Holly Menninger

About Holly Menninger

As Director of Public Science, Holly coordinates our empire of citizen science projects and manages the online science communication here at Your Wild Life. An entomologist by training, she’s a science communicator by passion and practice.

Quiz Time!

Everyone loves a good quiz – even the Buzzfeed variety, you know the kind that you see on Facebook ALL. THE. TIME. The kind of quiz that helps you determine what actor would play you in a movie of your life or what literary couple best represents you and your significant other.

Recently, we’ve seen a couple of quizzes that are not only FUN but, GASP, might provide an opportunity for you to learn something interesting about the biodiversity in your daily life.

Last week, the NY Times Well blog ran a story (written by former post doc and YWL […]

What If God Were a Maggot?

**Today, we’re reposting a story Rob wrote in late 2012, in praise of the decomposers that clean up our world, recycling waste back into life.

 As an added bonus, we’ve asked insect photographer and Your Wild Life contributor, Matt Bertone, to share photos of some of his favorite arthropods that take on the decomposer role in our daily lives, often times inside our homes. Click the photos below to expand.*

What If God Were a Maggot?

Brother of the blowfly… no one gets to heaven without going through you first.” –Yusef Komunyakaa

Sixteen years ago, my wife and I, along with our […]

By | February 27th, 2014|Arthropods, Stories of Your Wild Life|2 Comments

How Many Ants Live in New York City?

Dr. Eleanor has written a book on the most common ants in New York City (based on the work of many citizen scientists in and around the Big Apple participating in our School of Ants project).

After reading the book, we reckon you’ll know a little something about what species live in New York City.

We bet, however, that you haven’t stopped to contemplate exactly how many ants live in the city. We did some quick math based on our research in the medians and parks of the city and known areas of open, green space and determined that […]

By | February 18th, 2014|ants, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

It’s HERE!

Today we are pleased to announce the publication of Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of New York City!

In this new FREE eBook, Dr. Eleanor delights readers young and old with tales of the Big Apple ants most commonly encountered by students participating in the School of Ants project. Her stories of the heroes and villains that tiptoe around the city are brought to life in this interactive new book featuring the vibrant photographs of Alex Wild.


What are you waiting for? Download Dr. Eleanor’s Book […]

By | February 17th, 2014|ants, Books, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

For the Birds

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

For many years now, my dog’s food bowl has been a must-see summer attraction for the various songbirds that roam my neighborhood. It has become a sort of watering hole, to which flocks of everything from woodpeckers to towhees to cedar waxwings find refuge, nourishment, and, of course, the company of fellow birds. Naturally, as […]

By | February 10th, 2014|Nature in Your Backyard, Student Features|0 Comments

Coming Soon…

**NOTE 2/17/2014: Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of New York City is now LIVE — Download your copy of the interactive eBook or pdf today!**

Dr. Eleanor has set her sights on the ants of the Big Apple. Coming soon to Your Wild Life…


Join our mailing list so we can notify you as soon as Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of New York City goes live and is ready to download.


By | February 6th, 2014|ants, Books, Stories of Your Wild Life|0 Comments

Camel Cricket Census Update

Today we’re sharing update #3 for our scientific research paper-in-progress about camel crickets. Over the last year, 150+ households have reported observations and uploaded photos of the ‘sprickets’ they’ve found in homes, sheds and garages. With your help, we’re documenting the distribution of camel cricket species – including a very common, but poorly studied non-native species — across North America.

The map above shows the collection of photo observations or physical specimens through time (Apologies to our friends in Saskatchewan who made observations, but don’t show up on the map; we know you are there!).

Blue […]

By | January 28th, 2014|Camel Crickets|0 Comments

Nature in Your Backyard: Invasion of the Ladybugs

**Today’s installment of Nature in Your Backyard is brought to you by Addie Jackson, 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.**

While at home over winter break, I woke up in the middle of the night to a startling sensation of something crawling on me. After frantically jumping up and turning on enough lights to illuminate my entire front yard, I discovered the source: two ladybugs taking a stroll across my arm.

