Diversity and Disease in a Post-Trauma Urban Landscape

Launched in 2013, this five-year interdisciplinary research project is funded by the National Science Foundation's Dynamics of Coupled Natural Human Systems Program (CNH). The project focuses on ecological and socioeconomic process following the catastrophic flooding in New Orleans associated with Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Our multidisciplinary team is made up of researchers from Tulane University; New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board; The U.S. Forest Service; and Yale University. We are also working with community partners and doing public outreach to promote awareness of trauma, diversity, and public health in the city.

Our CNH project investigates the ecological and socioeconomic diversity responses to Katrina-related flooding and its interaction with rodent-borne diseases and human health.

  • Plot-based inventories of post-Katrina New Orleans plant community biodiversity; seasonal ecology and demography of Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) and black rats (Rattus rattus), including trap-based census; population genetic analysis of abundance and dispersal, and histological analysis of pathogen prevalence
  • Geographic information system-based analyses of landscape and socioeconomic variation before and after Hurricane Katrina
  • Mail surveys and in-person interviews to determine how perceptions of risk compare to physical measures of exposure risk across the city


Information gained from the studies will be integrated into a model of rodent population dynamics to inform environmental and public health policy.

With urbanization placing an increasingly greater proportion of the global population at risk because of catastrophic events, lessons about the traumas experienced by New Orleans will provide new knowledge of scholarly and practical value to residents and decision makers in communities around the world.

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