A Tree’s Life (A New Citizen Science Project)

Would you give a few minutes a year to reveal the future of forests?

What would be the easiest citizen science project ever? Watching paint dry? Falling off a log? Maybe. But what would you, or anyone else, learn from that?

Red maple trees. (Image Credit: Flickr user Nacho 13 “Acer rubrum” CC BY 2.0)

We are starting a citizen science project almost as easy but much more important. Its called A Tree’s Life and all you need to do […]

By | March 13th, 2017|Participate, Projects, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Students share eMammal!

On Thursday, March 5, eight middle school students from the classrooms of two 2014-2015 Students Discover Kenan Fellows, Dave Glenn and Dayson Pasion, presented their research on wildlife camera-trapping at the North Carolina Technology in Education Society (NCTIES) conference in Raleigh.

Over the last year, the students have participated in the eMammal citizen science project, deploying wildlife cameras in their schoolyard to capture animal activity. The students have been working in collaboration with scientists at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. At Burgaw Middle School […]

By | March 23rd, 2015|Education, Urban Ecology|1 Comment

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

Who’s in My House?

Tiny rustling noises arise from our kitchen garbage can. I tip-toe up to it and out pops a little fuzzy face with a twitching nose. Then it’s gone… and I head to the closet for a couple live traps.

Many mice and voles have made my house their own over the years (before I gently suggest they live elsewhere).

Is my new tenant a MOUSE or a VOLE?

Need a hint?
MICE have long tails, long snouts, long ears and protruding eyes.
VOLES have short tails and teddy bear faces with small, rounded ears, button eyes and a smooshed snout.

Curious about what’s the […]

By | January 13th, 2015|Nature in Your Backyard, Science Art, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

ICYMI: Holiday Break Edition

Happy New Year! Classes are back in swing today here at NC State and we’re slowly but surely digging ourselves out from under the pile of emails that accumulated over the winter break.

A few exciting research developments and stories emerged while we were on our holiday hiatus, and we thought we should dedicate our first post in 2015 to catching you up those items you may have missed:

Meet the Cleanup Crew

Last week, you heard A LOT about the important role arthropods (particularly ants) play in removing food waste from the street medians and parks of New York City. Lead author of this new research study, Elsa Youngsteadt, even appeared on Science Friday to discuss the key findings.

We thought you might be interested in learning a little more about the ants who are doing the heavy lift on the food removal front. So this is a friendly little reminder that you can learn fun facts and natural history stories about the most common ants of Manhattan in a fabulous, […]

By | December 11th, 2014|ants, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

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

The Most Common Bacteria in New York City Soils are Unnamed, Can’t be Grown, and Aren’t Being Studied and Probably Won’t be in the Conceivable Future

It is worth remembering, when deadly pathogens are in the news that most microscopic species are either of no consequence to human health and well-being or are beneficial. Also, they are unstudied. Take the case of Manhattan. Manhattan is a borough of a somewhat large city reported to be full of culture, intellectualism, and black clothes. Probably, these things are true. In my lab, we mostly go there to study insects and, more recently, bacteria. In considering the bacteria of Manhattan, we have sampled medians from Broadway to Riverside, dozens of medians, those patches of green between lanes of traffic, […]

By | November 6th, 2014|Invisible Life, Urban Ecology|1 Comment

June Beetle Boogie

Because I’m an Entomology graduate student, meeting people is often like this:

Me: Hi, my name is Emily.
New friend:
Hi Emily, what do you do?
Me: I study insects.
New friend: OMG, that’s so cool. So, I have these ____ on my _____  . Do you know what they are?**

(**I just realized doctors probably have similar conversations, but the blanks are filled with stuff I can’t fathom.)

These interactions usually leave me feeling like an imposter, because there are too many insects in the world, too many in our backyards even, to know them all. Plus, observation is the step of science I’m not […]

By | October 27th, 2014|Nature in Your Backyard, Urban Ecology, Video|1 Comment

BioBlitz at the New York Botanical Gardens

How many plant, mammal or invertebrate species live in the New York Botanical Garden? While it seems like there should be a straightforward answer – it is a well-known, carefully maintained and studied garden, after all – the truth is, nobody really knows. Along with the plants and animals that are deliberately planted, maintained and tracked, there are a slew of other organisms, including other plants, insects, fungi, mammals and microbes that might take up residence without being noticed, even in such a well-visited garden.

To try to tackle this question, more than 400 Macaulay Honors College students and […]

By | October 13th, 2014|ants, Behind the Scenes, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Behind the Science: Ants and Ecologists on Broadway

When contemplating all the picky eaters of the world, I bet ants probably aren’t the first organisms that come to your mind. And yet ants and their food preferences are exactly what post-doctoral researchers Amy Savage and Clint Penick set out to study in New York City. Next time you’re in a big city like New York, take a break from looking up at the skyscrapers and look down at the ground. You’ll see what city ants encounter on a daily basis — an abundance of human food scraps: bits of hot dogs, chunks of pizza crust, candy […]

By | October 1st, 2014|ants, Behind the Scenes, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Urban Cicada Safari

On September 2, as the 9-5ers emptied out of downtown Raleigh, we gathered near the State Legislature Building to embark on an urban insect adventure.

Led by Bill Reynolds, curator of the Arthropod Zoo at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, we strolled the tree-lined sidewalks of the Legislature Complex, eyes peeled and ears tuned in quest of annual cicadas.

Cicada safari commences

Unlike their periodical cousins who show up every 13 or 17 years in a given location, the annual cicadas – also known as dog-day cicadas – make a yearly […]

NC State University Found to be the Most Bio-Diverse College Campus in North America

Several years ago, we started paying more attention in our lab to what was going on biologically near at hand. This transition would eventually lead us into backyards, then houses, then colons, but it stared with North Carolina State University’s campus.

The campus is at what was once the western edge of the city of Raleigh, a city whose location was chosen by its originators as a function of its nearness to a bar. And yet despite this idiosyncratic origin, Raleigh has proven to be an auspicious ecological locale for a city and a campus, at least […]

By | September 8th, 2014|ants, Global Change, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Looking at the Past to Understand the Future

No question, our planet is heating up. So what impact will global climate change have on biodiversity and ecosystems?

This BIG question, as you’ve undoubtedly read here on our blog, is near and dear to many Your Wild Life-affiliated researchers. Over the years, they’ve taken several different approaches to studying the consequences of global climate change on organisms and ecosystems.

One approach is to do experiments. Heat something up and see what happens to say, ants living on the forest floor or tiny plant-sucking insects attached to tree branches in a greenhouse.

Another approach is to do comparative […]

By | August 28th, 2014|Global Change, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Junior Scientists Take on Invasive Ants in New York City

Two junior researchers, Stephen Coyle (a rising college sophomore, top) and Kevin Catalan (a high school student, bottom), have been hard at work at Fordham University in New York City looking at how different colonies of invasive ants have been affected by Superstorm Sandy. I sat down with them virtually to discuss their exciting research in the lab of our collaborator, Dr. Sergios-Orestis Kolokotronis.

Kevin, I’ll start with you. Maybe you can tell me a little bit about yourself and what is it that you do?

Kevin: I’m a student at the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics.  I’m a rising […]

By | August 26th, 2014|ants, Q & A, Student Features, Urban Ecology|0 Comments