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Before They Were Scientists: Daniel Solomon

Sitting down with Daniel Solomon, dean of the NC State College of Sciences, to talk about his middle school life was certainly a highpoint for the “Before They Were Scientists” series. In this interview Dean Solomon opened up about how his life as a child in the Bronx allowed him to appreciate a diverse learning environment, how he got in trouble trying to escape the island he lived on in Florida, and how his parents’ drive for him to go to medical school shaped so much of his young life.

Lea: Where were you in middle school? 

Daniel: […]

By |September 15th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Urban Cicada Safari

On September 2, as the 9-5ers emptied out of downtown Raleigh, we gathered near the State Legislature Building to embark on an urban insect adventure.

Led by Bill Reynolds, curator of the Arthropod Zoo at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, we strolled the tree-lined sidewalks of the Legislature Complex, eyes peeled and ears tuned in quest of annual cicadas.

Cicada safari commences

Unlike their periodical cousins who show up every 13 or 17 years in a given location, the annual cicadas – also known as dog-day cicadas – make a […]

By |September 12th, 2014|Audio, Behind the Scenes, Nature in Your Backyard, Urban Buzz, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

7 cool facts about drain flies and their kin

Over the last few days, we’ve received a few notes and photos (see above) from folks describing fuzzy, moth-like flies flitting about their kitchen or bathroom. So we turned to our favorite bug guru, Matt Bertone, for the inside scoop:

1. Flies in the family Psychodidae (particularly the subfamily Psychodinae) are often called moth flies or drain flies. The former name comes from the covering of hairs and scale-like hairs that give these flies the appearance of a fuzzy little moth (which can be confusing to non-entomologists). The latter name comes from one of their most familiar […]

By |September 10th, 2014|Arthropods, Indoor Evolution, Nature in Your Backyard|0 Comments

NC State University Found to be the Most Bio-Diverse College Campus in North America

Several years ago, we started paying more attention in our lab to what was going on biologically near at hand. This transition would eventually lead us into backyards, then houses, then colons, but it stared with North Carolina State University’s campus.

The campus is at what was once the western edge of the city of Raleigh, a city whose location was chosen by its originators as a function of its nearness to a bar. And yet despite this idiosyncratic origin, Raleigh has proven to be an auspicious ecological locale for a city and a campus, at […]

By |September 8th, 2014|ants, Global Change, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Nothing Gold Can Stay

The American goldfinch (Spinus tristis), like many animals, changes colors over the course of a year. In the summer, male goldfinches dress in bright gold with black patches on their wings and head – like an avian superhero. When winter comes, the goldfinch molts those bright feathers and assumes his mild-mannered alter ego again. Only a little patch of yellow on his throat remains.

The female goldfinch (pictured) isn’t as flamboyant as her partner in the summer. But she’ll also change into grayish brown plumage for winter.

Editor’s notes: Interested in #SciArt? Jennifer Landin will present “Sketching Nature: Biological […]

By |September 8th, 2014|Nature in Your Backyard, Science Art|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Emilie Rissman

It was an honor to chat with biologist Dr. Emilie Rissman before she officially assumes the role of department head for the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Sciences here at at NC State University. My M.O., of course, was to learn about her life as a middle school student and what it was about her particular experiences back then that brought her to where she is today. Read on to learn how her middle school years spanned very different experiences in Chicago and northern California, how she is decidedly unlike her artist father, and how she […]

By |September 5th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Spike is on his way to Long Island: What does that mean for Tom and Jerry?

Like the best stories, the Tom & Jerry cartoon is rooted in basic principles of real life: dogs chase cats and cats chase mice. Spike was the bulldog that terrorized Tom the cat, to the benefit of little Jerry the mouse. You might be surprised to hear that there is real predator-prey science behind the violent comedy of Tom & Jerry. Larger carnivores really do terrorize their smaller rivals, and the results trickle down to affect smaller prey, the mice and squirrels of the world. And whereas in the cartoons, the dance of dog, cat and mouse is […]

By |September 4th, 2014|Cat Tracker|0 Comments

Citizen Scientists Make Important Discovery about Camel Crickets

Grad Student Too Busy, Annoyed to Care about Giant Bugs in Basement

In graduate school, I rented a house with a few fellow students on a quiet, tree-lined street close to our university. To be quite honest, we spent very little social time together in this house. Most of our days, nights and weekends were spent in the lab, in the field, or in our offices, toiling away on our graduate research. We came home to sleep, grab a quick bite to eat, and maybe do a load of laundry.

