Navel-gazing in NYC

We’re headed back to the Big Apple this week – this time, not in search of ants, but BELLY BUTTONS.

We’re launching a new research project investigating how belly button microbes – and skin microbes more generally – produce chemical signals, particularly odors, that may signal our attractiveness to mosquitoes.

And so we need a few good belly button samples. We’ll use those samples to study the composition of microbes, the odors they produce, and their relative attractiveness to mosquitoes (Literally, we’ll present the samples to actual mosquitoes in a snazzy set-up in the lab of our NCSU […]

By |November 3rd, 2014|Belly Button Biodiversity, Events|0 Comments

Humans vs. Ants

This past weekend was BugFest at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh. The Your Wild Life team was on-location, chatting with visitors about our various arthropod-themed citizen science projects, including School of Ants, Camel Cricket Census and Meet Your Mites. As a special treat, Dr. Amy Savage led a version of the Ant Picnic experiment in the rain garden of the Nature Research Center.

In addition to showing off live insects and mites, we couldn’t resist asking festival attendees about their experiences with ants and how ant […]

By |September 23rd, 2014|ants, Events, Video|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

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

Wowing Washington with Wild Life!

Last weekend (April 25-27, 2014), we took our wild brand of citizen science on the road to Washington, DC, to participate in the USA Science and Engineering Festival, the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and math in the country.

We enjoyed meeting and engaging 325,000 students, teachers, parents and enthusiastic science enthusiasts in conversations about the biodiversity in their daily lives — from camel crickets in their basements to the ants in their backyards. Drs. Roland Kays and Stephanie Schuttler added some “backbone” to our exhibit by sharing awesome camera trap photos of backyard […]

Your Wild Life Heads to Washington!

This weekend (April 25-27, 2014), hundreds of thousands of students and science enthusiasts will swarm the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the Nation’s Capital for the USA Science & Engineering Festival.

Your Wild Life will join over 700 other exhibitors for 3-days of non-stop science awesomeness that include thousands of hands-on activities and over a hundred different stage shows (including performances by our friend, Science Comedian Brian Malow).

Come find us in the NSF & Friends Pavilion (Exhibit Hall A, Booth 423) – Meet and greet the ants and camel crickets that call your backyard and […]

The Odor of the Odorous House Ant

This past weekend at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences annual BugFest, we convinced a couple hundred people to sniff ants. We started off light, with a bouquet of lemon and citrus from the citronella ant, Lasius claviger. Then we plowed ahead, shoving an angry carpenter ant under the nose of anyone who would take it to demonstrate the acrid, vinegar smell of formic acid. If the participant was still with us, we moved onto our main quarry: the odorous house ant.

First, I have to admit that through this entire exercise I had an ulterior […]

By |September 26th, 2013|ants, Events, Participate, Projects|7 Comments

You haven’t forgotten, have you?

Back in February, we issued a call for help. As Dr. Eleanor had keenly observed while researching species for her Book of Common Ants, Forelius pruinosus, a very common North American ant with a big personality, had NO common name. Unacceptable! Especially given that so many other common ants have interesting and descriptive monikers: big-headed ant, carpenter ant, thief ant, and the like.

We solicited your suggestions on our blog and in-person during outreach events at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. And WOW! The suggestions really rolled in — We were so impressed […]

By |July 19th, 2013|ants, Events, Participate, Projects|1 Comment

Countdown to Indoor Evolution Meeting

We’re getting REALLY excited about the upcoming meeting on the Evolution of the Indoor Biome. Thirty scholars representing many disciplines  — from art and anthropology to epidemiology, and entomology — will convene June 10-13 in Durham, NC, at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Their charge: To develop concepts and a suite of preliminary hypotheses to frame our understanding of the evolution of the species we spend the most time alongside in the domestic environment (whether those species be microbes or fungi, arthropods, vertebrates or plants).

Over the last few weeks we’ve tried to pique your interest in the evolution […]

By |June 6th, 2013|Events, Indoor Evolution, Reading List|0 Comments

Buzzing about cicadas: Launching a new project!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve watched and envied reports and photos coming from those of you living within the emergence zone of Brood II 17-year periodical cicadas (from Georgia to Connecticut). We even traveled westward to witness the magical Magicicada spp. in action in Greensboro, North Carolina (as our own backyard in Raleigh is too far east of the emergence zone). We encouraged you to report your observations of emergence online to help out other cicada researchers.

And yet, we felt something was missing. We were hungry to do some cicada-related public science. But what?

We […]

By |May 31st, 2013|Events, News, Participate, Urban Buzz, Your Wild Life Team|2 Comments

Time to Meet Your Mites!

May we scrape your face for SCIENCE?

I imagine this is not a question one generally expects to be asked when visiting his or her friendly neighborhood natural history museum.

And yet it’s one we’ve asked on a fairly regular basis during public outreach events over the last few months at the Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

You would be AMAZED (I know I have been) at the number of enthusiastic volunteers who have stepped right up to participate, curious to learn a something about the tiny organisms that call their pores home.

In January 2013, we […]

By |May 17th, 2013|Events, Participate, Projects, Video, Your Mites|9 Comments

The Unresolved Mysteries of the Mold in Your House

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. Rachel Adams is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California at Berkeley who studies the dispersal of fungal spores into homes.

In the early 1940s, the promise of the drug penicillin far exceeded its production. Scientists were on a quest to find a strain of the penicillin producing fungus, Penicillium, that would produce more of the “mold juice.” In the most rotten citizen science project ever to be staged, […]

How Wild is New York City? Reflections from ScioTeen

Today we have a guest post from Andrew Collins. We met Andrew while doing fieldwork on the streets of NYC and have been impressed by the innovative work he’s doing to improve student engagement in science research and conservation. Andrew recently attended ScienceOnline Teen, and shares his experience below. Enjoy!

Beaver! Fox! They called out. An Owl! Looks like a Coyote! As the camera trap videos continued to play, more and more species took form. Yet while the students alertly watched on, listing one wild animal after another, we sat patiently … waiting to reveal a secret.

By |April 29th, 2013|Education, Events, Projects, Urban Ecology|1 Comment

The secret (and ancient) lives of houseplants

Today we have a guest post by Laura Jane Martin, a participant in the upcoming meeting on indoor evolution at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in June. Laura is a writer and PhD candidate at Cornell University, where she researches the ecology and conservation of wetland plants. Follow her new blog: https://sedges.wordpress.com/

My local coffee shop is populated with potted plants. The four closest to my favorite table are Zanzibar gem, bamboo palm, jade, and pothos – species from eastern Africa, Madagascar, South Africa, and China.

People have grown plants in pots for centuries, but it’s only recently […]

The Future of Domestic and Urban Evolution

Man, it totally happens.

Evolution happens everywhere at every moment. It happens in your refrigerator. It happens in your stomach. It is happening right now under your couch and in your eaves. Evolution gave us the marvels of the Galapagos Islands and also, of course, the terror of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Evolution happens independent of belief. It happens; but it happens some places more rapidly than others.

A number of things can speed up the rate of evolution. These include the availability of resources, how sharp and non-random death’s sickle is, and the fragmentation of populations. Make food ample, life hard and isolation […]

By |April 12th, 2013|Events, Homes, Indoor Evolution, Participate|7 Comments