"We are rapidly developing our highway facilities and infrastructure in China," said Chen Jiding, director of CATS' Center for Transport, Environment and Safety. "We have done quite a bit with the greening of highways, soil reclamation and revegetation, but wildlife crossings is a new field of study for us."
The Chinese spend around $150 billion annually on the construction of highway facilities, according to Jiding. In comparison the U.S. spent approximately $65 billion on the construction and maintenance of highways in 2006.
The Chinese delegation, which also included Lin Xiaoping, Li Hua and Li Zongyu, heard about WTI from the book "Road Ecology"; WTI's Tony Clevenger was a co-author in the book . The projects and research in the book addressed some of the issues China's Ministry of Transport is facing, according to Jiding. The Chinese have just published their companion to the book that specifically addresses China.
"WTI has done very good road ecology work and we can learn from them." Jiding said. "There is not much new road construction in the U.S. anymore, so maybe WTI researchers can use China as a test bed for various practices."
WTI is one of only four rural transportation centers in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Transportation designated WTI as a University Transportation Center (UTC) in 1998. It is well recognized for its work on preventing collisions between wildlife and vehicles. WTI provides numerous opportunities for students to conduct research in civil engineering and road ecology
The group spent Tuesday introducing themselves and talking about their respective projects and research. They toured WTI and other MSU facilities. The Chinese delegation tried out WTI's driving simulator, inspected materials used for road construction and saw the winter maintenance laboratory.
Wednesday morning started with a trip to the I-90 wildlife crossing project at Bear Creek underpass east of Bozeman. The project's goal is to determine how wildlife use crossings designed for them. The Chinese delegation observed the project's motion detector cameras and track bed--a two-meter wide sand bed that records animals' prints when they use the underpass. They spent the rest of the day in Yellowstone National Park.
"Even though we have some bridges and tunnels for wildlife in China, it has not been well studied," said Jiding. "There has been little research on how to use the best practices as reported in WTI research to usher wildlife through the crossings."
Sharing research is one aspect of the collaboration the group from CATS hopes to embark on with WTI.
"We don't know where this collaboration will go," said Rob Ament, WTI road ecology program manager. "We may work on research projects together or participate in student and researcher exchanges or provide them with technical workshops."
"WTI is recognized as having one of the premiere road ecology programs in the world," Ament said. "We hope to develop a program that will be mutually beneficial."
Rob Ament (406) 994-6423 or firstname.lastname@example.org