Road Ecology Course and Seminar Series

Mark Sytsma, Portland State University


The American road network is a major economic investment that is a major organizing force for human activity. The road system has profoundly altered ecological processes and, as a result, it is also an important organizing force for ecosystems. Understanding the ecological consequences of road system design and use is critical to effective engineering and management of road systems to minimize impacts. I propose a new course within Environmental Science and Resources at PSU that will expose upper division undergraduate and graduate students to the fundamental concepts of road ecology through discussion, guest speakers, and field trips. I propose a student-led discussion course focusing on the book Road Ecology, edited by Forman et al. This book provides an introduction to the basic concepts underlying road impacts on the environment. Students will be required to read the book; discussion of each chapter will be led by a student who will make a presentation on results of a search of the primary literature on the subject of each chapter. The classroom discussion will be supplemented with guest speakers that will bring real- world examples to the classroom. Potential topics for guest speakers include: • impacts of highway runoff and roadside spraying on water quality, • impacts of roads on erosional processes, • impacts of culverts on anadromous fish passage, • mitigation of habitat fragmentation and road impacts on animal movements, and • role of maintenance activities in facilitating weed invasions. Invited speakers will also be requested to provide a departmental seminar to communicate road ecology principles to a wider audience of undergraduate and graduate students in Environmental Science and Resources. Field trips to observe road impacts and mitigation measures will add to students understanding of road ecology. We will schedule field trips to observe impacts as well as efforts to mitigate environmental effects of roads. Students performance will be evaluated by participation in class discussions and field trips, and a term paper. Undergraduates will be required to write a literature review on an aspect of road ecology of their choosing. Graduate students will be required to write a proposal to investigate some aspect of road ecology. Following completion of the course students will have a broad understanding of the environmental impacts of road systems on ecological processes and methods of mitigating impacts. Graduate students will have a research proposal that may be appropriate for submittal to OTREC for funding.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
June 15,2008
UTC Grant Cycle:
OTREC 2007
UTC Funding: