Sunday, May 27, 2012

Studying Roadkill to Prevent it

Photo Courtesy: Splatter-Spotter
and California State University
Today I'm looking at the Splatter Spotter mobile citizen science App.  It's a simple project asking users to report any roadkill they find on their travels.  At first this may seem morbid, gross, or just a little bit weird.  But it's a well-meaning scientific project aiming to save wildlife and avoid future kills.

Each year over a million animals are killed on America's roads and the numbers continue to grow.  This is not just sad because some cute, furry creatures are violently killed.  It's also a problem for impacting animal migration routes, threatening endangered species, harming the natural balance between predator and prey, and increasing vehicle accidents and human injuries.  So improving our understanding is not just a dark curiosity; it's a needed start to solving these problems.

Strangely not much good data exists on the amount and locations roadkill incidents.  Which animals are hit the most?  Where do most incidents occur?  Are there commonalities between locations?  How can we design roads to minimize roadkill?  Most studies have been very small and include potentially unreliable data.  Sure, road crews can tally the animals they find, but tracking is inconsistent with great potential for reporting bias.

That is where citizen scientists come in.  We already travel roads across the country with great local, regional, and national coverage.  And reporting is simple with just a few clicks on a mobile device.  Just recording the location and general type of animal can go a long way to creating a reliable incident database.  So won't you pitch in?

Getting Started is Easy:
  • Visit the Splatter Spotter home page to learn more about the program and the science behind the project.
  • Download the Splatter Spotter App for iPhone (it's not yet available for Android).
  • Start driving your local roads.  Of course we hope you don't find any roadkill, but invariably you probably will.
  • If you see a kill while driving normally, open the application and click on "Current Location" to record your position.  If you posting about a previous encounter, use the "From the Map" option to find your position.
  • Once the location is set you need to describe the animal.  If you know the specific species the pull-down list will have it.  If not, categorize the animal by size (small, medium, or large) and choose the general option best describing the animal.  For example, "Unknown Small Animal", "Raven or Crow", or "Unknown Frog".   Further examples are shown below.

  • If you like, take a photo and attach in the next screen.  This will help scientists identify the animal if you are unable, or interpret any interesting facts about your sighting.
  • The final step is reporting on road conditions, such as the type of surroundings (urban, wildland, orchards, etc), road speed, and visibility.

  • Once you've mastered this portion (which shouldn't take you long at all), you can also set the application to record in "Transect" mode.  This is perfect for a long road trip.  Select the transect option and it will continue recording your location. When you find roadkill, just provide the animal and road description (described above) while everything else is taken care of automatically.
That's all there is to it! 

This is a very simple app to use and requires no special training.  Just drive along the roads as you normally do.  If you stumble across a kill, record a few basic pieces of data for us.  I know it's kind of gross and may not seem worthwhile, but every piece of information helps.  Won't you help too?

FOR MORE MOBILE APPS VISIT THE NEW Citizen Science for your Phone PAGE !


  1. Thanks i like your blog very much , i come back most days to find new posts like this!Good effort.I learnt it.

    Andrew Struss

    Mail id :

    For more info

  2. Thank you Andrew! I'm glad you enjoy it.

  3. At last... my morbid need to look at roadkill as I drive by can be put to good use!

  4. I'd recommend that only passengers use the app! Seriously, distracted driving is no joke.