The Giant Wild Life of our Giant Backyards

Today we’re serving up an elephant double-feature. Click on over to Buzz Hoot Roar to get your second helping of pachyderms.

Last week, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. After several unsuccessful attempts to rouse every animal and human in my house for company, I stared out the back window into my moonlit yard. There, creeping through the branches of our sycamore tree was a fat, wiry raccoon.

I caught my breath. He was beautiful. His fur silvery in the moonlight, he humped his bandit’s body from limb to trunk to limb, […]

The Wild Life of Chimpanzee Nests

We share a lot with you, dear readers. Some might say too much (ahem, the plight of our own armpit bacteria, for example). Yet believe it or not, we don’t share quite everything. Sometimes we’re working behind the scenes, out of the public eye, cooking up a new project, developing a nugget of an idea or cultivating a collaboration. Sometimes it takes awhile to get these new things organized, to gather all the ingredients, to slowly bring the collaboration or project to a boil, to get an idea to a stage where it’s ready for public consumption. It may […]

By |April 15th, 2014|Arthropods, Homes, Projects, Wild Life of Our Home|0 Comments

Delayed Gratification, Citizen Science and Why You Might Not Have Received an Email about Your Sample Yet

But, If You Are So Willing, You’ll Receive Emails and Updates for the Next 10 Years. Also, Did I Tell You about the Cats?

I do not have any particular predilection for delayed gratification. I can’t watch YouTube videos because I don’t like not being able to control the pace and see where I am going. I don’t like departmental seminars because almost inevitably one can read the paper faster (and get to the good parts) than one can listen to the talk. Actually, this is too meek of a statement. I actually hate departmental seminars. My wife is patient. My […]

A Little Love Puzzle

[…]

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

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

Citizen Scientists Document the Spread of Giant Cricket, Basement to Basement

05camel cricketIt is an animal the size of a pinky finger. It hops wildly, blindly out of the dark.  And still, somehow, it has moved unstudied basement to basement across North America, the yeti in our midst. It is the Asian Camel Cricket (Diestrammena asynamora).

In previous work with citizens, we very accidentally discovered that this cricket had spread much more than we (or perhaps anyone) suspected. It appears to have spread primarily indoors, though it’s also being found outdoors as it hops away from houses to find, well, we […]

By |September 27th, 2013|Books, Camel Crickets, Participate, Projects|22 Comments

The Odor of the Odorous House Ant

This past weekend at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences annual BugFest, we convinced a couple hundred people to sniff ants. We started off light, with a bouquet of lemon and citrus from the citronella ant, Lasius claviger. Then we plowed ahead, shoving an angry carpenter ant under the nose of anyone who would take it to demonstrate the acrid, vinegar smell of formic acid. If the participant was still with us, we moved onto our main quarry: the odorous house ant.

First, I have to admit that through this entire exercise I had an ulterior […]

By |September 26th, 2013|ants, Events, Participate, Projects|7 Comments

Calling All Teachers!

Your Wild Life is excited to announce that we’re bringing our wild brand of science into classrooms! We’re embarking on a new five-year project to improve student outcomes and teacher enthusiasm around the world by creating opportunities for real scientific discovery.

We’ve spent the last three years doing science with the public. We have, in the process, discovered more fun things than we ever would have on our own. We have seen further into the truths of belly buttons, armpits, face mites, backyard ants, and even domestic cats than we ever imagined we might. It […]

By |September 17th, 2013|Education, Participate, Projects|1 Comment

New Revelations about the Biodiversity of Belly Buttons

*This post first appeared on the Scientific American Guest Blog on September 9, 2013.*

When it comes to science, I have the patience of a rabid fox, trapped in a cage, in front of which a wounded rabbit is standing. My family, the folks in my lab and the need for sleep balance this nascent madness. But sometimes the caged fox of mania escapes; sometimes when everyone else sleeps I can’t resist the run.

Today was one of those days. We saw another glimpse into the life inside belly buttons. Belly buttons are ridiculous and yet the life […]

By |September 9th, 2013|Projects|0 Comments

Back to Field Work in the Big Apple

Our Urban Ecology team has returned to New York City! Over the last week, Amy Savage and Shelby Anderson have been crisscrossing Manhattan, with aspirators (the small devices we use for sucking up ants) and stepladders in hand, studying the ants living in the medians of Broadway as well as in the adjacent New York City parks.

Amy and Shelby are investigating how the stresses of city-living and Superstorm Sandy affect ants and the breakdown of dead leaves and trash, an important ecological process that happens on the floors of both forests and street medians.

They’ve kindly shared […]

By |August 27th, 2013|Projects, Urban Ecology, Your Wild Life Team|0 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

Dear Students

Last week, we hosted an outstanding group of students from the NC School of Science and Mathematics for a two-day research experience in the lab, part of the CAALS 3-D (Creating Awareness of Agriculture and Life Sciences Disciplines, Degree Programs and Discoveries) program at NC State.  We were inspired by their enthusiasm and passion for science, and wish them all the very best.

Dear Students of the North Carolina School for Science and Mathematics,

I can’t […]

By |July 28th, 2013|Education, Projects, Student Features, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

The Day My Cat Went Home

Recently, my friend Roland Kays, the Director of the Biodiversity Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences approached me with a proposition. As part of a new project at the museum, he wanted to put a GPS unit on my cat.  I, of course, said yes and then my wife and I spent the evening speculating about how ridiculous an idea this was. The debate revolved around whether or not the cat actually went anywhere. I thought she might go to the neighbor’s house, or perhaps even two houses down. My wife, always a bit more practical, reminded […]