Get involved: Assess a wildlife linkage near you

What is a wildlife linkage? A wildlife linkage is an area where wildlife can move between two or more forested areas. We focus on linkages across roads that connect large forests of 250+ acres.

StePS: How do i assess a linkage?

pick a Linkage

Before you go out, find a linkage near you from the online map. If you know of a spot that’s not yet on our map, send us an assessment!

What to bring

Bring a phone and reflective clothing. Make sure you have the assessment form open on your phone before heading out in case you lose service.

Time to Get outside

Walk or drive the linkage, think critically about where wildlife is moving, where the barriers are, fill out the form, and please take pictures!

SubMit assessment

Submit your assessment form . On to the next linkage! How many can you assess in a day? You are now officially a community scientist.

prefer old school pen and paper?

Print our assessment form and fill it out in the field. When you get home, submit your observations through our online form. Questions? Refer to our FAQ.

Are you a map lover?

We recommend downloading the ArcGIS Field Maps App on your phone. When you open the app, select “Skip Sign In.” In the search bar, search for “Follow the Forest.” You will find a map titled, “Follow the Forest Linkages – For Field Maps.”

The app offers directions to the linkage you choose to assess and will update your location within the linkage as you move it. This can very helpful when identifying pinch-points where wildlife is getting funneled between forests. If you are concerned about losing service, click on the three dots and select “Add Offline Area.” Where it says “Level of detail,” select “Streets.” From there, you will be prompted to download the area you are heading to.  

what happens after i’ve assessed a linkage?

After you’ve assessed the linkage, the assessment forms and the pictures get added to our online map. Assessed linkages are filled in, and you can click on them to access pictures and information about the linkage.

See the map ↗

If you are a land trust and are interested in setting up a volunteer day with us, please reach out here.

Why did we create this tool?

We have designed this easy-to-use and broadly accessible tool to get a better sense of where animals are moving across the landscape to inform conservation decisions and habitat restoration opportunities. Potential linkages have been identified by The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient and Connected Data and the Housatonic Valley Association’s GIS team. Volunteers ground truth these areas to get a clearer picture of their functional connectivity for wildlife. We are especially interested in identifying pinch-points where movement may be funneled or restricted by fences, lack of cover, and other fine-scale features not picked up through remote modeling. Pinch-points are areas that, if further developed and compromised, could disproportionately restrict wildlife movement as the climate changes and species adapt their ranges in search for food, water, shelter, and mates.

The resulting set of assessed linkages allows Follow the Forest partners to prioritize their conservation efforts. In areas that require future attention, we set up wildlife cameras to learn more. In certain areas where the connections between forests are tenuous , we have identified areas in need of restoration. This includes roadside invasive species management, retrofitting culverts help animals pass under the road, and conducting outreach to important stakeholders such as town conservation commissions, highway departments, and landowners to implement changes that will benefit migrating wildlife. Approaching this research through the lens of community science helps us raise public awareness of wildlife connectivity needs and empower communities in our fight against climate change.