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It’s time for a road trip! For many of us, that means we pop our headphones in while our friends or parents drive and we jam out to “I Would Walk 500 Miles” by the Proclaimers. We watch the I-70 mountain corridor fly by us on our way to Glenwood Springs and hope there’s no traffic. But there’s something bigger you might be missing out on if you do this.

Rocky Mountain Wild and biologist Paige Singer showed audio tour participants what all road trips need: an introduction to the wildlife and environments beyond our windshield in the form of an audio tour.

WILDLIFE AND HUMANS LIVING HARMONIOUSLY


The I-70 roadway in particular is a prime example of humans and animals traveling together. But our roads can act as a barrier for animals trying to cross for migration.

“In Colorado, I-70 is one of the largest and most dangerous roadways for wildlife, bisecting major migration routes with four to six lanes of high-speed traffic and concrete dividers. Each year over 300 animals are hit trying to cross this road.” –Wild I-70 Audio Tour

Singer, a biologist with Rocky Mountain Wild, is part of a cohort of partners, including The Denver Zoo, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the US Forest Service, who have diligently studied wildlife movements using motion-triggered wildlife cameras. This project has collected over 10 years of data, with the majority of wildlife cameras near the Vail Pass area.. Participants helped to check these cameras during this Adventure.

MONITORING WILDLIFE


Near the top of Vail Pass, we accompanied Singer and her project partners to their field research site. Here, we checked the wildlife cameras and learned more about Rocky Mountain Wild and Denver Zoo’s Colorado Corridors Project. The project aims to understand our roads and wildlife together at the proposed overpass site. Volunteers assist with setting up and monitoring motion-triggered cameras and identifying photographed species.

But why do we, as citizens, need to monitor wildlife? Rocky Mountain Wild’s research has found by observing cameras that certain populations of species, like Elk, are decreasing drastically in population. This is largely in part due to highway deaths along the I-70 mountain corridor.

Projects like the Colorado Corridors Project connect us to wildlife and can help to save lives on and off the roads. A greater connection with wildlife will benefit the animals, and ultimately ourselves. The more involved we become with species patterns and migration routes, the more positive our impact on wildlife will be. Ultimately, the project has found that the construction of wildlife crossing structures – both underpasses and overpasses, is the solution to living more harmoniously with Colorado’s wildlife. Although the cost of such a structure is in the millions, it would pay for itself in a matter of years – Americans spend over $8 billion a year nationwide on insurance, hospital bills, etc. due to wildlife-vehicle collisions.

ART AND SCIENCE


If you’re reluctant to give up your road trip tunes for the audio tour, you don’t have to worry. The Wild I-70 Audio Tour mixes art with science. That’s right, you heard me. Art AND science! Adventurers got to tune in to a collaboration between wildlife experts and Colorado-based musicians.

Flobots are just one of the many featured bands on the tour. If you know them, you know that Flobots are an important part of the Denver’s music scene and their albums focus on things like climate change and immigration reform. Why not add that vibe to an audio tour focused on connecting to wildlife? Perfect!

It doesn’t stop there. The tour also includes photography from nationally recognized photographers. Wildlife was no longer a mystery to us when we viewed the photographs of artists like James Beissel, John Fielder, Molly McCormick and more. The photography takes the viewer even closer to the environment around them.

WHAT IF I MISSED IT?


If you missed the Wild I-70 audio tour  Adventure with TEDxMileHigh on August 18th, there is still a lot you can do to get involved!

You can learn more about the effort to improve connectivity for wildlife across the county, including Vail Pass, by visiting the Facebook page for Summit County Safe Passages.

If you want to learn more about Rocky Mountain Wild and Denver Zoo‘s citizen science initiative to monitor wildlife in the area surrounding the overpass, visit the Colorado Corridors Project Facebook page. You can also go to the Zooniverse site for the Colorado Corridors Project to help catalog wildlife monitoring photographs.

Interested in getting on the list to volunteer in the field with us next year? Send an email to [email protected] with “Volunteering with CCP 2019” in the subject line and we’ll be sure to reach out to you next spring!

If you’re still itching to hear some amazing wildlife facts and stories, you can download the audio tour for yourself by visiting the Wild I-70 Audio Tour website. Learning something new on your next road trip is as easy as downloading the app!

Instead of watching the corridor fly by, take some time to connect to its wildlife through art and science. Tune in to some amazing photography, science facts, and Colorado musicians like Flobots, Chimney Choir, Trout Steak Revival and tons more! (Sorry, Proclaimers. But I would walk 500 miles for this audio tour!)

“You can start the tour at any time, at any point along I-70! The segments are GPS-triggered, so if you go for a hike or stop off at a rest area, the segment will continue to play to completion until you enter the ‘zone’ for the next segment.”

Instead of watching the corridor fly by, take some time to connect to its wildlife through art and science. Tune in to some amazing photography, science facts, and Colorado musicians like Flobots, Chimney Choir, Trout Steak Revival and tons more! (Sorry, Proclaimers. But I would walk 500 miles for this audio tour!)


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