Land & Environment

USU Ecologist Honored for Wildlife Highway Crossing Research

USU ecologist Patricia Cramer, second from left, receives the Utah Department of Transportation's 2015 'Trailblazer of the Year’ award from UDOT officials, from left, Cameron Kergaye, Nathan Lee and Jason Richins.

Most motorists can offer a deer-in-the-headlights story, in which they’ve been forced to hit the brakes, swerve or survey the damage of a sudden, white-knuckle encounter with wildlife in the roadway.

An average of 200 people die in the United States each year as a result of wildlife-vehicle collisions and non-human vertebrates fare much worse, says Utah State University ecologist Patricia Cramer, research assistant professor in USU’s Department of Wildland Resources and the USU-based Utah Transportation Center.

Beyond mortality, each mile of pavement signals destruction and fragmentation of wildlife habitat, she says. For most animals, roads mean reduced access to water, food, mates and protective habitat.

In recognition of more than a decade’s work with the Utah Department of Transportation in developing wildlife crossings and increasing their effectiveness, Cramer received UDOT’s “Trailblazer of the Year Award for 2015.”

Cramer is the first ecologist to receive the award, which recognizes excellence in transportation research. She was honored in a March 24 ceremony in Salt Lake City.

“When I first began this research as a doctoral student, wildlife crossings received little attention from state and federal highway departments,” she says. “Now, we’re receiving frequent inquiries from traffic engineers around the nation, who are thinking about wildlife in the planning stages of road projects. This is a major victory.”

Cramer has been recognized nationally for her pioneering efforts in designing effective wildlife crossings and fostering collaborations between highway transportation departments and wildlife agencies. In 2013, she received the Federal Highway Administration’s Environmental Excellence Award for Research.

“Combining techniques such as wildlife corridor mapping, geographic information systems modeling and considering wildlife in long-range transportation plans, we can reduce wildlife-vehicle conflicts,” Cramer says. “We need to come up with standardized highway planning methods for wildlife and commit the funds for future wildlife crossings. These efforts pay for themselves.”

Related links:

Contact: Patricia Cramer, 435-764-1995,

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

For more than a decade, USU ecologist Patty Cramer has worked with UDOT to improve the design, locations and effectiveness of Utah's wildlife crossings.

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