Crossing paths: New photography project takes aim at the impacts of transportation on wildlife

The debut campaign launched by the Canadian Conservation Photographers Collective brings awareness to threats to wildlife from roads, railway transit, ocean transportation and air traffic

  • Published Nov 24, 2023
  • Updated Nov 27
  • 575 words
  • 3 minutes

A female grizzly bear leads her three yearling cubs across a highway as a car threatens in the background; a humpback whale breaches off the B.C. coast, trailing foam and sea spray while a tugboat churns past; a snow goose extends its long white neck to view its surroundings on an airfield, blurry droplets of red, yellow and white runway lights in the distance.

Such is the nature of the arresting, albeit atypical, images on display in Crossing Paths, a new digital publication and the debut initiative from the Canadian Conservation Photographers Collective (CCPC). Part photo essay, part educational tool, Crossing Paths seeks to raise awareness about the destructive and harrowing impacts of public and commercial transportation on wildlife in Canada.

“This is a topic that deserves to be covered,” says Josh DeLeenheer, the CCPC’s B.C.-based founder and director. He notes that beyond the obvious impacts we see on roadways, there are many more threats to wildlife from transportation “that we don’t necessarily think about.”

Formed in 2021, the CCPC is run by a small team of volunteers and currently counts 35 photographers and videographers among its members. Its goal is to “shed light on pressing conservation issues,” draw attention to the solutions that exist, and to link its audience with others — collectives, NGOs, non-profits, research organizations and governments — that are engaged in these issues.

Crossing Paths brings together five transportation themes: roads and highways, railway transit, ocean transportation, air traffic and human activity on lakes and rivers. The photography, which depicts scenes of collision and conflict between wildlife and these fives modes of human transportation, drives the package, however DeLeenheer and his colleagues also researched the topics and brought in partner organizations to contribute educational content and to provide the audience with a means of taking further action.

“We wanted to have actionable goals,” DeLeenheer says. “We want to be able to direct our audience to these organizations that are already engaged in [finding solutions].”

For example, CCPC partnered with the Marine Education & Research Society (MERS) based in Port McNeill, B.C., for the section on ocean transportation. MERS is a registered charity that researches and promotes marine conservation. It campaigns to raise awareness about the harmful impacts of collisions and noise pollution from boat and ship traffic on marine wildlife — particularly, of late, humpback whales, recent returnees to B.C. waters whose behaviour and biology make them susceptible to collisions.

Jackie Hildering, MERS’ education and communications director, says participating in Crossing Paths offered an “an opportunity to amplify” its messaging about collision and noise impacts, as well as the urgent need for more ethical photography of marine animals — images that emphasize “how wild they are, not how close they are” — by media and ecotourism operators.

Given that Crossing Paths just launched, DeLeenheer says the team is still striving to raise its profile, leveraging the networks of its member photographers, partners and others. At the same time, they are also thinking about next steps — new campaigns, as well as working to secure non-profit status for the CCPC in 2024.

“This is our first campaign, so it’s a bit of an explanatory experience,” he says. But he’s hopeful the work and the CCPC’s mission will find a following. “I got into photography because of my passion for conservation. There’s so many stories on a local and national level that we can tell.”

A Grizzly Bear and three cubs make their way across a highway in northwestern British Columbia. (Photo: Liron Gertsman/ @liron_gertsman_photography)
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A humpback whale breaches as a tug boat passes in Constance Bank off the coast of Victoria. (Photo: Mark Williams/ @marineconservationphotography)
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Despite attempts to encourage migrating snow geese to move elsewhere, they often land in the fields and marshes around the Vancouver International Airport. (Photo: Liron Gertsman/ @liron_gertsman_photography)
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Because they fly low, at three to six feet (one to two meters) above ground, barn owls are often hit by cars when they cross roads or hunt along highways. (Photo:Isabelle Groc/ @isabellegroc)
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Grizzly bear 136, known as "Split Lip," feeding on spilt grains on the train tracks in Banff National Park. The photographer reported the spill and cleaned the site with Parks Canada staff members. (Photo: Abdulla Moussa/ @wildmoussaphotography)
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People feed white-tailed does and fawns from their vehicles in Thunder Bay, Ont. (Photo: Chris McEvoy/ @chrismcevoy_photo)
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A little herd of wood bison graze on both sides of the Alaska Highway, while a lone bison crosses in front of an oncoming truck. (Photo: Geoffrey Reynaud/ @reynaud.geoffrey)
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When the snow is deep, wolves will use the railroad tracks to travel farther and faster than they normally could. (Photo: Adam Skalzub)
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Every evening, thousands of crows from across the Greater Vancouver region gather to roost along an unassuming street in Burnaby. Along the way, their commute parallels the human commute home from work. (Photo: Liron Gertsman/ @liron_gertsman_photography)
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