Urban ecology periodical spotlights a Practicum in Environmental Science study on human wildlife interactions

What germinated as a Practicum in Environment Science project is now published scholarship.  “The Use of Anticoagulant Rodenticides in Single-Family Neighborhoods Along an Urban-Wildland Interface in California” is currently available on web-based journal Cities and the Environment (CATE). CATE aims to provide an international forum for urban researchers and practitioners to explore ecological theory, share relevant data, and exchange best practices.

The paper is authored by the former Environmental Science students who performed the research: Monica Bartos, Sylvie Dao, Dale Douk, Stephanie Falzone, Eric Gumerlock, Stephanie Hoekstra, Kaitlin Kelly-Reif, David Mori, Chay Tang, Cassandra Vasquez, Jennifer Ward, and Sarah Young, along with collaborator Anita T. Morzillo from Oregon State University, Seth P.D. Riley of the National Park Service, and the group's practicum advisor Travis Longcore.  The project was undertaken for the National Park Service during the 2009–2010 academic year.

The case study investigated how improper usage of rat poison by residential users could harm native animals like bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions roaming the Santa Monica Mountains. Urbanization poses many threats for wildlife species. Poisonings are well documented for birds and mammals worldwide but the pathways by which these widely available compounds reach non-target carnivores has not been adequately studied—particularly in urban landscapes.

The Practicum in Environmental Science team distributed surveys to determine how and where residents in the San Fernando Valley and Bel Air-Hollywood Hills area applied the rat poison. The researchers discovered that awareness about the risk to pets and wildlife could change people's behavior. 

Longcore stated why this study is significant. “The research in this paper is valuable because it provides evidence that residential use of rat poison could be reaching non-target species based on the way that people are using it.  It also provides a baseline for future comparisons because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has changed the rules for access to some of these chemicals,” said Longcore. He continued, “The research also yielded some results that would support further study, either by a subsequent Practicum group, or other scientists working on this topic.

Study author Stephanie Falzone talked about the experience. “The project became really exciting as we analyzed the results. Once the cause of a problem is confirmed then a solution can be found. This makes the results incredibly important,” said Falzone. Falzone hopes that by showing people how their behavior impacts nature they will develop a greater respect for it. This insight has led her to pursue the field of environmental education as she believes “education is vital for conservation.”