Getting Sourdough on the Map

A quick update on the Sourdough Project! We are currently up to 300 samples (and counting) and we’ve got a fantastic team of undergraduates working on processing and characterizing our samples:  Kinsey Drake, Nick Kamkari, and Shravya Sakunala.

Kinsey has made a map of our where the starters we currently have (red) and those we are awaiting (blue) based on participants who have filled out the questionnaire.

Tufts undergraduate Kinsey Drake wearing a while lab coat and purple gloves working at the bench in the Wolfe lab. […]

By | February 20th, 2017|Behind the Scenes, Sourdough|15 Comments

What’s your flour type?

Nick Kamkari, Tufts undergraduate, plates out different commercial flours in the Wolfe Lab.

The Wolfe lab has been working to pinpoint just what makes sourdough starters so magical. It turns out that each flour has its own microbial “signature.” Tufts undergraduate Nick Kamkari has been plating out and characterizing different brands of-off-the shelf flours to learn more about what we should expect to find in each starter fed by that flour, to better be able to pinpoint what are the extra (delicious) microbes that make the starters successful. Above is a visual of what […]

By | February 20th, 2017|Behind the Scenes, Sourdough|1 Comment

On Joining the Lab (Boat)

Some people go from early life to death focused on one mystery. This approach, I am told, can be very satisfying. One of my mentors, Carl Rettenmeyer, spent fifty years studying the animals that live with army ants. In this endeavor Carl found enough rewards and mystery to sustain another dozen lives.

Yet while I appreciate (at least in an abstract sense) the fruits of such an approach, it is not for me. My greatest scientific joys come instead from making connections across fields, connections that require me to read about and engage scientists who do work very different from that which […]

By | April 26th, 2015|Behind the Scenes, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

Meet Your Mites: Family Style

Over the last few months, our first cohort of Students Discover Kenan Fellows have been busy in their classrooms piloting and refining the citizen science curricula they co-created with their scientist mentors from the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.

If you dropped by their middle school classrooms, you would have seen students busy collecting and analyzing all sorts of new data. They’ve deployed camera traps in schoolyards to capture the secret lives of urban mammals. They’ve planted dandelions in different soil types and sampled the changes in microbes over time. They’ve scraped oily goop from each other’s faces […]

By | March 11th, 2015|Behind the Scenes, Education, Your Mites|0 Comments

Camel Cricket Poetry

The mail room of a science building is always an interesting place. We receive email notices like, “Your slime mold has arrived!” and “Live crickets in the mail room, no name.” And some days, our mail room is full of beautiful little dead bugs carefully packaged and sent special, just for us. Sometimes the mail room is full of poetry.

Today I opened a package containing both and I had to share [an excerpt]:

On more than one occasion, 
I have briefly observed them in what looked like 
predatory behavior, 
all occurring in the middle of […]

By | December 2nd, 2014|Behind the Scenes, Camel Crickets|2 Comments

45 Things I’ve Learned about Science Since I was a Student

Editor’s note: At Your Wild Life we like to do public science, science in which we open the process of scientific discovery so that you can be a part of it. Sometimes that means citizen science. Other times it means science as art. And then there is today — today we are sharing with you Rob’s thoughts about some of the things no one tells you about being a faculty member, a scholar at a university. Maybe there are some insights in here about broader life, but certainly this list contains insights about the differences between how we imagine discovery […]

By | November 18th, 2014|Behind the Scenes, Explainer|5 Comments

Glowing Ants

Just in time for Halloween, MJ Epps and I have created glowing ants. Like mad scientists, we locked ourselves in our office last week with only the faint glow of a black light escaping under our door. With petri dishes scattered across our desks and our fingers stained with fluorescent dye, we finally ended up with a colony of ants that glowed.

Why glowing ants? We have been trying to figure out what ants eat. What seems like a simple question can be surprisingly difficult to answer for an animal the size of a grain of rice. For a large animal […]

By | October 31st, 2014|ants, Behind the Scenes|2 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

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 yearly […]

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

Students Discover: The second week

Last Friday marked the end of the second week of the Students Discover externship for the 12 incredible Kenan Fellows partnered with four postdocs in the labs at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. This past week continued to provide authentic scientific experiences for the teacher-scientists as they delved further into their research. Each group started on creating citizen science-focused lesson plans and even began testing them with museum visitors!

As an added bonus I had a chance to join #TeamDirt (the group developing lesson plans based around dandelions and soil microbes) and #TeamPaleo (think fossilized shark tooth crime […]

By | July 14th, 2014|Behind the Scenes, Education|0 Comments

Students Discover: The first week

If you’ve been following our Twitter feed this past week, you may have noticed some new faces that have popped up on our team (if you haven’t, there’s a handy Storify at the end of this post to catch you up!) We’ve been joined by 12 outstanding Kenan Fellows at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. They are embedded teacher-scientists, our first cohort of Students Discover Fellows, learning and doing science alongside our very enthusiastic team of researchers. Last week, the Fellows hit the ground running, on the trails of the Prairie Ridge Ecostation and behind the […]

By | July 8th, 2014|Behind the Scenes, Education|1 Comment

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 […]