After attending West Coast Rodent Academy, 75% of participants implemented improved rodent management skills, decreasing negative environmental impacts and demonstrating UC ANR's commitment to protecting California's natural resources.
Commensal rodents, rats and mice, are among the most economically significant pests in the world. Three species of commensal rodents (Rattus rattus, Rattus norvegicus, and Mus musculus) are found in almost all California cities. These rodents exist in close proximity to human populations and are regularly found in homes, schools, restaurants, and other commercial settings, as well as food processing plants, storage areas and warehouses. In the United States, the need for rodent-focused integrated pest management (IPM) strategies is increasing. Studies have shown that climate change may affect fecundity and survivorship in some mammalian species. Climate change may also affect the free-living, intermediate, or vector stages of pathogens, such as those that infect commensal rodents. The lack of cost-effective alternatives to rodenticide use and property owners' resistance to making structural changes to their properties, combined with the pressure on the applicator to rapidly remediate the rodent infestation proves challenging for all involved in rodent management.
How UC Delivers
UCCE Advisor Niamh Quinn co-created the Rodent Academy curriculum, informed by research that has determined ways to decrease rodenticide exposure to nontarget wildlife. The goal of commensal rodent management is to reduce the population of rodents quickly so that no further damage or exposure to allergens and pathogens occurs. To achieve this goal, rodent management needs to be quick and efficient and involve a combination of trapping and rodenticides.
The curriculum is being delivered via the three-day West Coast Rodent Academy (WCRA). To date, 307 individuals from 115 pest management companies, as well as city, county, and state agencies have participated. It is projected that the WCRA will continue to grow and reach pest management professionals across California. WCRA has also had attendees from ten other states despite the program being developed for California's pest management professionals. For example, Oregon State University's School of Integrated Pest Management Program attends WCRA trainings to learn more about starting an academy in the Pacific Northwest. Furthermore, funds generated from the West Coast Rodent Academy are applied to research being conducted in three Master of Science projects related to pest management.
To evaluate the impact of WCRA, a follow-up survey was sent to approximately 180 professionals trained through the West Coast Rodent Academy in 2019.
Over 90% of 43 West Coast Rodent Academy participants that responded to surveys indicated they have started or improved behavior changes related to identifying rodents and implementing safe work practices that reduce the risk of contracting rodent-borne disease. Over 85% reported behavioral changes around developing an integrated pest management plan for rodents and communicating with customers about the importance of integrated pest management. Three-quarters of the respondents reported improvements in following rodenticide label instructions. A majority of respondents believe these changes led to more efficient management, decreased negative environmental impacts, and increased customer satisfaction. These measured outcomes demonstrate how Rodent Academy contributes to increased ecological sustainability as part of UC ANR's commitment to the public value of protecting California's natural resources.