Wild in the Big Apple
With Urbanization increasing worldwide, how do we better plan development to ensure that both humans and animals coexist in the best way possible? University of Maine Research Assistant Professor Catherine Burns is exploring the question in and around New York City, which is home to more than 250 bird species, raccoons, rabbits, deer, bats, foxes, mice, frogs, turtles and many other species, including 8.2 million humans. In collaboration with colleagues at the City University of New York, WildMetro (where Burns is a research affiliate) and Yale University, Burns is leading Earthwatch-funded expeditions of citizen scientists, student interns and project staff to survey mammals, birds, amphibians and plants in the metropolitan area. The goal is to identify factors that influence the distribution and abundance of animals and plants along an urbanization gradient ranging from protected areas in downtown Manhattan to those up to 100 miles away in pristine northeastern hardwood forests. The study also will assess threshold levels of urbanization beyond which particular species cannot persist, and identify common rules that govern patterns of biodiversity across taxonomic groups living in urban regions. The findings could inform regional strategies for promoting biodiversity, not only in New York, but also in other urban areas.