Tracking Kleptomaniac Cats

Aya the cat has an interesting secret life, to say the least. When we started tracking outdoor cats with Cat Tracker in Raleigh/Durham to see where they were going when they weren’t lazily sitting on their human’s porches… we never expected that one of the cats that would sport a GPS unit would be a famous kleptomaniac living in Copenhagen.

Three-year-old Aya is a Danish cat; a semi-serious looking black male cat with a penchant for work gloves. It all started innocently enough in the Summer of 2012 — when Aya’s human neighbors were getting a new roof […]

By |April 16th, 2015|Cat Tracker|1 Comment

The Bear

I was staying in a one, room shack beside a river. The river, a majestic river, reminded me of the sound of a washing machine. My girlfriend was visiting. At night she punched me when a mouse ran over her face. It remains unclear whether her intent was to hurt the mouse or, as I now suspect, me. Each morning the old Czech woman across the dirt road would bring me a glass of fresh milk from the cows. She spoke little Spanish, I no Czech. I couldn’t convince her of the truth, that I am unable to digest milk much […]

By |April 13th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Could there be 200 million species on Earth?

Recently, one of my colleagues, Brian Brown, found thirty new species of flies in urban Los Angeles. Species not yet named. Species not yet studied. Species that could be of great value to society (or, less likely, great cost) but that had just gone missed, flying among highways and movie stars.

The discovery made by Brown and his team is wondrous, revelatory, awesome, and makes me want to look for new species of flies in my own backyard. But, in a broad sense, it is not a surprise, for one simple reason, two hundred million species live on Earth […]

By |April 13th, 2015|Books, Homes, Wild Life of Our Home|2 Comments

Chimps and Humans are Less Similar than We Thought

Mary Claire King, as much as any individual scholar, has changed how we think about what it means to be human. She did so using genetics as a lens through which to see what was otherwise invisible. In her hands this lens offered many insights. It was King who first identified a key gene in breast cancer. It was King who helped to identity the missing dead in Argentina in the 1980s. It would also be King who, in 1975, first compare the genetic similarity of humans and chimpanzees. It was known chimpanzees and humans were similar, kin, but just how similar? One could […]

By |April 8th, 2015|Books, Hearts|3 Comments

The Magic Seeds of UCONN EEB

500px-EEB_forweb_smaller

The amazing thing about trees is that they start as seeds. Some small enough for ants to carry. Others that ride in the guts of bats. Others still that float in the wind, tumbling across fields and continents.

Similarly, the amazing thing about the best scientists is that they start as students. As I say this, I am not thinking about my own students (though my own students have been wonderful, the highlights of my professional life), I am thinking about the young people with whom I started graduate school.

I went to […]

By |April 6th, 2015|Uncategorized|2 Comments

The Single Best Predictor of How Many Heartbeats You Will Experience

The single easiest way to increase the number of heartbeats you can expect to experience in your life is to move. Geography is a far better predictor, even within the United States, of your longevity than is any other variable.

Much of modern of medicine is focused on getting those of us in developed countries a few more heartbeats (several magazines have recently run articles about the possibility of living to two hundred). But, the truth is that far more beats can be gained for humanity—more moments of joy, difficulty, or pleasure, moments of anything—by making health care and public health more equitable […]

By |March 30th, 2015|Hearts|0 Comments

Gnarly Trees

Branches of the live oak (Quercus virginiana) loop and twist their way toward openings in the forest canopy. Many branches sag down to the ground before stretching back up again.

These low branches help the oak survive in the hurricane-prone regions of the southeastern US. Short, wide trees resist strong winds better than tall, thin ones.

Those curvy branches helped the USS Constitution stay afloat during the War of 1812. Live oak limbs were frequently used in ship building due to their natural bends, strength and density.

By |March 30th, 2015|Nature in Your Backyard, Science Art|0 Comments

Students share eMammal!

On Thursday, March 5, eight middle school students from the classrooms of two 2014-2015 Students Discover Kenan Fellows, Dave Glenn and Dayson Pasion, presented their research on wildlife camera-trapping at the North Carolina Technology in Education Society (NCTIES) conference in Raleigh.

