The Northern Great Plains Pronghorn are an important ungulate species in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. In order to procure the resources necessary to their survival, pronghorns go through long, seasonal migrations. Today, these migrations occur across a landscape that has been fragmented by highways responsible for disrupting movement patterns and causing direct mortality from vehicle collisions. To gain more insight into the impacts these highways are having on pronghorns and other wildlife species, a new and exciting development in the world of citizen science in Alberta is on the horizon!
About to launch is a new program that utilizes public sightings of pronghorn and other wildlife along highways in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan to gain a better understanding of common crossing points, wildlife collision locations, and wildlife movement patterns along these highways.
This program is called Pronghorn Xing and it came about as a collaborative partnership between:
- Alberta Conservation Association
- Alberta Environment and Parks
- Alberta Transportation
- Miistakis Institute
- Saskatchewan Environment
- Saskatchewan Government Insurance.
Pronghorn Xing consists of a smartphone app and related online mapping tool that was developed using the background code for GrizzTracker! By applying this technology to another platform, the increased efficiency and accuracy of publicly reported data will contribute to a scientifically viable dataset. This dataset will then be used to “inform strategies to improve wildlife movement and both wildlife and human safety.”
Similarly to GrizzTracker, Pronghorn Xing has a start route option that enables the GPS on your phone to record GPS points at certain time intervals to track your route. This important function allows researchers to account for observer effort (how often and where the highway has been driven) and more accurately model the location of wildlife crossings. When you come across any wildlife along the highway, the passenger can record the sighting directly using the option on the app. If you are the driver, you can record your sighting later using the online mapping tool by dropping a pin on the map provided and filling out the corresponding form. For those who are unsure of what species has been spotted, there is a Wildlife Identification section that breaks down how to differentiate between species of ungulates found in Alberta, including: white-tailed deer, mule deer, and elk.
By using the collective power of public reporting in an automated and standardized way, this citizen science initiative will ultimately help to improve both human and wildlife safety along highways across the Canadian Great Plains.
To learn more about this project and to find links to the app, visit the website at http://www.pronghornxing.org