An accurate spatial understanding of species and threats to their survival is an essential part of wildlife conservation. The construction of a wall along the U.S.–Mexico border impacts some of North America’s most biologically diverse areas and its most threatened wildlife. However, there has been no clear attempt to monitor border wall construction since 2017. As such, there is an opportunity to update current spatial data, spatially analyze the conservation impacts of wall construction, and make these resources available to the public. Defenders of Wildlife is working with a broad coalition of environmental and community-based organizations to prioritize areas along the border for protection based on habitat and range connectivity needs of threatened and endangered species. The intern joining this project will conduct spatial analyses to assess border wall impact on at-risk species and inform a national effort to identify areas in need of greater protections or mitigation.
The main datasets that will be made available to the intern include vector datasets on the U.S. - Mexico border, sections of existing border wall, sections of proposed border wall, and ranges for potentially impacted threatened and endangered species in the region. Attributes of interest (e.g., barrier type, funding source, and construction status) will be included with the datasets but may need updating based on documents from the Federal Register, field experts, and news media outlets. These documents will also be provided. All spatial data will be made available as ESRI shapefiles (vector) or TIFs (raster).
The fellow will work to create the following products:
Products from this internship will be shared with key decision-makers to use in threatened and endangered species conservation in the United States: the Fish and Wildlife Service, partners on Capitol Hill, broader conservation communities. These maps and reports will highlight areas of the border where wall construction poses heightened threats to wildlife and to inform a national coalition effort to protect borderlands habitats. The intern’s recommendations will be considered by legal and policy teams with the coalition. Calculations from this analysis will be used to communicate the severe impacts of the border wall to the public. As a baseline analysis for monitoring and evaluating impact, these reports will be revised regularly as new ranges are refined and new knowledge incorporated. The updated data and maps will be made publicly available through an online web app and will become a source of border wall spatial information.