Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Earth News

The Science of Roadkill 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.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Science of Roadkill

Comments Filter:
  • but why... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @09:04AM (#42178117)

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

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "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

    • by Inda ( 580031 ) <> on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @09:28AM (#42178273) Journal
      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.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Flattened Fauna []. 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.

  • 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.)
  • Isn't that just the edge of the road? Or is it how far across they made it?

  • Why didn't the chicken cross the road?
  • "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.
  • They also don't make no bad casserole, I reckon.
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @10:07AM (#42178545) Journal

    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...)

  • 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.

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

      • by Nimey ( 114278 )

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

        • 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.
    • 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.

  • 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.
    • 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 ev

    • 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 b

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

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Oh crap! You were so young!
  • Tire manufacturers could potentially examine the roadkill photographs and extrapolate tread wear data from it! Also, this: []
  • I think I smell an IgNobel Prize in the offing...

  • 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.

<< WAIT >>