Tulane University researchers are joining a national project to study how rebuilding after a disaster affects people and the environment. They’ll be starting with a close look at the common rat.
The National Science Foundation is granting nearly $20 million to projects across the country. Researchers will jointly study elements of geography, sociology and the environment.
Tulane biologist Michael Blum will be heading one of the largest studies ever conducted on the urban rat.
But why rats?
“We are focusing on rats as indicators of public health risk after Katrina," Blue said. :Rats are something of a risk to humans: they carry pathogens, including deadly pathogens like hantaviruses.”
Blum says researchers will fan out with traps and questionnaires for residents throughout the city to pinpoint popular spots for rats.
“Essentially, we’re asking if you think that you see a rat, do you actually see a rat, relative to the data that we’re getting on rats in the environment.”
That data will be used to help communities hit by disasters on how to better reduce rat infestations.
Among the Tulane team is geographer and author Richard Campanella. The New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board is also pitching in.
Results are expected at the end of next year.