Over the last year, the students have participated in the eMammal citizen science project, deploying wildlife cameras in their schoolyard to capture animal activity. The students have been working in collaboration with scientists at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. At Burgaw Middle School […]

By |March 23rd, 2015|Education, Urban Ecology|1 Comment

We’re Celebrating Our 100th Cat-iversary!

Cat Tracker launched in May 2014. In a little less than one year, we’ve enrolled over 500 indoor/outdoor kitties from 9 different states and several foreign countries! Today we are pleased to announce that we have recorded tracks from over 100 cats! So what have we learned so far?

In examining the home ranges of our first 1oo cats, we’ve found that the cats’ tracks are just as unique as the cats themselves. The majority of our 100 cats travel less than 5 hectares (about 12 acres) and seem to stick to their neighborhoods rather than venturing into forests […]

By |March 19th, 2015|Cat Tracker|0 Comments

Dr. Eleanor Dishes about Ants!

Looking for a new podcast to listen to while waiting for the next season of Serial? Check out Under The Microscope — available for free on iTunes — where you can even hear a friendly voice, Dr. Eleanor Spicer-Rice, discuss ants with Daniel Hill and Clint Bergeron.

Under the Microscope

Ants, with Dr. Eleanor Spicer Rice — Episode 3 

Released Feb 01, 2015

Join us as we chat with Senior Science Editor Dr. Eleanor Spicer Rice (who literally wrote the book on ants!) about an invasive ant species with a powerful sting that could be making a destructive path to […]

By |March 18th, 2015|ants, Audio, Q & A|0 Comments

Evolution of the Indoor Biome

There is something living in the north-facing wall of our apartment. My partner and I have narrowed it down to an organism in the phylum Chordata; though we have not seen the thing, we are fairly certain it has a backbone. It likes to make squeaking or cawing noises at 4 a.m. Sometimes the noises make it seem very small, like a house mouse, and sometimes the noises make it seem very large, like a well-nourished raccoon. Or perhaps it is a bird. Perhaps it is a new, awesome bird species.

We know so little about the organisms that live with […]

By |March 16th, 2015|Arthropods, Homes, Indoor Evolution, News, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Help locate the coughing frog!

You may have heard of a newly described species of leopard frog, the Atlantic Coast leopard frog (Rana kauffeldi) — also known as the coughing frog (main image, above). The chief zoologist at the New York Natural Heritage Program, Dr. Matthew Schlesinger, has organized efforts to learn more about the range of this newly described frog species with the support of a Regional Conservation Needs grant.

Where is this coughing frog and when can I find it?

The map of where participants can hear and record the coughing calls of the Atlantic Coast leopard frog can be seen below […]

By |March 12th, 2015|Nature in Your Backyard, Participate|0 Comments

Meet Your Mites: Family Style

Over the last few months, our first cohort of Students Discover Kenan Fellows have been busy in their classrooms piloting and refining the citizen science curricula they co-created with their scientist mentors from the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.

If you dropped by their middle school classrooms, you would have seen students busy collecting and analyzing all sorts of new data. They’ve deployed camera traps in schoolyards to capture the secret lives of urban mammals. They’ve planted dandelions in different soil types and sampled the changes in microbes over time. They’ve scraped oily goop from each other’s faces […]

By |March 11th, 2015|Behind the Scenes, Education, Your Mites|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Monica Peters

When I first met New Zealand native and science/artist Monica Peters, she was attending the Citizen Science Association meeting in San Jose, California. After her presentation she boldly stated, “Watch this space!” in reference to the growing citizen science initiatives in New Zealand. It was intriguing to learn about the efforts of citizen scientists in New Zealand communities to preserve their local natural habitats. She also stated that she had come from a design background, but has found herself in this scientific world. Wanting to hear more, I scheduled an interview and we got a chance to speak about […]

By |March 6th, 2015|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Cat Tracker Launches Down Under

We’re pleased to announce that Cat Tracker has landed in Oz!

Last week, our colleague Philip Roetman and team from the Discovery Circle, a citizen science initiative based at the University of South Australia, launched the Australian version of Cat Tracker.

The team aims to recruit and track 500 indoor/outdoor house cats with GPS technology in order to better understand cat movement and behavior. We look forward to collaborating with Cat Tracker South Australia to make cross-continental comparisons. Here in the US, we’ve found that urban cats don’t travel very far and stick close to the surrounds of […]

By |March 2nd, 2015|Cat Tracker|0 Comments