Hamilton College students in the New York City Program engaged with two extreme elements of the Big Apple – baseball and rats – on April 4. In the afternoon, the class attended a New York Mets game at Citi Field, where they watched the home team defeat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2.
Later in the evening, the program went on a rat safari with internationally renowned urban rodentologist, Robert Corrigan. Bobby led the class to several sites around the New York civic center, examining evidence and impacts of the brown rat, Rattus norvegicus, an alien invasive species in North American and certainly so in New York City.
Although it may seem like an odd class decision, it was a perfect fit for the theme of the semester: Urban Ecology and the Natural History of Manhattan. “I never thought that a Hamilton class would have me standing around in an alleyway at night looking for rats. That said, it was one of the best classes I’ve had,” said Michael Wang ’19. “Not only was it wildly entertaining to go on a 'rat safari,’ but it made me keenly aware of the problem rats pose in NYC. They are literally everywhere you look … even if you don’t see them!”
Corrigan also discussed a wide range of issues pertaining to the impact of this major urban pest on New York’s daily operations. He talked about the challenges of rat control from the perspective of abundant food and harborage resources, to the political limits of governmental agency regulation. Before attending the alleyway adventure, students in the program met for weekly classes to discuss a multitude of readings about rats and other pests.