A Letter to the New Students of Vassar

[Rob has been invited to Vassar to talk to the entering class of students about his book The Wild Life of Our Bodies, but also about our wild lives, theirs, his, those of the future. This is his letter to those students.]

Dear students of Vassar,

Let me begin with a warning. Don’t trust anything a writer says about his or her own family. That said, my grandmother, Barbara, grew up in Oxford, Mississippi. She lived in a room that was meant for an observatory and spent at least some days on William Faulkner’s porch listening to him tell stories to younger […]

By | July 24th, 2016|News|3 Comments

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

A Heart-to-Heart with Rob Dunn

We’re excited for the upcoming release of Rob Dunn‘s new book, The Man Who Touched His Own Heart, on February 3! After taking on the parasites, microbes, mutualists and predators that shape our human selves in his last book, The Wild Life of Our Bodies, Rob has moved on to explore the history and science of our most vital organ, the heart. Get a sneak preview of the book in this Q & A:

Interviewer: I’d like to ask you more about the story behind the story of your heart book.

Dunn: OK, sounds great.

What is the heart?

Oh, […]

By | January 27th, 2015|Books, News, Q & A|1 Comment

Ants vs. Rats in NYC

Last year I got to take my first trip to New York City and spent most of my time in the medians of Broadway setting up field experiments with Dr. Elsa Youngsteadt and Dr. Amy Savage. Fast forward to this week when the paper resulting from their research is published:

Youngsteadt, E., Henderson, R. C., Savage, A. M., Ernst, A. F., Dunn, R. R. and Frank, S. D. (2014), Habitat and species identity, not diversity, predict the extent of refuse consumption by urban arthropods. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12791

Over at the EcoIPM blog, Elsa gives you […]

By | December 3rd, 2014|ants, News, Reading List, Urban Ecology, Video|0 Comments

Navel-gazing Newsflash

A few quick updates on Belly Button Biodiversity and related projects:

  • You can now download and take a gander at the second and final batch of data from Belly Button Biodiversity. The available file contains both taxonomic information (OTU tables) and meta-data self-reported from our last batch of participants. These are the same data we used to generate the interactive pie chart.
By | November 17th, 2014|Belly Button Biodiversity, News, Science Art|0 Comments

Students Discover Goes to Washington

Members of the Students Discover team recently visited the Nation’s Capital to present at the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement (NCSCE) Washington Symposium. This conference highlighted university, college, and community programs that are incorporating STEM education into real world applications. We were invited to speak about Students Discover and shared our experiences passionately. As part of this conference, we also met with Representative David Price of North Carolina’s 4th district to talk about our work and discuss the successes of the Students Discover program to date.

Liz Baird, Director of Education at the North […]

By | October 7th, 2014|Education, News|0 Comments

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. However, […]

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, and […]

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 common […]

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

Buzzing about cicadas: Launching a new project!

Magicicada septendecim

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 […]

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, […]

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 (April […]

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 […]

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 below:

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 […]

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