The Wild Life of Columbus

The untold story of the species that stowed away on Columbus’s ship and how they have since changed the world.

Columbus sailed to the Caribbean in 1492. On that landmark voyage, and in subsequent trips, he was not alone. On his small ships, he was with other sailors, as well as a wilderness of other species quietly stowed away. We don’t usually think of the ships as wilderness. In fact, the travels of some of the species Columbus and later conquistadors brought with them from Europe to the Americas, are well studied. They brought, we know, terrible pathogens to which […]

By | February 2nd, 2016|Arthropods, Feature, Homes, Stories of Your Wild Life|1 Comment

Announcement: 6 to 100 Hires in Public Science

[Positions listed at the end of this post]

By the time the potato murrain arrived in Ireland scholars had already begun to explain its cause: a blight, a water mold. They had also begun to explore ways to mitigate the effects of the potato blight through shifts in the timing of planting and harvest and strict quarantines. In addition, some farmers had noticed a way to control the blight through the use of copper sulfate (which is still used). But in this moment, the voice of the scientists was too quiet and the willingness of the scientists to listen to those in the public who […]

By | September 24th, 2015|Feature, Jobs|2 Comments

Life at the Margins

Some discoveries and innovations come from big labs funded incredibly well by governments in affluent countries. They come from those in the mainstream, freighters plowing ahead, forward, straight, with ever better technologies and ever, larger groups of young minds. I tend to write about the other discoveries, the insights and revelations made by the folks at the edge of this mainstream, those in the oxbows and edge riffles.

Even in the era of “big science,” discovery still depends on folks at the margin, folks far enough on the outside to see what others are missing. Often these individuals do not have […]

By | February 19th, 2015|Books, Feature, Hearts, Stories of Your Wild Life|0 Comments

Tracking Turtles with Juliana Thomas

“We were tracking turtles today!” Juliana Thomas immediately and enthusiastically tells me after I asked her how her day was going; “We’ve never tracked them during the winter before. We don’t know what they’re doing.” Her turtle earrings, almost a perfect tiny replicate of the Eastern Box turtle, sway side to side as she uses her hands to describe the work of her students.

Since 2007 (over eight years at the time of this writing) Juliana’s sixth graders, along with the Centennial Center for Wildlife Education, has been working to track Eastern Box turtles using non-invasive telemetric […]

By | February 9th, 2015|Education, Feature|0 Comments

The True and Deadly Story Behind My National Geographic Article on the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Four years ago I went to the Gulf of St. Lawrence to write the story of a place, a giant body of water in which the history of North America has steeped. It is a place of wild beauty, indigenous heritage and exploitation. I wrote about the Gulf in general, but particularly about the history of its harvest, an exhaustible bounty of cod, seals, whales, lobsters and now, it appears, oil. I wrote about what I already knew, what I read, and what I learned when I traveled to the Gulf. But there was more, something I missed, a […]

By | June 9th, 2014|Feature, Reading List|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

Are there bark beetles in your backyard?

This past week we reconnected with Jiri Hulcr, resident Forest Entomologist at the University of Florida (and Dunn lab alum) who has just recently launched Backyard Bark Beetles – a new citizen science project that you can participate in now!  

The Backyard Bark Beetles project initially underwent some trials in Florida and Missouri over the summer and is now ready to roll-out to the rest of the country! The concept is familiar (if you’ve participated in the School of Ants); the citizen scientist creates a low-cost insect trap out of household materials, collects […]

By | October 1st, 2013|Feature, Nature in Your Backyard, Participate, Projects, Q & A|1 Comment

Meet the Worker Bees: Mack Pridgen of Tar Heel Ants

Our lab has a wonderful habit of keeping people around that like to keep their noses down… and we mean this in a good way! Usually the noses in question are pointed squarely at the ground, trying to get a closer look at what may be crawling about.

Mack Pridgen holds one of his ant nests.Mack Pridgen’s curiosity of ants started young; and when his daughter was two years old she was intrigued by them as well. It’s hard to miss the telltale signs of a curious toddler: knelt down, stick in hand, […]

By | September 25th, 2013|Feature, Your Wild Life Team|2 Comments

Meet the Worker Bees: Q & A with Mary Vincent

Our lab has been buzzing with research activity this summer. We thought it would be fun to sit down with a few of the worker bees — undergraduates, high school interns, and research technicians — to ask them some questions and learn more about their work.

Name: Mary Vincent

Degree: Major in Zoology, Minor in Environmental Sciences

Year in School: Junior

Career Goal: Graduate School, M.S. Genetics

How long have you been working in our lab? 5 months, since March 2013

Mary Vincent swabs ant nests for microbes.

Describe your project/research: I am working for […]

By | August 13th, 2013|Feature, Q & A, Student Features, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

How Many Ants Live in New York City?

by Rob Dunn

Every so often for the last ten years, one of my collaborators, students or I could be seen standing in a median on Broadway, bending over, looking at ants. We looked at the ants, and the people of New York, as is the custom, tried hard to avoid looking at us.  Every so often someone, perhaps an immigrant new to the city and unfamiliar with the rules about eye contact, would give in to temptation and ask, “What are you doing?” We would usually say, “studying ants,” though I will confess that sometimes it was just easier to […]

By | August 7th, 2013|ants, Feature, Stories of Your Wild Life|4 Comments

Meet the Worker Bees: Q & A with Shelby Anderson

Our lab has been buzzing with research activity this summer. We thought it would be fun to sit down with a few of the worker bees — undergraduates, high school interns, and research technicians — to ask them some questions and learn more about their work.

Name: Shelby Anderson

Degree: International Relations and French

Year in school: Post-Baccalaureate

Career goal: Physician

How long have you been working in our lab? 7 months

Describe your project/research: I am currently sorting and identifying arthropods that were collected in New York City, from the medians of Broadway to Central Park. We are currently trying to learn more about […]

By | August 1st, 2013|Feature, Q & A, Student Features, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

Nature in Your Backyard: Five-lined skinks!

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the nature that we observe in our basements, backyards, and neighborhoods.

It started with a poem from Anna Zuiker, a local middle school student, who so kindly let us share her poem about the ecology of her backyard on the blog.

Then a couple weeks ago I posted a short video that I shot while strolling my neighborhood one evening: a beetle (and cockroach) feeding frenzy at an oozing oak tree!

And yesterday, my colleague Jenny Weston in the NC State College of Engineering emailed me a fun series of photos her fiancé took in their […]

#KidsDoScience reprise

School may be out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be thinking about next year’s science fair project.

Today, Adam Hochberg reported on the new science of science fairs, a topic we feel pretty passionate about.  Have a listen — you’ll hear a familiar voice or two in his piece ;)

You may recall that last November, we convened a group of scientists, educators and Twitterati to brainstorm a list of project ideas and experiments where kids had the potential to make real scientific discoveries.

Rather than asking students to demonstrate something we already know (ie, baking […]

By | July 22nd, 2013|Audio, Education, Feature|0 Comments

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:

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 […]

Let Me Introduce You to Your Tiny Neighbors

**Today we have a guest post from the one and only, Dr. Eleanor Spicer Rice, author of the NEW eBook, Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants.**

As a myrmecologist, I’m always intrigued by people’s reactions to ants. From total disinterest to full-on flailing freakout, many people feel an ant is an ant is an ant.

While the faces of these six-legged picnic ruiners might blend together from our giant’s height, the ants surrounding us are incredibly diverse. More than 20,000 ant species crawl around the earth. In North America, nearly 1,000 […]

By | April 15th, 2013|Books, Feature, Projects, Stories of Your Wild Life|0 Comments