a Smartphone App for Gathering Citizen Science Data Regarding Domestic House Cat Populations
Dr. Jason Luscier
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
office: (315) 445-5487
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has labeled the domestic house cat the “world’s worst invasive species.” Most animal shelters are at (or above) capacity for house cats. Consequently, many house cats have become feral (i.e., wild-like and capable of living without human intervention). Those feral cats and people’s free-roaming pet cats are at risk of serious disease and even early death. Also, high populations of free-roaming house cats in cities severely affect populations of native wildlife (e.g., birds, small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, etc.). Many cities have implemented Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs in the hopes of reducing cat populations over time. It is imperative that we gain a better understanding of the dynamics of free-roaming house cat populations in order to develop adequate future management plans, to better understand effects on native wildlife, and to help alleviate human health concerns. One of the most effective ways to gather data regarding cat distributions over expansive geographic areas such as the city of Syracuse is to rely on citizen science data. As a means for gathering citizen science data, I have developed a new smartphone app where volunteers can submit sightings of free-roaming cats throughout the city of Syracuse. The smartphone app is called Cat Tracker and it is free (you can download the app here: http://cattracker.research.lemoyne.edu). Sightings reported through Cat Tracker will help us to better understand free-roaming cat population sizes and distributions throughout cities and to understand just how effective management programs (like TNR) are.
One of the greatest challenges relating to this issue is education of the public. Urban ecologists should work more closely with community members and local cat advocate groups like the CNY Cat Coalition. I will collaborate with both the CNY Cat Coalition and the local humane society to engage community members in utilizing this app. Also, these citizen science data will help identify target areas of high cat densities for future management programs.
Download Cat Tracker for IOS and Android using the links blelow.