Video: Spot a cat? There’s an app for that

TWS member Jason Luscier created a smartphone app to let citizen scientists report cat sightings. Reports have come in from all around the world. ©koi ko

TWS member Jason Luscier focuses on urban wildlife conservation, so when he needed more data on house cats (Felis catus) roaming the streets, he turned local residents into citizen scientists. Luscier developed Cat Tracker, a smartphone app that lets residents report sightings of house cats on the loose.

“One of the greatest threats to our native urban wildlife is predation by free-roaming house cats,” said Luscier, an assistant professor at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. “I have a number of ongoing research projects regarding urban mammals, urban amphibians and urban birds — all of which are likely affected by cats.”

The app lets residents report when they spot both feral cats and pets on the prowl, using the phone’s GPS data to pinpoint exact locations. The app collects some basic survey information of the spotters. Were you walking? Sitting on a park bench? Out running errands? And it allows users to make simple comments about what they saw. “The hope is that the process is as quick and easy as possible,” Luscier said. Uploading the sightings to a map, he can see how the sightings might intersect with wildlife data.

Luscier first targeted the city of Syracuse, but since then, he said, “citizen scientists all around the world have submitted sightings.”

For more on Luscier’s work, watch the video below.