How do New Yorkers Perceive Coyotes? Interview with a Gotham Coyote Social Scientist: Brielle Manzolillo
We Gotham Coyote researchers love NYC’s coyote population, but what do other New Yorkers think about these urban animals? Brielle Manzolillo did a research project through Pace University’s Environmental Studies and Science Department to find out New Yorkers real opinion on their coyote neighbors. Read about her study and its surprising preliminary results in this interview with Brielle.
Brielle presenting a poster of her research at the Northeast Natural History Conference
What was the research you did with the Gotham Coyote Project?
The research I did for the Gotham Coyote Project was a human-dimensions based project. The research was on human's perceptions of urban coyotes in the New York City. I went into Pelham Bay and Riverdale Park's and surveyed park goers about coyotes. With this data, I then analyzed the answers to the surveys in order to accurately gauge participants perceptions of urban coyotes.
What was the most surprising discovery that you made during your study? Or, what was the most interesting thing that happened while conducting your research?
Some of the most interesting data I found was that many people I surveyed were unaware that coyotes were living in these parks. I also found that many people were [unaware of] the appropriate ways they should react to a coyote interaction, for example, a few people answered "run away screaming" when asked what they would do if a coyote approached them. [...]
Watch this video on how to react if you see a coyote in your neighborhood.. Read about what to do if you encounter a coyote during pupping season, or when walking your dog.
Another surprising finding was that many people thought that coyotes should not be allowed to live in New York City. But these respondents, in general, were supportive of leaving coyotes alone in nature. [ie. more remote open space outside New York City. What this suggests is that some New Yorkers do not see their city or city green spaces as “nature” and hence coyotes do not belong in NYC. Gotham Coyote co-founder, Mark Weckel, explores this disconnect between cities and nature and the role coyotes can play in closing the divide here.]
Brielle talking about her research with other Gotham Coyote scientists
How did you become interested in science?
I have always been interested in more social based sciences. Before going into college, I thought I wanted to major in sociology because I was always fascinated by how people’s perceptions of the world are shaped by society.
However, my love of nature and the environment was always strong. This is why I chose to major in Environmental Studies. The "studies" aspect of the major allowed me to learn about how humans are interacting with the environment and how their perceptions are influencing how the environment is changing.
What was your first ever science project?
This is my first ever "science" project! It was my first time going out into the field and doing research on my own.
This interview was conducted by Olivia Allison Asher, intern with the Gotham Coyote Project author of The Science Notebook Blog.