The Most Important Map You Will Ever See

and other stories of the biogeography of pathogens

Among the greatest of the unwinnable debates among academics is the place of humans in nature. It is discussed around stumps in the field. It is discussed among philosophers. It is discussed with the knowing thump of a fist. It is discussed among each generation anew. We feel now, so separate, so different from them, the other species, the rest of life.

Of course we depend on the rest of life. Yet are we really still influenced by life’s fates in the way that, say, an oak tree might be? Surely if civilization gets […]

By |November 25th, 2014|Explainer, Reading List|4 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|3 Comments

Good News: We’ve all got mites!

Over the last year and a half, hundreds of you volunteered to have your faces scraped for science. In looking at the contents of your face goop, we’ve uncovered some of the mysteries of the tiny, some might even say charming, arthropod that lives within the hair follicles and glands of your skin — your Demodex mites. Today we’re pleased to announce the publication of our first research paper from the Meet Your Mites project:

Thoemmes MS, Fergus DJ, Urban J, Trautwein M, Dunn RR (2014) Ubiquity and Diversity of Human-Associated Demodex Mites. PLoS ONE 9(8): e106265. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106265

Get […]

By |August 27th, 2014|Explainer, Reading List, Your Mites|1 Comment

Mapping the ants of the world

Several years ago, Benoit Guénard decided that he was interested in knowing where one kind of ant could be found. Another ant biologist asked. Benoit didn’t know. The other ant biologist didn’t know. Benoit is not the sort of person to let a question go unresolved. Questions boil in his brain sometimes and this was one of those kinds of questions.

And so Benoit set about to understand where ants of the genus Formica could be found. But the problem was he did not seem to be able to find an answer and so he set out to systematically go […]

By |August 13th, 2014|ants, Explainer, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

Big Time Teachers, Deep Time Science

It’s been a couple weeks since we parted ways with the tightly knit cohort of Students Discover teacher-scientists. After three weeks of intense training at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, these 12 middle school teachers are ready to make history engaging their students in real scientific research. Three teachers teamed with a researcher from each of four labs in the Nature Research Center to develop a research question that students in their classrooms will help to answer.

In its vision, Students Discover does not lack in grandeur—teachers and museum researchers are working together on the breadth […]

By |August 4th, 2014|Education, Explainer|0 Comments

The Rise of CHARLANTA

Very occasionally, the opportunity arises for a group of people to decide where and how to build a city. In 1792 the legislators of North Carolina confronted such a moment. It had been decided that a new state capital was going to be built and that that state capital should ideally be far from the sea. Without having to worry about the best beachfront property, the legislators found themselves free to prioritize other things. So it was that they decided upon the rule to be used in placing a capital. It should, they concluded after much contemplation, be no […]

By |July 23rd, 2014|Explainer, Global Change, Urban Ecology|3 Comments

I Am Mouse, Hear Me Roar

When Paul showed up at work with that coffee can full of mice babies, I knew I was perched on the zenith of the best day of my life. Okay, sure, it’s pretty sad that he’d accidentally killed their mother and found the orphaned pups living in his air conditioning unit a day or so later. But we’re talking mouse babies here. White-footed mouse babies at that! In a coffee can nest. I took one look at the heartbreakingly tiny, hungry, pink, blind, creatures with those impossibly teensy handfeet and confiscated the coffee can for my keeping.

I rehydrated them and […]

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 […]

Big City Social Life

As urbanization spreads and city structures replace many social insect colonies’ natural habitats, these insects still manage to survive—and even thrive. The secret to their success? A fluid colony structure, which guards against big-city dangers. Here’s to social insect longevity!

 

By |February 25th, 2014|ants, Explainer, Global Change, Urban Ecology, Video|0 Comments

How Staying Social Can Save You in Winter

Winter can be deadly for many of our insect friends, yet, rarely for honeybees. How do they survive winter’s perilously cold temperatures? By staying social!

By |January 13th, 2014|Explainer, Global Change, Nature in Your Backyard, Video|1 Comment

The Art and Science of Life After Chernobyl

At first glance, the insect paintings by Cornelia Hesse-Honegger look no different than the images in a Peterson field guide. The subjects are set against a white background and copied in exact detail. Stare at them long enough, and something seems off. A rumpled wing, or a misplaced antenna. The insects are not merely damaged, claims the artist, but have been mutated by chronic exposure to radiation. For the last 30 years, Hesse-Honegger has been collecting and documenting insects that live in and around Chernobyl, the site of the world’s largest nuclear disaster.

I have admired Hesse-Honegger’s paintings for […]

By |January 6th, 2014|Explainer, Q & A, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

Novel Navel Notes: Get Omphaloskepsisizing!

Speaking of SciArt, the Buzz Hoot Roar folks were so inspired by our own Belly Button Biodiversity that they too started navel gazing.

What are you waiting for? Go check out their Vocabulary Friday post today!

By |November 8th, 2013|Belly Button Biodiversity, Explainer|0 Comments

Science + Art = SciArt!

Dr. Eleanor and friends have a fun new blog called Buzz Hoot Roar. In each post, they explain a scientific concept that interests or excites them (for example, the best thing about baby ants) in 300 words or less, and then work with graphic artists to illustrate it in a snazzy, jazzy way. We’re SUPER FANS and think you should be too – Below, Dr. Eleanor explains why she’s melding science and art together in this really cool and innovative way.

Ever since the folks in the Middle Ages revolutionized medicine by peeking into corpses, scientists have appreciated […]

By |November 6th, 2013|Explainer, Reading List, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

The Biggest Microscope in the World–How do We See the Microbiota Around Us?

In this guest post, Dan Fergus, a researcher at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, picks up where Rob left off in the previous post, explaining how we use genetics and molecular biology to see the invisible life that covers our bodies and homes.

Many of you have participated in one of our microbiome projects, using sterile swabs to collect bacteria and archaea from your pillow, your doorframes, or even your belly button. You then close that swab back in its tube, seal it in an envelope and anxiously wait to learn the identity of […]

By |September 13th, 2013|Explainer, Wild Life of Our Home|5 Comments

The Biggest Microscope in the World

and it is focused on your toilet seat…

My grandmother, Barbara, often talked about growing up in a bedroom that was an observatory. She also, in her telling, sat on Faulkner’s front lawn and listened to him tell stories and swam in a small pond with her siblings while a man with one arm stood guard, shotgun in that one good arm in case he had to shoot a water moccasin. Most of these stories have, amazingly, proven to be true, but the one I could never make sense of was the idea that she grew up sleeping in an observatory, […]

By |September 13th, 2013|Explainer, Stories of Your Wild Life|0 Comments