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 remember very well what it was like to be in […]

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

The Day My Cat Went Home

Photo credit: Megan Halpern

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 […]

Moth Madness!

**Today, we have a special guest post from Chris Goforth, Senior Manager of Citizen Science at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. When she’s not leading visitors on citizen science adventures at the Museum’s Prairie Ridge Ecostation, Chris blogs about entomology and natural history at**

I love moths!  Always have.  I grew up in Colorado, and every 4 or 5 years we’d have a “miller moth” invasion.  Millions of army cutworm moths would suddenly descend on the city.  You’d drive through swarms of them at night.  […]

By | July 24th, 2013|Education, Participate, Projects|1 Comment

You haven’t forgotten, have you?

Back in February, we issued a call for help. As Dr. Eleanor had keenly observed while researching species for her Book of Common Ants, Forelius pruinosus, a very common North American ant with a big personality, had NO common name. Unacceptable! Especially given that so many other common ants have interesting and descriptive monikers: big-headed ant, carpenter ant, thief ant, and the like.

We solicited your suggestions on our blog and in-person during outreach events at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. And WOW! The suggestions really rolled in — We were so impressed […]

By | July 19th, 2013|ants, Events, Participate, Projects|1 Comment

Summertime Science

For many of us, summer is the season where we can kick back and take a break – whether it’s on the beach or in the comforts of our own backyards (or, if you live in the swamp we call Raleigh, the air-conditioned bliss of your living room…). The kids are out of school and our gardens, parks and favorite wild places are buzzing with life.

Summer is also a FANTASTIC time for getting yourself, your friends and loved ones involved in doing some SCIENCE!

Over the last couple weeks you may have noticed that posting here on the Your Wild […]

By | July 3rd, 2013|Participate, Projects|0 Comments

Taking a Closer Look at the Dog Data

A few weeks ago we announced the publication of our first research paper from the Wild Life of Our Homes project, based on microbial data collected by 40 citizen households in North Carolina.

One of the most interesting findings in this paper was that the presence or absence of a dog in a home explained nearly half of the variation in the bacterial composition on the pillows and TV screens in the houses we studied.

As Rob explained in a recent blog post, the pillows in dog homes tended to have bacteria associated with dog mouths (such as spirochetes […]

By | June 7th, 2013|Explainer, Homes, Projects|1 Comment

Cicada Collection Pro-Tips

Today, the Your Wild Life team took a cicada safari to Greensboro to collect some dead cicadas for the Urban Buzz project. We figured we couldn’t ask you all to do the heavy lift, without contributing a few data points ourselves.

And in the process of collecting, we learned a few things:

  1.  As we noted on our first trip to Greensboro, dead cicadas are pretty easy to come by – We had good luck finding them near the edge of yards, close to curbs, and under “mother-lode” trees where emergence had been particularly intense (as evident by piles of […]
By | June 5th, 2013|Explainer, Participate, Projects, Urban Buzz|2 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, […]

Time to Meet Your Mites!

May we scrape your face for SCIENCE?

I imagine this is not a question one generally expects to be asked when visiting his or her friendly neighborhood natural history museum.

And yet it’s one we’ve asked on a fairly regular basis during public outreach events over the last few months at the Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

You would be AMAZED (I know I have been) at the number of enthusiastic volunteers who have stepped right up to participate, curious to learn a something about the tiny organisms that call their pores home.

By | May 17th, 2013|Events, Participate, Projects, Video, Your Mites|9 Comments

How Wild is New York City? Reflections from ScioTeen

Today we have a guest post from Andrew Collins. We met Andrew while doing fieldwork on the streets of NYC and have been impressed by the innovative work he’s doing to improve student engagement in science research and conservation. Andrew recently attended ScienceOnline Teen, and shares his experience below. Enjoy!

Beaver! Fox! They called out. An Owl! Looks like a Coyote! As the camera trap videos continued to play, more and more species took form. Yet while the students alertly watched on, listing one wild animal after another, we sat patiently … waiting to reveal a secret.

By | April 29th, 2013|Education, Events, Projects, Urban Ecology|1 Comment

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