Western Big Game Benefits from New Tracking Tool / Public News Service

A 2019 poll by the National Wildlife Federation found nearly 85% of respondents in New Mexico said they'd like to see increased efforts to safeguard wildlife corridors. (dog.gov)

A 2019 poll by the National Wildlife Federation found nearly 85% of respondents in New Mexico said they’d like to see increased efforts to safeguard wildlife corridors. (dog.gov)

December 2, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A new report published by the U.S. Geological Survey includes detailed maps of Global Positioning System tracked migration routes for mule deer, elk, pronghorn, moose and bison. The tracking tool will help stakeholders, from conservation groups to transportation agencies, understand how big-game species move across the landscape.

Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said the new study maps more than 40 big-game migration routes to provide connectivity among multiple states.

“Wildlife doesn’t recognize state borders,” said Deubel. “So cross-jurisdictional collaboration when it comes to the management of wildlife, and when it comes to the protection of key wildlife corridors, is absolutely critical.”

A poll last year found more than eight in ten residents of New Mexico and Colorado support protecting wildlife migration routes.

Deubel said in the Gila region, all kinds of species are moving between New Mexico and Arizona – but it isn’t a seasonal migration. Instead, big-game animals are looking for water.

Forest fires, many due to climate change, also affect big game migration in New Mexico. That’s another important reason to maintain habitat connectivity, according to Nicole Tatman – big game program manager with the state’s Department of Game and Fish.

“Animals will move out of an area when a wildfire is occurring,” said Tatman. “But they’ll move back into that area after the fire has gone and maybe rains have come and brought up some green vegetation that they can take advantage of.”

In addition to wildfires, drought can make finding that green vegetation harder for big-game animals, according to Matthew Kauffman, wildlife researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Kauffman, the report’s lead author, said food is often absent along ancient migration corridors.

“Drought disrupts that ‘green wave,’ and makes it more difficult for animals to surf,” said Kauffman. “They still try, they do their best given the drought conditions, but they just can’t be in the right place at the right time.”

The new study builds on more than two decades of research by state wildlife agencies including GPS tracking-collar data, mapping migration routes in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Roz Brown, Public News Service – NM

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Oakland University offers COVID-19 sensing, tracking devices to students, staff amid rising cases

The first batch of BioButtons has arrived at Oakland University as cases of COVID-19 increase on campus and throughout Michigan.

The university received 1,500 of the wearable devices for students and faculty and began distributing them at the beginning of the week, said David Stone, OU’S chief research officer.

The devices, purchased from Denver-based BioIntelliSense for $90,000, are being used for early detection of the coronavirus by measuring temperature and vital signs. Funded through federal CARES Act money, they are being offered free of charge to OU students and employees.

“This is a way to limit outbreaks,” Stone said. “We want to keep one case in a dorm from becoming 50.”

COVID-19 cases tied to OU remained in the single digits this fall until the last week in October, when 29 commuter students tested positive for the coronavirus, according to university data. The following week, OU had an outbreak on campus with 13 residential students testing positive along with another 47 commuters.

Many colleges and universities in Michigan became coronavirus hot spots when classes resumed in late August and early September. That caused Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to temporarily suspend in-person learning and some schools, including University of Michigan, to tell students to stay home in the winter.

Nearly all classes at Oakland this fall have been online, although 1,700 students remain living on campus. The university has yet to decide what proportion of classes will be conducted in-person for winter, Stone said.

OU contemplated making the BioButton devices mandatory for those on campus but quickly scrapped the idea. Stone said the more students who do opt into wearing the BioButton, the better the chances of containing outbreaks and keeping campus open.

The biggest hurdle will be getting students comfortable with the idea of wearing a data tracker, he said.

“We’ve done very little marketing, and we certainly haven’t knocked down a lot of concerns about student privacy,” he said. “We’re trying to get students to understand that their health data isn’t compromised… We really did design this in a way that the university does not get anybody’s data.”

Here’s how the BioButton works: The medical grade device about the size of a half dollar sticks to the upper chest and connects via Bluetooth to a mobile phone app, which alerts users to potential symptoms of the coronavirus. Additionally, if someone wearing a BioButton tests positive for the virus, the app alerts other BioButton users who were in close proximity to that individual.

The device is used for contact tracing, but it does not track the movement of students, Stone said. The BioButton has a lifespan of about 90 days.

A couple hundred of the devices have been claimed so far. Stone said he expects more to be distributed next week when classes resume after Thanksgiving. He said the university expects to purchase more to meet demand.

“We have lots of students going home to families,” he said. “We still think there’s real value individually to people knowing their status.”


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Boston University moving to ‘more rigorous enforcement’ of COVID protocols instead of ‘simply tracking compliance,’ school says

Boston University announced Wednesday it will start taking more rigorous action to ensure faculty and staff are abiding by the school’s health and safety protocols set up to stave off coronavirus transmission on campus.

Starting this week, so-called “unit leaders” will begin taking corrective action with individuals who are not following testing and daily health screening requirements, according to a statement from Dr. Jean Morrison, BU’s chief academic officer, and Gary Nicksa, senior vice president for operations at the school.

“We are moving from simply tracking compliance with testing frequency and daily health screening requirements to more rigorous enforcement,” the statement said.

BU’s announcement comes a week after the school said it would start requiring students, staff and faculty to show online badges in certain locations on campus indicating they tested negative for the virus following the completion of daily health screenings online, according to a statement from the university.

Campus community members must display their green “cleared” badge to be allowed to enter dining halls, the George Sherman Union and several other spaces at the school, the statement said.

The university implemented the public health rules after seeing an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases last week, with BU reporting its largest number of new coronavirus diagnoses among the campus community members since the final week of move-in in August, according to the school.

From Oct. 13 to Oct. 19, the university identified 23 students and 10 staffers who tested positive for the virus, data from the school’s daily coronavirus dashboard showed. No faculty members tested positive during that time frame.

The following week, from Oct. 21 to Oct. 27, another 32 students, two faculty members and seven BU staffers tested positive for coronavirus, according to the dashboard.

Stepping up its efforts to combat transmission of COVID-19, the university said Wednesday it is changing its health screening requirements, making it so all faculty and staff have to be screened on weekdays, regardless of whether they come to campus that day.

Screenings are not mandatory on weekends, holidays or regularly scheduled days off, unless campus community members go to the school for any reason on those days, the university said.

The school is also expecting to boost the availability of testing for faculty and staff across campus to address a shortage of appointment times at some sites, according to BU.

“It is critical that we treat the testing site employees with respect,” the university said. “We know it is a stressful time for everyone; however, several unfortunate interactions have taken place that have prompted the need for this important reminder.”

With support from BU Human Resources, unit leaders – managers, supervisors, deans and department chairs – are tasked with taking appropriate corrective action with faculty and staff who do not abide by the safety and health requirements, the university said.

The primary goal of the corrective actions BU will potentially be taking in the future is to reach “full compliance” with its public health protocols, according to the school.

“Taking corrective

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