UCLA researchers are studying how wildlife mammals live in urban Los Angeles to improve the relationship between animals and humans. With a prize of $225,000 from UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, the researchers will survey residents and study mammals such as squirrels, raccoons and possums in a three-part study starting next quarter. The three parts, which involve studying pathogens animals carry, learning how humans interact with mammals and documenting biodiversity in Los Angeles, will help researchers learn about how humans and animals influence each other. “Compared to mammals in natural environments, little is known about the abundance, diversity and population dynamics of wildlife mammals in LA urban areas,” said Jessica Lynch Alfaro, project leader and faculty member in the Institute for Society and Genetics.
The project will compare how animals live in the wild and how they live in urban environments by studying mammals’ DNA and recording their numbers, said Alfaro, who is also an anthropology professor. This will allow researchers to determine which aspects of urban construction threaten animals’ survival.