Delayed Gratification, Citizen Science and Why You Might Not Have Received an Email about Your Sample Yet

But, If You Are So Willing, You’ll Receive Emails and Updates for the Next 10 Years. Also, Did I Tell You about the Cats?

I do not have any particular predilection for delayed gratification. I can’t watch YouTube videos because I don’t like not being able to control the pace and see where I am going. I don’t like departmental seminars because almost inevitably one can read the paper faster (and get to the good parts) than one can listen to the talk. Actually, this is too meek of a statement. I actually hate departmental seminars. My wife is patient. My […]

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

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 […]

How to turn any dataset into a glowing worm

A few decades ago gene expression, the process by which the code books of genes are turned into proteins, was invisible. It happened in every living thing, but where and when a particular gene was being expressed was a complicated secret nature was reluctant to reveal. Then came Martin Chalfie, who I recently had the great pleasure to meet as part of seminar at North Carolina State University (whereupon he told me this story). Chalfie was studying nematodes, those transparent little worms that dwell in soil, on skin and even in tap water, but are best known for […]

Nature in Your Backyard: The Functional Decorator

The other day I went onto my front porch to admire my duplex neighbors’ Christmas lights. They were the first up on our block and the single string of big lights had a hazy 90’s glow about them. The brightness of the light takes the place of our porch light, but still serves the security purpose of night-time visibility with seasonal grace. I do enjoy functional decorations.

When I turned to walk back inside, I saw the single string of another functional decorator in my neighborhood. Parked right between a goal post of two azalea branches was the barely-visible Cyclosa turbinata, […]

By | December 12th, 2013|Arthropods, Nature in Your Backyard|3 Comments

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.

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

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

Nightmare Creatures [of Your Home & Yard]

What is it about horror movies and monsters that intrigues us so much? I certainly love a good scare and revel in giant, blood-thirsty creatures tearing up naive teens on the big screen. And that’s what Halloween is all about – celebrating the dark side of life (i.e. death). However, I think this love affair with morbidity is the result of us being relatively large animals at the top of the food chain. I guarantee that if we were the size of most insects, horror films would be labeled documentaries. These organisms face monsters we cannot ever imagine.

The following are […]

By | October 31st, 2013|Arthropods, Nature in Your Backyard|3 Comments

Not All the Bugs in Your Home Are Bad

Today we have another in our series of guest posts by participants in the upcoming meeting on indoor evolution at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in June. Corrie Moreau, an Assistant Curator at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, studies the evolution and diversification of ants (as well as the special relationships they have with gut bacteria).

Turtle ant

When people find out that I am an evolutionary biologist working with ants (and the bacteria that live in their guts) they […]

Stories from the Home [Arthropod] Front

I have now finished sorting and identifying critters from 21 of the 50 homes sampled during the Arthropods of Our Homes project. I have seen some extremely interesting specimens, some of which I have never seen out in nature, let alone anticipated finding in homes. Not only did we collect many interesting arthropods, but also some homes have had an extremely diverse fauna – one in particular had over 70 FAMILIES of arthropods in a single common area (including the living room, dining room, hallway, etc.)! Who knows how many species there were? Well, I hope we will […]

Field Notes from the Arthropod Hunters

**Today’s post features Dr. Nancy Brill, a new member of the Arthropods of Our Homes team. Welcome Nancy! You’ll have the opportunity to meet the Arthropods of Our Homes gang and learn more about their exciting project (and see the vials and vials of critters they’ve collected in Raleigh-area homes) at Bugfest 2012, the annual entomological extravaganza hosted by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on Saturday, September 15.**

Several weeks ago I joined the Arthropods of Our Homes team (located at the Nature Research Center in downtown Raleigh) to discover how human behavior and […]

By | September 11th, 2012|Arthropods, Events, Explainer, Projects, Your Wild Life Team|6 Comments

Arthropod Update

*Today post-doc Matt Bertone gives us an update on some of the wild, wonderful and wacky finds the Arthropods of Our Homes team has made in sampling the the project’s first 25 homes.*

For the last couple months I have been crawling around the floors, reaching for the ceilings, and spelunking in the basements (and crawl spaces) of houses to find all the living and dead arthropods that were either just visiting, or had set up permanent, rent-free residence. I have witnessed a mass fly emergence, vast insect graveyards, and countless silk-entangled spider victims. I am ready – and excited […]

By | August 2nd, 2012|Arthropods, Audio, News, Projects, Your Wild Life Team|4 Comments

On Location with the Arthropods of Our Homes Team

This morning I had the opportunity to head to “the field” – that’s what we biologist-types say when we leave the comforts of our offices and labs to do research in the wild.

In this case, “the field” was a local Raleigh area home. I accompanied the Arthropods of Our Homes team on what has become their now daily mission to catalog and uncover the diversity of insects and relatives that cohabitate with us.

Armed with headlamps, forceps, collecting vials, aspirators (essentially a soda-straw like contraption for […]

By | June 26th, 2012|Arthropods, News, Participate, Projects|3 Comments