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Predation in Action!

Last week, I led a group of students and postdocs from the Entomology Department at NC State on an expedition to collect bees at the nearby JC Raulston Arboretum. We’re working on a project to investigate how urbanization affects the native bee community and their health.

The Arboretum was a bee paradise! We saw over 20 different species of native bees in the course of an hour. Then a tussle happening mid-air caught our attention. At first we thought we had observed a pair of bumblebees mating in mid-air. Only later, when these insects landed on a nearby leaf […]

By | July 29th, 2014|Nature in Your Backyard, Urban Ecology|1 Comment

Insects Headline Art of Science Exhibit

Science is boring. Art is Stupid. Prove us wrong.

These are the words that launched the annual Art of Science exhibition at Princeton University. The exhibit highlights examples of accidental art – images and video collected in the process of doing science that somehow go beyond the numeric values of their pixels. This year I was excited to have four of my photographs included in the exhibit.

Taking photos while doing research gives students and scientists a chance to embrace their curiosity. There’s a lot more freedom behind a lens than we typically experience while designing and carrying out highly precise […]

By | July 22nd, 2014|ants, Science Art|0 Comments

Nature in NSF’s Backyard

2014 marks the 3rd consecutive year that a pair of black vultures (Coragyps atratus) have chosen the roof of the National Science Foundation to raise their family. NSF is an independent federal agency that promotes the progress of science by funding basic research across all fields of science and engineering research and education. [Editor’s note: NSF has provided funding for a number of Your Wild Life projects through grants to our principal investigator, Rob Dunn, including School of Ants and Students Discover.] It’s housed in a twelve story building in Arlington, VA, just a few […]

By | July 15th, 2014|Nature in Your Backyard|0 Comments

Democratizing the Study of Ants

Across the world, ants are among the first animals children learn to recognize. They are diverse, abundant, and ecologically important from the tops of canopy trees to the soil underfoot and from tropical rainforests to deserts and even backyards and playgrounds.

It may surprise you, then, to hear that we know very little about even the identity of those ant species that live closest to us – those sharing our cities and eating our discarded food. As a scientist, I’m fascinated about the lives of city ants and how they affect diversity and ecosystem services where people live and work. However, […]

By | July 7th, 2014|ants, News|1 Comment

Celebrating Native Bees

As you were enjoying celebrations this July 4th weekend, you may have noticed many bees flying around your yard or neighborhood park, pollinating flowers and vegetables. As I earlier shared here on the Your Wild Life blog, I am researching many of these native bees in urban areas. Specifically, I am studying how temperature influences the native bee community in Raleigh. In some areas, I put up bundles of bamboo to sample which bees will nest there. Most bees are solitary, unlike honey bees or yellow jackets, so they are mild tempered. You can even put up bundles […]

My Favorite Actor

I’ve seen some incredible organisms over the years, but one of my favorite critters is the eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos), a stocky snake found throughout the open woods and dry fields of the eastern US.

One reason that the hognose really captures my attention is its elaborate series of anti-predator displays. First they inflate their bodies and hiss loudly. If still annoyed, they may spread the nape of their neck creating a ‘hood’, much like a cobra. At this point they might also gape their mouths widely and make lunging strikes at the attacker. If these fail to deter a […]

By | June 30th, 2014|Nature in Your Backyard, Video|1 Comment

Meet Your Muddy Microbes!

Check out this exciting citizen science opportunity coming up at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences on June 5!

Have you ever wondered what gives dirt its distinctive smell? Or what that fuzzy stuff growing in the soil of your houseplant is? Come see (and smell) for yourself in this special opportunity for citizen scientists on Thursday, June 5, from 5-9p at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences!

You’ll get to work alongside Dr. Julie Urban and Dr. Julia Stevens in the Museum’s Instrumentation Lab to grow the microbes from your own backyard.

We’ll be opening the doors to the Instrumentation […]

By | May 28th, 2014|Education, Events, Nature in Your Backyard|0 Comments

Where Does Our Trash Go?

Each day we throw away our trash, but once it leaves our hands, where does it go?

