone else think that the extremely low (read zero) bigfoot roadkill count might be indicative of similarly low (also read zero) bigfoot population? Just wondering.

My favorite haiku (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42188725)

Dead deer on roadside
Nobody is looking now
Venison tonight

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