Urban Caracal Project to better understand this elusive species and to promote their conservation in an increasingly human-dominated landscape. Working tirelessly to make this vision a reality, she established the project in 2013 with the support of the Cape Leopard Trust and in collaboration with the University of Cape Town. Studying caracals in the Cape Peninsula provides the opportunity to evaluate the ways in which urbanization affects genetic diversity, feeding habits, and population distribution, as well as the primary threats facing the population. Laurel hopes that by understanding how caracals survive in an urban landscape, we can better understand how best to conserve them, as well as other threatened species, in South Africa and beyond.
Laurel grew up in Dallas, Texas, and received her Bachelors of Science from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003. From there, she pursued her love of wildcat research working on a bobcat and mountain lion study in Los Angeles, California. She entered the graduate program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles and received her Ph.D. in 2014. There, she investigated urbanization effects on urban bobcats, including how pesticides drive genetic change and disease susceptibility. As a result of her work, state legislation was enacted to limit the availability of rat poisons.