Florence M. Deffner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Florence Deffner is a Desert Tortoise Recovery Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She has been working on transportation ecology issues and endangered wildlife for over 10 years. she organized and lead the field trip for the documentary, co-wrote the script, and produced the documentary.
Elizabeth Fairbank, Center for Large Landscape Conservation. Elizabeth Fairbank worked for the Western Transportation Institute for several years, during which time she contributed to road ecology research projects in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nebraska. She then spent two years working for the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative researching the impacts of roads on ungulate migration routes in western Wyoming.
Ahmad Abushamma, University Of Nevada Las Vegas. Ahmad Abushamma is a senior at the University of Nevada Las Vegas in the Film Department. This was his first experience with filming a documentary focused on wildlife conservation and road ecology. He directed, edited, co-wrote the documentary.
Isabelle Link, University Of Nevada Las Vegas. Isabelle Link is a junior at the University of Nevada Las Vegas in the Film Department. This was her first experience with filming a documentary focused on wildlife conservation and road ecology. She assisted with editing, and co-writing the documentary.
Marcel Huijser, Western Transportation Institute. Marcel Huijser, Ph.D., Wildlife Ecology, is a Research Ecologist with 23 years of experience. Specializing in road ecology since 1995, he has conducted research in Europe, North America, South America and Asia. His focus is on the ecological impacts of transportation infrastructure as well as mitigation measures aimed at reducing these impacts. Her has taught a road ecology course for MSc and PhD students and has also provided several multiple day courses to various agencies and toll road companies.
The Mojave desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) faces numerous threats hampering recovery of populations. Mortality and illegal capture along roads is seen as one of the more significant issues relative to recovery of the desert tortoise. The installation of tortoise fencing to limit mortality and encourage re-colonization of habitat has been determined to be an effective conservation action that reduces mortality of individuals crossing roadways. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified installation of tortoise fencing and wildlife undercrossings as a significant priority for desert tortoise recovery, yet many roads throughout desert tortoise habitat remain unfenced because of numerous barriers to construction (e.g., costs, timing, agency support, long-term maintenance needs, etc.). To address these issues, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in partnership with the Center for Large Landscape Conservation (CLLC) and the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) planned a three-day workshop to discuss the various issues related to desert tortoise fencing, culvert designs, and policy issues. This workshop was initially envisioned to be an in-person event with up to 200 participants; however, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, plans were adjusted to provide this event via online tools. The in-person workshop was originally planned to include field trips to culvert and fencing study sites. In lieu of an in-person field trip, a documentary featuring a rangewide tour of study sites across four states was filmed and presented during the workshop. Two University of Nevada undergraduate film students were hired to film and edit the documentary, which provided an excellent opportunity for them to gain valuable experience. The film was produced by a Service staff person, who supervised the students, as well as organizing and leading by the tour. Representatives from the CLLC, and the WTI participated in the documentary filming and collected relevant data from field sites visited during filming. The 25-minute documentary titled, “The Road to Recovery”, presents a holistic overview of road effects on desert tortoises across the range of the species while highlighting specific examples of best practices, successful technical solutions, examples of problematic implementation, and interviews with agency representatives, and presentation of relevant issues.
Link to documentary: https://vimeo.com/526980854/9da53c724f
Topic Area: Wildlife movement: connectivity, safety, across eco-tones
Keywords: tortoise, connectivity, fencing