Last semester, Rob Dunn’s Community Ecology of Humans class tackled this question and a number of other questions about the waste generated by humans and the process by which it breaks down (called decomposition). Graduate students Ryann Rossi and Shannon Brown were particularly interested in the transport of waste to the final location where it decomposes. They led the in-class research team that generated the figure above. Here’s what they had to say about the figure:

We know trash is moved around, and yet we […]

By | May 21st, 2014|Student Features, Urban Ecology|1 Comment

Your House is Full of Flies

Today we have a guest post from Dr. Michelle Trautwein, the investigator-in-chief for the Arthropods of Our Homes project. Two years have gone by since our team of entomologists poked around the light fixtures and floorboards of 50 homes in the greater Raleigh area, but we think it’s been worth the wait. Below Michelle reveals some of the findings, now that we have (FINALLY) finished identifying all of the arthropod specimens collected.

In my bathroom right now there is a spider under a glass jar. He is one of the lucky ones. I operate a spider relocation program, […]

By | May 13th, 2014|Arthropods|1 Comment

The Secret Life of the American Tortoiseshell

In many ways having cats is similar to raising teenagers. They are the reason that we can’t own nice things (RIP leather couch, house plants and shoelaces). We give them all of our love, and in return they sometimes acknowledge us. They insist on their independence while depending on us for food and shelter.

And like teens, we may think we know what goes on when our cats leave the house, but once we send them into the world they could be up to anything. Cat Tracker — the newest project from Your Wild Life — uses GPS technology to […]

By | May 6th, 2014|Cat Tracker, Participate|2 Comments

The Wild Life of Chimpanzee Nests

We share a lot with you, dear readers. Some might say too much (ahem, the plight of our own armpit bacteria, for example). Yet believe it or not, we don’t share quite everything. Sometimes we’re working behind the scenes, out of the public eye, cooking up a new project, developing a nugget of an idea or cultivating a collaboration. Sometimes it takes awhile to get these new things organized, to gather all the ingredients, to slowly bring the collaboration or project to a boil, to get an idea to a stage where it’s ready for public consumption. It may […]

By | April 15th, 2014|Arthropods, Homes, Projects, Wild Life of Our Home|0 Comments

Backyard Bees

**Entomology graduate student April Hamblin will be studying bees in backyards across Raleigh this summer, and she’s looking for folks to volunteer their yards as field sites. Read on to learn about her study and how you can get involved!**

One of my happiest childhood memories is sitting on the back porch at my grandmother’s house, enjoying a fresh slice of watermelon, slopping the seeds down my shirt, watching the birds pick blackberries from the bushes across the street. I didn’t know then that the birds and I relied on pollination for much of our food, but I did know that […]

Nature in Your Backyard: O Christmas Trees!

**Today’s installment of Nature in Your Backyard is brought to you by Madeleine Gonzalez, a senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. She’s a student in the Science Communication Seminar, led by NCSSM Dean of Science, Dr. Amy Sheck.**

I grew up in Jefferson, a small town in western North Carolina that you probably haven’t noticed, but one who’s main agricultural product you most certainly have. Jefferson, you see, is a leading producer of live Christmas trees.

In fact, from my childhood backyard, you can see rows and forests of Fraser fir and white pine trees. They […]

By | January 24th, 2014|Nature in Your Backyard, Student Features|0 Comments

Out of This World: An educator reflects on space, climate change and the NASA Social

Last week we were jazzed to learn that one of our favorite local educators, Kristin Bedell, was participating in the NASA Social in Pasadena, California. Below she shares her experience and reflects on how it transformed her thinking (and teaching) about science.

Photo credit: Kristin Bedell Photo credit: Kristin Bedell

A minister, an astronautical engineer, and a professional skateboarder walk into a room.

It must be a NASA Social.

On September 25, 2013, I received the modern-day geek equivalent of a Golden Ticket: an email inviting me to a […]

By | November 12th, 2013|Education|2 Comments

Science + Art = SciArt!

Dr. Eleanor and friends have a fun new blog called Buzz Hoot Roar. In each post, they explain a scientific concept that interests or excites them (for example, the best thing about baby ants) in 300 words or less, and then work with graphic artists to illustrate it in a snazzy, jazzy way. We’re SUPER FANS and think you should be too – Below, Dr. Eleanor explains why she’s melding science and art together in this really cool and innovative way.

Ever since the folks in the Middle Ages revolutionized medicine by peeking into corpses, scientists have appreciated […]

By | November 6th, 2013|Explainer, Reading List, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments