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|6 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

What does the climate in Minnesota have in common with the climate in Arizona?

We’re continuing to explore new climate data collected inside and outside homes across the United States. Starting in March 2013, 50 participants in the Wild Life of Our Homes project kindly installed small data loggers inside and outside their home to record temperature and humidity.

We recently downloaded the first three months of collected data, and with each new pass at the data, we’re finding interesting relationships and patterns. Check out this new figure produced by Lauren Nichols:
March_April Temp Indoor vs Outdoor
Here you can see the average March-April temperature inside […]

By | August 23rd, 2013|Explainer, Indoor Evolution, Wild Life of Our Home|2 Comments

The Climate Inside

Our houses modify the climate around them. In great densities, our houses and other buildings can change weather patterns. Urbanization increases temperatures. It can also affect storms. Atlanta, Georgia actually causes lightning to form that would not otherwise exist. If one wanted evidence that we were messing with Zeus, this seems to be it. Cities change the weather outside, but what about the weather inside?

A single house on its own can create new climate conditions, conditions far different from those outside the front door (We love to be comfortable). But just how different? Ecologists have spent centuries characterizing the […]

By | August 5th, 2013|Explainer, Homes, Projects|1 Comment

An Important Question From a Citizen Scientist

In this post, our School of Ants guru Lauren Nichols answers a recent query from a family participating in SOA.

“Can you tell me why it’s important to collect data on these ants?” — Shelli & Son

This is a simple question we received by email last week from a family participating in School of Ants. I have to admit, I actually scanned our entire website, certain that we must have answered this in writing somewhere. Needless to say, I couldn’t find it – somehow we managed to overlook addressing this Very Important Question. I started crafting a brief response, and […]

By | August 2nd, 2013|ants, Explainer, Projects|0 Comments

Lessons for Students

Earlier in the week, Rob posted an open letter to the high school students who visited the lab to participate in a research opportunity studying face mites.

He reflected on how his teenage self perceived science, and how far off that perception was from the science he lives and breathes now.  Go read it, if you haven’t already – he shares some important reminders for all of us, even those well beyond our teenage years.

Later on Twitter, Rob asked other scientists what they might say to the teenage version of themselves about a career in science.

Here’s a collection of […]

Taking a Closer Look at the Dog Data

A few weeks ago we announced the publication of our first research paper from the Wild Life of Our Homes project, based on microbial data collected by 40 citizen households in North Carolina.

One of the most interesting findings in this paper was that the presence or absence of a dog in a home explained nearly half of the variation in the bacterial composition on the pillows and TV screens in the houses we studied.

As Rob explained in a recent blog post, the pillows in dog homes tended to have bacteria associated with dog mouths (such as spirochetes […]

By | June 7th, 2013|Explainer, Homes, Projects|1 Comment

Cicada Collection Pro-Tips

Today, the Your Wild Life team took a cicada safari to Greensboro to collect some dead cicadas for the Urban Buzz project. We figured we couldn’t ask you all to do the heavy lift, without contributing a few data points ourselves.

And in the process of collecting, we learned a few things:

  1.  As we noted on our first trip to Greensboro, dead cicadas are pretty easy to come by – We had good luck finding them near the edge of yards, close to curbs, and under “mother-lode” trees where emergence had been particularly intense (as evident by piles of […]
By | June 5th, 2013|Explainer, Participate, Projects, Urban Buzz|2 Comments

Dogs Make Me (and You) Wild: Ten Effects of Dogs on Dog People

Yesterday I got a call from the outside
world but I said no in thunder.
I was a dog on a short chain

and now there’s no chain.–Jim Harrison (from “Barking”)

This won’t be big news to you, but some people have dogs, in their houses. Dogs are domesticated wolves. They are wolves capable of spending long days inside on designer pillows, wolves often dressed in ridiculous outfits, wolves in civilization’s trampy clothing. They are no longer wild, yet capable, as anyone knows, of wildness. If I walk around my neighborhood, I see these wolves dragging their people to the park, around the block, […]

Genomics of the Ratopolis

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. Jason Munshi-South, currently an assistant professor of biology at Baruch College, studies the evolution and ecology of vertebrates in New York City.

Every New Yorker has a rat story.  Narrative elements of these tales often include municipal garbage cans or deserted subway platforms, and in the worst cases pant legs or toilets. NYC’s rats are Rattus norvegicus, the Norway or […]

Top 10 ways an ant’s house is similar to your house

When the region of Cappadocia found itself divided between hostile nations, rather than flee, the people decided to dig in. The landscape was composed of soft volcanic rock carved by erosion over millions of years into odd towers and pockmarked cliffs. Taking a cue from the landscape itself, the people of Cappadocia dug fortresses into the rock to escape persecution from the early Romans, and later, hostile Arabs. In some places, these fortresses grew into underground cities that could house thousands of people. Some reached ten levels deep, and they featured kitchens, sleeping quarters, chapels, storage chambers, and vast defense […]

Seeing the Future in the Trees

Over on the EcoIPM blog, Your Wild Life team member, Emily Meineke, has a new blog post describing her research on scale insects, small pest insects that spend most of their lives sucking the juices from willow oaks. Emily, a PhD student working with Steve Frank and Rob Dunn, is the lead author of new research published today in the journal PLOS ONE – their research showed that urban warming causes scale insects living on willow oak to become more abundant in the hot parts of the cities. Check out her post, embedded below:

So easy everyone can do it: How we’re like cave men and ants

**Today, we have a guest post from graduate student, Emily Meineke — Enjoy!**

There was a time when people weren’t so connected. It was a big deal 500 years ago to cross the Atlantic, much less the Pacific. Nowadays you could be in Japan in less than 24 hours with a martini in your hand.

Recently, there have been a lot of new stories about humans being more connected than ever before, but maybe the coolest I’ve heard—I’m an entomologist, get ready—is that being more connected makes us more like ants. The way that we connect to one another through Facebook […]

By | January 25th, 2013|Explainer, Student Features, Video, Your Wild Life Team|3 Comments

Three ways to put the SCIENCE back in Science Fairs

People seem to have different reactions to science fairs: parents may grumble about the mess that will inevitably be made, teachers get overwhelmed by all of the extra planning and the students? The students are excited, and rightfully so! I recently discussed my reflections on judging my first science fair and I can’t get the idea out of my head that there is some way that students (and teachers) can get some good science done at science fairs with a little help from scientists. Here are some ways that science fairs can be improved (and I know our […]

By | January 23rd, 2013|Education, Explainer|4 Comments

Holiday Hitchhikers

As our Arthropods of Our Homes team can attest, your home is a wonderland of arthropod biodiversity. Preliminary analysis of the first 50 homes they sampled in the Raleigh area this summer suggest there are on average 100 species of arthropods per home… More on that to come!

Some of the arthropods one may encounter in the home aren’t really specialists of indoor habitats – they most likely hitchhiked on something brought into the house. For example, aphids often ride along on cut flowers.

And ‘tis no different with the live Christmas tree. Our pal, entomologist Steve Frank, gives […]