A cat lady starting a Wildlife Science graduate program

Important news: I started my Master’s in Wildlife Science at the University of Washington! My project will be validating my new citizen science nonprofit for conducting impact assessments of spay/neuter programs, Kitizen Science. If you had told me a few years ago that my quest to help free-roaming cats was going to lead to a Wildlife Science program, I would have been very confused.

The first wildlife researcher I met in person was John Boone, and my initial reaction to seeing that he was giving a lecture to TNR folks was, “Why did they invite this bird guy to come and yell at us?” Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about free-roaming cat management and how desperately the cat advocacy world needs to incorporate wildlife ecology research methods into studies of spay/neuter programs and other efforts to decrease cat overpopulation. “Cat people” and “wildlife people” can form productive partnerships so we can all learn how to reduce free-roaming cat populations more effectively using cat-friendly methods.

I couldn’t be happier with staying at UW for graduate school, since it’s one of the top-ranked public universities in the US and has a community of experts in so many fields. I’m now a member of Aaron Wirsing’s Predator Ecology Lab┬áin the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, where my new lab mates are studying bigger, more impressive critters like cougars, leopards, lynx, bears, and wolves. (I’m hoping to obtain funding to stay for a PhD program to conduct a comparative study of the behavior and activity patterns of free-roaming cats along urbanization gradients.)

I’ve also enrolled in a Graduate Certificate in One Health offered by Peter Rabinowitz’s Center for One Health Research. My capstone project is a pilot study on the potential for using outdoor cats as sentinels for environmental heavy metal exposure using non-invasive sampling techniques.