Ladybugs – particularly a kind called the […]

Spricket Sketch

Our citizen scientists are really the best around, hands down. You are such a thoughtful and creative bunch.

We so appreciate the love notes, holiday mix CDs and other special prizes that have accompanied your sample submissions and observations about the biodiversity in your daily life.

Most recently, we were delighted and surprised while reviewing the latest batch of camel cricket observations.

Rather than uploading a photo, visual artist Suzanne Stryk of southwestern Virginia submitted the lovely sketch above.

She reports:

I’ve seen these crickets in our basement since we moved in this house in 1987.  I rather like them, […]

By | December 24th, 2013|Camel Crickets, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

Seeking NC Middle School Teachers for Students Discover Fellowships

The Kenan Fellows Program is seeking applications from middle school teachers in seven North Carolina school districts for Students Discover fellowships.

The goal of our Students Discover project – funded by a National Science Foundation Math Science Partnership – is to improve science education by engaging middle school students in real scientific research.

Working with scientists at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Students Discover Kenan Fellows will collaboratively develop citizen science projects and related curriculum modules. Fellows will implement these projects and lessons in their classrooms, and will share activities and materials online through our web portal: […]

By | December 20th, 2013|Education|0 Comments

Looking ahead to 2014 — We want to hear from YOU!

Time sure flies when we’re having fun, doesn’t it? With 2013 winding down, we think it’s a good time to pause and take stock of where we’ve been this last year.

A few highlights:

  • We’ve sent hundreds, nay thousands (!), of swabs off to Colorado for DNA sequencing to identify the tiny organisms living on the surfaces of homes. Noah Fierer recently shared an exciting update about those analyses:

We’re now […]

Celebrate World Soil Day

In celebration of World Soil Day (December 5, 2013), we give you a round-up of Your Wild Life posts that in some way extol the wonders of soil and all of the organisms that live in it (microbes, arthropods and more) – Happy reading!

  • Confessions of a Stone Turner – In this piece originally published in National Wildlife Magazine, Rob explains how “planting” rocks in your yard provides a home for subterranean life-forms.

It’s official! Meet the high noon ant!

Yesterday, we received word from the Entomological Society of America that the ant, Forelius pruinosus, now officially has a common name: the high noon ant!

Our quest to help Forelius pruinosus, a very common North American ant with a big personality but NO common name began last February. While working on her Book of Common Ants, Dr. Eleanor felt sorry for these little ladies. Forelius pruinosus lacked the name-pizzazz of other common species; it desperately needed a more interesting and descriptive moniker to bring it into the same league as the big-headed ant, carpenter ant, and […]

By | December 4th, 2013|ants, Education, News|0 Comments

Exciting opportunity in the Genomics and Microbiology Lab at NC Museum of Natural Sciences

As many of you know, we partner with the awesome folks in the Genomics and Microbiology Lab at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences on a number of public science projects: belly button biodiversity, armpit microbes, face mites and soon soil microbes (as part of our new Students Discover education project).

With so much public science and more, they’re looking for a little help on the research and science communication front.

Below is an advertisement for a one-year Research and Outreach Coordinator position – They’re looking for a dynamo with a background in molecular biology, […]

Geeking Out Over Arthropods

This past week, over 3500 scientists who study insects and other arthropods gathered in Austin, Texas, for the Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting. Scientific meetings like this one are important events where scientists share research results, catch up with colleagues, forge collaborations, and learn about new tools and techniques.

Your Wild Life researchers were out IN FORCE at the meeting, talking about our exciting arthropod research in cities and homesClint Penick presented work comparing nutritional differences among ants that live in highly urban habitats like road medians versus wooded areas in parks within New […]

By | November 14th, 2013|Arthropods, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments