Vote now to give a common ant a common name!

The polls are now open for you to vote on your favorite common name for the common ant, Forelius pruinosus!

Back in February, we made an open call for suggestions – recall, that Dr. Eleanor found it unacceptable that this charismatic, common ant did not have a snazzy common name to go with its big personality.

Readers, museum visitors, tweeps, elementary school students – SO MANY OF YOU – responded with SO MANY great ideas — 185 of them, in fact! We compiled your unique suggestions along with your reasoning […]

By | April 11th, 2013|ants, Events, Participate, Projects|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

That man is feeding a starling a banana! (and other tales from NYC)

This is a first in a series of dispatches from our team on-the-ground in New York City. Elsa Youngsteadt and Lea Shell are spending the next two weeks in the Big Apple looking at urban street trees and ants in medians and city parks – they’re assessing damage from Superstorm Sandy and installing equipment and sensors to measure the consequences of the storm on urban arthropods communities and ecosystem processes. They’re live-tweeting their work at @YourWild_Life. ~HM

When people hear that this is my first trip to New York City, there is a […]

Climate data-loggers are now in homes across the country!

North Carolina Outdoor Data Logger

“We’ve got about a hundred temperature and humidity data-loggers, figure out how they work and get them into people’s homes.”

And so began my first official challenge upon joining the Dunn Lab and the Your Wild Life team in January. Before moving to North Carolina I had never so much as seen an iButton (the tech-y name of the aforementioned data-loggers), let alone knew how to program them, find participants, send them out… it was […]

By | March 6th, 2013|Homes, Projects, Your Wild Life Team|2 Comments

Forelius naming contest update!

Tagul Word cloud in the shape of an ant of all ant name submissions


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 […]

By | February 28th, 2013|ants, Events, News, Participate, Projects|2 Comments

If you give an ant a cookie

**Today we have a guest post from Lauren Nichols about the School of Ants project. Enjoy!**

When you start a large-scale project to map the diversity of ants across the United States, there is a certain amount of uncertainty involved.  Will anyone send us ant samples?  Will we manage to collect ants from across a variety of cities?  Will a sampling scheme as simple as putting out cookie crumbs and collecting whatever shows up for a mid-afternoon snack actually allow us to collect a diversity of ant species?

I must admit, I’m a bit of a skeptic.

Fortunately, immediately after the launch of […]

By | February 21st, 2013|ants, Participate, Projects, Your Wild Life Team|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 while, […]

By | February 15th, 2013|ants, Events, News, Participate, Projects|72 Comments

A love note to our citizen scientists

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we wanted to share our love and appreciation for YOU, our citizen scientists!

Over the last year:

By | February 13th, 2013|Participate, Projects, Your Wild Life Team|3 Comments

Stories from the Home [Arthropod] Front

I have now finished sorting and identifying critters from 21 of the 50 homes sampled during the Arthropods of Our Homes project. I have seen some extremely interesting specimens, some of which I have never seen out in nature, let alone anticipated finding in homes. Not only did we collect many interesting arthropods, but also some homes have had an extremely diverse fauna – one in particular had over 70 FAMILIES of arthropods in a single common area (including the living room, dining room, hallway, etc.)! Who knows how many species there were? Well, I hope we will […]

Holiday Hitchhikers

As our Arthropods of Our Homes team can attest, your home is a wonderland of arthropod biodiversity. Preliminary analysis of the first 50 homes they sampled in the Raleigh area this summer suggest there are on average 100 species of arthropods per home… More on that to come!

Some of the arthropods one may encounter in the home aren’t really specialists of indoor habitats – they most likely hitchhiked on something brought into the house. For example, aphids often ride along on cut flowers.

And ‘tis no different with the live Christmas tree. Our pal, entomologist Steve Frank, gives […]

Up close and personal with E.O. Wilson

As you most likely read on the blog and noted by our steady stream of #eowilson tweets, the eminent biologist Dr. E.O. Wilson visited our Raleigh neighborhood last Thursday.

Prior to his official commitments leading a Global Town Hall with high school students and ceremoniously cutting the ribbon to open the new Citizen Science Center in the Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Dr. Wilson toured the Earth Observation and Biodiversity Lab, our home away from our NC State […]

By | December 18th, 2012|Events, Projects, Video, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

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 […]

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

Exposing Our Belly Buttons in the Name of Public Science

Oh man, you’re thinking, WHAT are those wacky Your Wild Life folks up to NOW? (Sometimes, when we have a sec to pause and catch our breaths, we find ourselves asking that very same question.)

Last week, you read about our first published findings from the Belly Button Biodiversity project. We reported that the 60 belly buttons we studied were a veritable jungle of microbial biodiversity. In those navels we found more than 2300 species; eight of those species – we called them oligarchs – were quite frequent […]

By | November 16th, 2012|Belly Button Biodiversity, Participate, Projects|4 Comments

Welcome to the Jungle

We’ve been hinting for weeks now… through our tweets and updates to the Belly Button Biodiversity project website

And now it’s official! We just published our first findings from the Belly Button Biodiversity project in the scientific research journal PLOS ONE (It’s an open access journal so you can read and download the whole thing right here).

We approached the data collected from this first batch of 60 navels much like an explorer approaches a newly discovered patch of rainforest; we started by asking very basic questions, […]