In fact, when I think about the years that I […]

By |September 2nd, 2014|Camel Crickets|28 Comments

The Secret Life of Captain America

Does he stick close to home or go to far off lands to fight evil? According to the data from his GPS-collar, Captain America seems to be patrolling the neighborhood with just an occasional trip or two to protect the parameter in the woods. Maybe he knew we were tracking him and didn’t want to go too far? Or could it be he was just enjoying some R&R since the Avengers have taken a break?

Do you know the secret life of your indoor-outdoor cat? With the help of citizen scientists around the world, we’re using GPS technology to […]

By |September 1st, 2014|Cat Tracker|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Peter Bijl

My second installment in a series of interviews from the Netherlands is with geoscientist and climate change expert, Dr. Peter Bijl. He recalls constantly observing his surroundings as a child and questioning why he didn’t get to use his ice skates as much as his parents. This childhood curiosity translated to a career trying to understand how the Earth works. Read on to learn about how being a scientist is more than just being the smartest person in class, the role of chance in science, and how Peter’s dad is his toughest critic.

Lea: You went […]

By |August 29th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Looking at the Past to Understand the Future

No question, our planet is heating up. So what impact will global climate change have on biodiversity and ecosystems?

This BIG question, as you’ve undoubtedly read here on our blog, is near and dear to many Your Wild Life-affiliated researchers. Over the years, they’ve taken several different approaches to studying the consequences of global climate change on organisms and ecosystems.

One approach is to do experiments. Heat something up and see what happens to say, ants living on the forest floor or tiny plant-sucking insects attached to tree branches in a greenhouse.

Another approach is to do

By |August 28th, 2014|Global Change, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Good News: We’ve all got mites!

Over the last year and a half, hundreds of you volunteered to have your faces scraped for science. In looking at the contents of your face goop, we’ve uncovered some of the mysteries of the tiny, some might even say charming, arthropod that lives within the hair follicles and glands of your skin — your Demodex mites. Today we’re pleased to announce the publication of our first research paper from the Meet Your Mites project:

Thoemmes MS, Fergus DJ, Urban J, Trautwein M, Dunn RR (2014) Ubiquity and Diversity of Human-Associated Demodex Mites. PLoS ONE 9(8): e106265.
By |August 27th, 2014|Explainer, Reading List, Your Mites|1 Comment

Junior Scientists Take on Invasive Ants in New York City

Two junior researchers, Stephen Coyle (a rising college sophomore, top) and Kevin Catalan (a high school student, bottom), have been hard at work at Fordham University in New York City looking at how different colonies of invasive ants have been affected by Superstorm Sandy. I sat down with them virtually to discuss their exciting research in the lab of our collaborator, Dr. Sergios-Orestis Kolokotronis.

Kevin, I’ll start with you. Maybe you can tell me a little bit about yourself and what is it that you do?

Kevin: I’m a student at the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics.  I’m a […]

By |August 26th, 2014|ants, Q & A, Student Features, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Michelle Wcisel

In the swing of Shark Week, I was able to virtually sit down with white shark researcher, Michelle Wcisel. As we talked, I noticed a “Smarty Pants” mug full of pens resting on top of a dresser and a sticker-covered door visible just behind her shoulder. Books lined the walls behind her head and there was a sense of nostalgia all around her – it was as if she was sitting in her den recounting middle school life from the very place it happened. I enjoyed chatting with Michelle about how she, a land-locked Michigan native, evolved into […]

By |August 22nd, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Pikas on Ice

Adorable and fuzzy, American pikas (Ochotona princeps) have become the spokes-critter for the consequences of climate change in alpine areas. These little fuzzballs, more closely related to rabbits than rodents, are specialized for living on the rocky slopes of mountains. They’re very sensitive to hot summer temperatures, and so, as temperatures are predicted to rise, pikas face a perilous future.

Researcher Jennifer Wilkening from the University of Colorado is concerned about the future of the pikas. She’s also concerned about the future of water. Towns like Boulder, Colorado, rely on the water that drains down from the highland areas […]

By |August 20th, 2014|Global Change, Science Art|0 Comments