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Democratizing the Study of Ants

Across the world, ants are among the first animals children learn to recognize. They are diverse, abundant, and ecologically important from the tops of canopy trees to the soil underfoot and from tropical rainforests to deserts and even backyards and playgrounds.

It may surprise you, then, to hear that we know very little about even the identity of those ant species that live closest to us – those sharing our cities and eating our discarded food. As a scientist, I’m fascinated about the lives of city ants and how they affect diversity and ecosystem services where people live and work. […]

By |July 7th, 2014|ants, News|1 Comment

It’s official! Meet the high noon ant!

Yesterday, we received word from the Entomological Society of America that the ant, Forelius pruinosus, now officially has a common name: the high noon ant!

Our quest to help Forelius pruinosus, a very common North American ant with a big personality but NO common name began last February. While working on her Book of Common Ants, Dr. Eleanor felt sorry for these little ladies. Forelius pruinosus lacked the name-pizzazz of other common species; it desperately needed a more interesting and descriptive moniker to bring it into the same league as the big-headed ant, carpenter ant, […]

By |December 4th, 2013|ants, Education, News|0 Comments

Introducing Myrmex: A Comic Ant-thology

Science and education are at their core acts of storytelling. Nature tells her story to scientists and scientists in turn share Nature’s stories with the world. Whether it is a tropical biologist trekking through a swamp-filled jungle or an astronomical physicist peering off at a faraway galaxy, scientist-storytellers allow us to feel the thrill of discovery and learn vicariously through their experiences.

page2 copy copyToday we are very excited to launch Myrmex: A Comic Ant-thology. Our team of educators, scientists, and illustrators, set out on this project to achieve one […]

By |October 7th, 2013|ants, Education, News, Participate, Projects, Your Wild Life Team|3 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 […]

By |May 31st, 2013|Events, News, Participate, Urban Buzz, Your Wild Life Team|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 […]

We’re excited about the NC Science Festival and think you should be too!

Today (April 5) marks the kick off the NC Science Festival, a statewide (as in 500-mile wide!) celebration of all things science in North Carolina.

Our state’s science festival is special because it lasts 16 DAYS, with over 300 science-themed events taking place at museums, community colleges, universities, parks, libraries and businesses across the state.

Your Wild Life is thrilled to be participating in a number of NC Science Festival events online and in the Raleigh-Durham area – We hope you can join us!

We’re kicking things off tomorrow […]

By |April 5th, 2013|Events, News, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

Lettuce eat microbes

Last week, Jonathan Leff and Noah Fierer, our colleagues at the University of Colorado at Boulder with whom we’re collaborating on the Wild Life of Our Homes project, published new research about the microbial communities living on fresh fruit and vegetables. Their study was the first to assess the diversity of non-pathogenic bacteria living on eleven types of produce, including lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, strawberries, apples, peaches and grapes. Using many of the same genetic techniques we’ll be using in the home microbe study, they assessed what microbes are living on the surfaces of common produce […]

By |April 1st, 2013|News, Q & A|1 Comment

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 […]

Manhattan Meet-ups

Elsa Youngsteadt and I have been setting up urban ecology experiments in New York City for the past week– we have another week to go (and are psyched two reinforcement researchers arrived on Sunday!). Doing research in the Big Apple has been both a little bit challenging and a whole lotta fun.

Elsa and I have gotten very adept at getting the stepladder through a subway turnstile and have only occasionally stepped onto the wrong train. And it’s been a little brisk temperature-wise (not quite […]

By |March 18th, 2013|Feature, News, Projects, Urban Ecology, Your Wild Life Team|1 Comment

Forelius naming contest update!

 

Wow! When I sat down to compile a complete list of all of our submissions for our ant naming contest, I had no idea how many creative, hilarious and thoughtful suggestions there would be from our citizen scientists! We had so many wonderful submissions from scientists, Darwin Day museum visitors, blog commenters, entire elementary school classrooms and teachers. It has been entirely too much fun to sift through all of the names and reasons for giving Forelius pruinosus a creative common name. So while we spend some time sorting through the submissions so that we may put it […]

By |February 28th, 2013|ants, Events, News, Participate, Projects|1 Comment

For real? Forelius pruinosus doesn’t have a common name?

Today, we have a new challenge for you. It’s rather a fun one. If you don’t think so, then you can blame Dr. Eleanor (of the Common Book of Ants fame).

You see, as Dr. Eleanor was writing a new chapter about the ant, Forelius pruinosus, she took note that this very common, dare we say ubiquitous, ant had no common name. It lacked a snazzy moniker to set it apart from all the other common ants with interesting and descriptive names – ants like the big-headed ant, the carpenter ant, or the thief ant.

And […]

By |February 15th, 2013|ants, Events, News, Participate, Projects|71 Comments

Invisible names

Maybe it has something to do with the excessive amounts of matching and memory games I played as a tot. Or why flash cards have always been a go-to study aid (even for remembering the names of students in lab sections I taught in grad school).

I like knowing names. I like using names. Whether it’s a wildflower I spot on a nature walk or a person I bump into at a Science Café. And it kills me when I know a name, but can’t recall it. Or worse yet, when I use the wrong name.

It could also just be […]

By |January 9th, 2013|News, Reading List, Stories of Your Wild Life|0 Comments

Evolutionary Biology of the Built Environment Working Group: Call for Participants

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The Basics: We need your help. We are organizing the first working group aimed at understanding the evolutionary biology of the built environment—our bedrooms, our houses, our backyards and our cities. This working group will occur June 10 – 14, 2013, in Durham, North Carolina. We are now inviting applications for participants in the working group.

Why: As recently as one hundred thousand years ago the indoor environment did not exist. Yet, this is now where most humans spend the majority of their life. […]

By |January 8th, 2013|Events, News, Participate|1 Comment

Honoring a scientific revolutionary

Sad news spread throughout the scientific community as 2012 came to a close.

Biophysicist and evolutionary microbiologist Carl Woese died on December 30, 2012. In 1977, Woese discovered a whole new domain of life (the archaea), shaking up our understanding of the evolutionary tree and establishing that all life on earth was related.

Rob wrote about Woese in his book, Every Living Thing, and has re-posted the chapter about Woese in tribute. He writes:

Thank you Carl Woese. Thank you for rearranging the evolutionary tree, that we might see, […]

By |January 1st, 2013|News, Reading List|1 Comment

Fire Ants: A prize-winning graphic novella

A few months ago, our School of Ants team challenged students of myrmecology (translation: the study of ants) to write essays about the coolest things they’ve seen, read or studied about ants. The goal? Inspire the next generation of kids to look more closely at ants, to understand them and appreciate the richness of life around us.

And WOW! We received a huge number of submissions from an impressive bunch of writers, artists, dreamers, ant enthusiasts, and of course scientists!

We’ll be sharing these essays and artwork over the coming weeks – But today we’re psyched to share the […]

By |November 29th, 2012|ants, News, Projects, Stories of Your Wild Life|1 Comment