Dr. Laurel Serieys is driven by a lifelong aspiration to study wild cats and through research promote their conservation. She conceived the Urban Caracal Project in collaboration with Cape Leopard Trust and University of Cape Town in 2013 and traveled far to coordinate the effort.
Laurel grew up in Dallas, Texas, USA and graduated with a degree in zoology from the University of Texas, Austin in 2003. Her introduction to the world of wild cat research was a National Park Service internship in Los Angeles, California, USA in 2006. There she worked on an urban bobcat and mountain lion study. She carried the work into her PhD research at the University of California, Los Angeles graduate program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her PhD research focused on how urbanisation and pesticides drives genetic change and disease susceptibility in urban bobcats.
Among the achievements she is most proud of– data from her bobcat work was used to enact new legislation across California to reduce consumer availability of rat poisons. The Environmental Protection Agency has requested the data as they review national policy on the use of those pesticides. Her collaborative work on the genetics of urban mountain lions has led to a movement to build a wildlife corridor across one of the busiest freeways in the U.S.
Laurel feels that by focusing research on the effects of urbanization on wildlife, we may build a launching pad to establish guidelines for wildlife conservation in the rapidly changing world. With the Urban Caracal Project, Laurel's team aims to understand the conservation challenges wildlife face in a country where there is a delicate balance between social issues and biodiversity conservation. As Project Coordinator, Laurel conducts field and lab work, raises funds, manages public outreach, and is working with colleagues on publications in scientific journals.