WEC Alumni in the World - Grant Sizemore

Grant Sizemore

In the United States, over a billion birds are killed by domestic cats each year. Grant Sizemore (WEC M.S. 2009) works for American Bird Conservancy, where he runs the Cats Indoors Program. American Bird Conservancy, based in Washington, D.C., was founded in 1994 and is now considered a national leader in conservation of native birds and their habitats. The goal of the Cats Indoors Program is to keep cats maintained indoors, since outdoor cats pose a significant threat to native bird species. Grant participates in many different types of outreach, including invited talks, bird walks, presentations at nature centers, public service announcements and periodic newsletters.

One of the main problems with the issue is that many people are simply unaware of the ecological and public health impacts of outdoor cats,” says Grant. Citing Lowe et al., Grant states that the truth is, “domestic cats (Felis catus) are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as one of the world’s worst non-native, invasive species throughout the world. “

Grant was advised by Dr. Martin Main, who wrote that he “didn’t think [Grant] would be able to complete his thesis and graduate by December 2009 because we were on a challenging time schedule, but he proved me wrong[...]” Grant says he spent half of each year conducting field work in South Florida while earning his master’s degree at WEC. During this time, he became more aware of the “impacts of non-native species,” which he found to be “particularly pronounced in South Florida.” After earning his M.S., Grant began an internship with The Wildlife Society, where he was able to learn more about the ecological and public health impacts of outdoor domestic cats. “With the strong support of the CEO, Dr. Michael Hutchins, a couple of colleagues and I took the initiative to put together a series of fact sheets and arrange an event for interested scientists and managers to get together and discuss the conservation needs. I have been an advocate for keeping cats indoors ever since and was fortunate to be given the chance to lead ABC’s national program.”

In addition to keeping domestic cats indoors, Grant cites many ways to help the bird species that are currently in decline. “These can vary in size and scale from putting decals on windows to prevent collisions to contacting your elected officials to support science-based policies and funding for conservation. The policy aspect, which many of us find frustrating, is a critical way to ensure support for birds and other taxa.”

Grant explains, “I find avian conservation interesting because of the opportunities that exist. Birds are particularly unique because of people’s inherent fascination with flight and the relative ease with which people can observe a wide variety of species. As such, birds may present the best opportunity to interest the public in nature and conservation in their own backyards. Too often the public supports the need to protect large charismatic mammals in Africa without considering conservation in their own communities. Of course, let’s also not forget that they’re just little dinosaurs. That’s pretty cool.”