My research is about how Coyotes, (Canis latrans), are utilizing the landscape of New York City.

Coyotes have dramatically expanded their range over the last 200 years due to three key factors:

1) Extirpation of wolves from most of the United States released coyotes from their competitive pressure, allowing range expansion from the midwest.

2) Conversion of forests into agricultural land provided new habitat for coyotes, who prefer to use open areas over forests.

3) Behavioral plasticity that allows them to respond to novel situations.

Coyotes are currently inhabiting densely populated cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

I aim to answer the following questions:

1) How does the genetic diversity of the NYC coyotes compare to coyotes in the surrounding Tristate area?

2) What is the relatedness structure of coyotes within NYC?

3) What are the NYC coyotes eating, and is their diet different than non-urban coyotes?

4) What do New Yorkers think about coyotes living in NYC?

In order to answer these questions, I am collaborating with the Gotham Coyote Project (GCP). I analyze scat samples that are collected by members of the GCP.

Using microsatellite markers, I identify unique individuals, to determine the relatedness of the coyotes, and to access the genetic diversity of the population.

The map below displays areas within New York City where coyotes have been confirmed by analyzing the DNA in the scat samples.

Scat Sample Collection Sites

To learn more about other research in Urban Ecology, visit the Munshi-South Lab website. Our lab examines the effects of urbanization on the genetic structure, movement, and distribution of animals through New York City.

Identifying Individual Coyotes

Scat is collected at parks in New York City and labeled with the date and GPS coordinates.

The scat samples are kept frozen to preserve the DNA.

The DNA extracted from each samples is stored in a tube and labeled with a unique identifier.

After amplifying specific molecular markers in each sample, I can distinguish individual coyotes.