Evolution of the Indoor Biome

There is something living in the north-facing wall of our apartment. My partner and I have narrowed it down to an organism in the phylum Chordata; though we have not seen the thing, we are fairly certain it has a backbone. It likes to make squeaking or cawing noises at 4 a.m. Sometimes the noises make it seem very small, like a house mouse, and sometimes the noises make it seem very large, like a well-nourished raccoon. Or perhaps it is a bird. Perhaps it is a new, awesome bird species.

We know so little about the organisms that live with […]

By | March 16th, 2015|Arthropods, Homes, Indoor Evolution, News, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

7 cool facts about drain flies and their kin

Over the last few days, we’ve received a few notes and photos (see above) from folks describing fuzzy, moth-like flies flitting about their kitchen or bathroom. So we turned to our favorite bug guru, Matt Bertone, for the inside scoop:

1. Flies in the family Psychodidae (particularly the subfamily Psychodinae) are often called moth flies or drain flies. The former name comes from the covering of hairs and scale-like hairs that give these flies the appearance of a fuzzy little moth (which can be confusing to non-entomologists). The latter name comes from one of their most familiar habitats […]

By | September 10th, 2014|Arthropods, Indoor Evolution, Nature in Your Backyard|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

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

Not All the Bugs in Your Home Are Bad

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. Corrie Moreau, an Assistant Curator at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, studies the evolution and diversification of ants (as well as the special relationships they have with gut bacteria).

Turtle ant

When people find out that I am an evolutionary biologist working with ants (and the bacteria that live in their guts) they […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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