Leveraging New Data Collection Methods for Evaluating Ecological Impacts of Transportation Projects

Focus Area

Wildlife & Ecosystems


Natural Resources






1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

Summary of current practices by DOTs to use emerging data collection methods to address ecological concerns for transportation projects. These methods include (1) environmental DNA (eDNA) collection and analysis methods for establishing the presence/absence of rare or hard-to-detect aquatic species, (2) use of LIDAR data to evaluate site characteristics, (3) use of drone- or vehicle-mounted sensors to more rapidly evaluate the presence of plant species of interest (both weeds and rare or desirable species such as milkweed) and habitat quality. Include information on cost and time savings and well as accuracy in relation to current typical methods. This topic was suggested at the TRB 2019 workshop on 50 Years of NEPA.

Urgency and Payoff

A summary of these methods would help DOTs evaluate the benefits of adopting innovative methods to decrease costs and potentially improve data quality for ecological analysis. These methods can apply to threatened and endangered species (especially ruling out the presence of aquatic species with eDNA) as well as establishing appropriate mitigation ratios for impacts under both the Endangered Species Act and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Suggested By

Kris Gade Arizona Dept of Transportation 602-292-0301

[email protected]