RatWatch is a SMS chatbot designed to enable the citizens of Atlanta to easily report rat sightings and evidence within their neighborhoods. Inspired by a similar project conducted at the University of Michigan, it allows people who see a rat, or evidence of a rat, to text a phone number and fill out a survey detailing their experience. Our work this summer will revolve around improving the application and testing it within various neighborhoods, as well as developing a rat habitat suitability model. We will use the crowd-sourced data collected through RatWatch in tandem with other geographical data to analyze the spatial distribution of rat sightings and test our model.

After learning about the project and its origins in English Avenue, we had the opportunity to visit the westside neighborhoods to better understand the context surrounding the rat problem within Atlanta. From damp creek beds to abandoned homes, the environment exuded potential for the flourishing of rats. Over the course of the coming weeks, much of our work will involve interfacing with various communities around Atlanta, particularly the westside, to test RatWatch and gather data. Ultimately, we hope to shed light on the severity of the rat problem in Atlanta and improve the city government’s ability to effectively address the issue.