About Lauren Nichols

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So far Lauren Nichols has created 11 blog entries.

The Pump of Youth

What is the secret to a long life? The heartbeat of some animals may hold a clue.

Studies have concluded that mammals get about a billion heartbeats per lifetime. They can use them at a rate of a thousand per minute, like the shrew, or space them out into slow, ponderous beats, over many years, as is the case for the grey whale. But there are notable exceptions. Some species get more than their fair billion beats. The extent to which these species live beyond a billion beats must depend, in part, upon unique features of their biology. Whatever these features […]

By | February 2nd, 2015|Books, Hearts, Participate, Projects|0 Comments

BioBlitz at the New York Botanical Gardens

How many plant, mammal or invertebrate species live in the New York Botanical Garden? While it seems like there should be a straightforward answer – it is a well-known, carefully maintained and studied garden, after all – the truth is, nobody really knows. Along with the plants and animals that are deliberately planted, maintained and tracked, there are a slew of other organisms, including other plants, insects, fungi, mammals and microbes that might take up residence without being noticed, even in such a well-visited garden.

To try to tackle this question, more than 400 Macaulay Honors College students and […]

By | October 13th, 2014|ants, Behind the Scenes, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Behind the Science: Ants and Ecologists on Broadway

When contemplating all the picky eaters of the world, I bet ants probably aren’t the first organisms that come to your mind. And yet ants and their food preferences are exactly what post-doctoral researchers Amy Savage and Clint Penick set out to study in New York City. Next time you’re in a big city like New York, take a break from looking up at the skyscrapers and look down at the ground. You’ll see what city ants encounter on a daily basis — an abundance of human food scraps: bits of hot dogs, chunks of pizza crust, candy […]

By | October 1st, 2014|ants, Behind the Scenes, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Behind the Science: Painting ants and cracking acorns

Stepping into the lab last week, you would have no idea that the summer — for our undergraduates, at least — is winding to an end and that the academic school year is about to start. Last Tuesday I found Joe Karlik and Hanna Moxley, both rising seniors, busy running research trials and starting new experiments in the lab.

Joe Karlik has been trying to figure out why Temnothorax curvispinosus (also known as acorn ants) often stick their larvae and pupae, known as “brood,” to the roof of the acorns nuts in which they live. Why hang […]

By | August 19th, 2014|ants, Behind the Scenes, Student Features|0 Comments

Behind the Science: A Meeting of Scientists and their Mites at Evolution 2014

Once a year, thousands of evolutionary biologists, students, and educators from all around the world converge on a single city for the annual Evolution meeting. The Evolution meeting is jointly hosted by three professional scientific societies: the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE), the Society of Systematic Biologists (SSB), and the American Society of Naturalists (ASN). Scientific meetings like Evolution provide an opportunity for the scientific community to come together to share ideas and research findings — formally through talks and poster presentations and informally at evening socials and in pubs and restaurants, where these scientific ideas are […]

By | July 2nd, 2014|Behind the Scenes, Events, Your Mites|0 Comments

Behind the Science: Sorting out the murky affair between scale insects, ants, red maples and climate change

This week I followed researcher Elsa Youngsteadt and her undergrad assistant Danielle Schmidt, members of Steve Frank’s lab in the NC State Entomology Department, into the field. When I arrived at their field site, I found each holding a leaf and staring at it so intensely that I first thought they were under some sort of spell. As it turns out, they were focused on counting tiny scale insect nymphs.

Elsa and Danielle are studying how scale insects — a common pest on trees — might benefit from climate change.  Scale insects may do better under climate change simply […]

Behind the Science: Collecting Carpenter Ant Colonies

This week, armed with hatchets, plastic containers and tweezers, Your Wild Life post docs MJ Epps and De Anna Beasley set out to collect carpenter ant colonies nesting in logs. Ants are susceptible to all kinds of diseases, especially those caused by fungi. MJ and De Anna will use the colonies they collected to study how climate change might affect the ants’ immune response to disease as well as disease transmission within the colonies.  You can check out more photos from the field trip and other scenes from around the lab this week in our new

By | May 23rd, 2014|ants, Behind the Scenes, Global Change|0 Comments

Nature In Your Backyard: The Illusive Ant of Winter

When most other ants go underground for the winter to wait for warmer months, Stenamma impar emerges to lurk throughout the forest. Stenamma is the second most abundant ant in the Duke Forest during the winter months, and yet, it’s nearly impossible to find.  Not to be confused with the gregarious and conspicuous Winter Ant (Prenolepis imparis) which also come out in the winter, Stenamma are small, forage mostly at night, and are fantastic at playing dead. Searching for Stenamma is like an impossible edition of “Where’s Waldo?”: it feels as though every fleck of dirt was […]

By | February 3rd, 2014|ants, Nature in Your Backyard|2 Comments

Why Western Tanzania Might Feel Something Like Home

Does your living room floor have more in common with a prairie grassland or a desert?  Are our basements really just urban versions of caves?

As we explore the life that coexists with us in our houses, we begin to think of our homes as ecosystems. With our thermostats, fans and insulated windows, we are creating a distinct habitat within our homes. But what kind of habitat are we creating, exactly? Are there natural, wild places on Earth that share similar climate conditions to those we are creating inside our houses?

We are currently trying to figure this out! Using data […]

By | January 22nd, 2014|Global Change, Homes, Wild Life of Our Home|0 Comments

Arthropod Photo Shoot… in Belize!

Lauren Nichols recently attended the BugShot Insect Photography Course in Belize this past September and came home with some spectacular photographs (and stories).  She was shooting photos of arthropods non-stop over the course of a week – even, as you’ll read below, at the airport! Expect to see more of Lauren’s work featured on the blog in coming days, joining that of our other photographer superstars, Alex Wild and Matt Bertone.

How many insects can you find and photograph in a median strip outside the Belizean airport in 20 minutes?

This was the spur-of-the-moment challenge I issued myself when […]

By | November 5th, 2013|Arthropods, Feature, Urban Ecology, Your Wild Life Team|3 Comments

If you give an ant a cookie

**Today we have a guest post from Lauren Nichols about the School of Ants project. Enjoy!**

When you start a large-scale project to map the diversity of ants across the United States, there is a certain amount of uncertainty involved.  Will anyone send us ant samples?  Will we manage to collect ants from across a variety of cities?  Will a sampling scheme as simple as putting out cookie crumbs and collecting whatever shows up for a mid-afternoon snack actually allow us to collect a diversity of ant species?

I must admit, I’m a bit of a skeptic.

Fortunately, immediately after the launch of […]

By | February 21st, 2013|ants, Participate, Projects, Your Wild Life Team|1 Comment