Michael Parsons studies rats in cities. Most people find rats yucky, so why would anyone want to study them?

Lab logo. Image courtesy of Michael Parsons.

One reason is that rats cause billions of dollars a year in damage through loss of food, starting fires by chewing through wiring in buildings, and creating health problems. Understanding how rats use their environment means that people can find better ways to clean up and keep rats away.  

Another reason to study rats is to understand how they think and what their social system is like. It turns out that rats laugh, help other rats sometimes, and are highly intelligent … we may not like rats, but in some ways they are not all that different from people.

Michael Parsons at his lab. Image by Charlie Hamilton James.

This interview with Mike Parsons by journalist Jansen Baier reveals many things about rats that you probably did not know:

Reading level: Grade 5+. Warning: The interview contains information about rodent control and images of rats undergoing lab procedures.