Amy Savage’s Take on Ants in the Big City

New York City: “the City of Ants.” Most of us wouldn’t describe the Big Apple that way. But Amy Savage has news for you.

For the last two years, Amy has crawled through New York City’s nooks and crannies, peering behind garbage cans and between sidewalk cracks, combing through the city parks’ grasses and checking out trees, getting an “ant’s-eye view” of the most peopled city in the United States. She found that right in New York City lies a metropolis of ants, with its own networks and freeways, apartments and giant buildings.

Here, Amy gives us the scoop on the secret […]

By | February 20th, 2014|ants, Urban Ecology, Your Wild Life Team|2 Comments

How Many Ants Live in New York City?

Dr. Eleanor has written a book on the most common ants in New York City (based on the work of many citizen scientists in and around the Big Apple participating in our School of Ants project).

After reading the book, we reckon you’ll know a little something about what species live in New York City.

We bet, however, that you haven’t stopped to contemplate exactly how many ants live in the city. We did some quick math based on our research in the medians and parks of the city and known areas of open, green space and determined that […]

By | February 18th, 2014|ants, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Why your local fungus farmer might not be your friend

My fiancé Joe and I planted a mushroom garden last year, which is to say, we drilled hundreds of holes in logs, hammered spore plugs in the holes, and waited. I can’t speak for Joe, but I visited the logs every morning, excited for them to sprout. Sometimes I daydreamed about pastas and salads. But after four months, when it should have been producing mushrooms for weeks, our garden was a barren, woody wastelands, and we gave up (queue Charlie Brown theme song).

Lots of people grow mushrooms. All are better at it than I am. But fungus farming is […]

How Do Animals in the City Beat the Polar Vortex?

Earlier this week, when the polar vortex’s cold eye was taking a deep look south, I wondered how the city-dwelling animals are holding up. Where are those gray squirrels we see shaking Central Park’s trees on warmer days? Do pigeons have Snuggies?  And what about my ants?  How can something so tiny survive in weather that will freeze a drop of water five times its size in less than five seconds?

When I asked my New York City friends to tell me the top five animals that come to mind when they think of who shares the city with […]

By | January 9th, 2014|ants, Stories of Your Wild Life, Urban Ecology|3 Comments

Arthropod Photo Shoot… in Belize!

Lauren Nichols recently attended the BugShot Insect Photography Course in Belize this past September and came home with some spectacular photographs (and stories).  She was shooting photos of arthropods non-stop over the course of a week – even, as you’ll read below, at the airport! Expect to see more of Lauren’s work featured on the blog in coming days, joining that of our other photographer superstars, Alex Wild and Matt Bertone.

How many insects can you find and photograph in a median strip outside the Belizean airport in 20 minutes?

This was the spur-of-the-moment challenge I issued myself when […]

By | November 5th, 2013|Arthropods, Feature, Urban Ecology, Your Wild Life Team|3 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 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 […]

Genomics of the Ratopolis

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. Jason Munshi-South, currently an assistant professor of biology at Baruch College, studies the evolution and ecology of vertebrates in New York City.

Every New Yorker has a rat story.  Narrative elements of these tales often include municipal garbage cans or deserted subway platforms, and in the worst cases pant legs or toilets. NYC’s rats are Rattus norvegicus, the Norway or […]

Tiny Tourists Invade the Big City

Today we have a guest post from Mary Jane Epps, post-doc and chief beetle wrangler at Your Wild Life.  Recently, Mary Jane has begun investigating the associations between beetles and humans, particularly within human dwellings, including the remains of homes in ancient Egypt.

Back in March I accompanied our urban ecology team on a trip to New York City to study the effects of Superstorm Sandy on urban arthropods. Admittedly as a natural historian who feels more at home in the hills of Appalachia than in the urban jungle, I did not anticipate that New York City would be […]

How teaching high school prepared me for NYC

In a former life I was a math teacher at a public high school in rural Mississippi. One day I put up a math problem about how to calculate the probability that you’d have to wait for a certain amount of time at a crosswalk. Now, there was always push-back on any new concept I introduced (math classes aren’t exactly winning the popular vote for “favorite class” in high school), but this particular problem had an interesting response:

“Ma’am,” the student said as he raised his hand, “we ain’t goin’ to New […]

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

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 […]

That’s a Wrap: Day 3 of #AntsOnBroadway

Time sure flies when you are having fun! Amy and I concluded our final day of field work for #AntsOnBroadway on Thursday. The weather continued to hold — sunny and even warmer than we had experienced the previous two days. For our last day of ant-collecting, we headed up to the northern end of Manhattan — beyond the jurisdiction of most tourist city maps.

Although the fieldwork portion of #AntsOnBroadway has concluded for the season, we still have lots more to share and tell in the coming weeks. […]

By | October 21st, 2012|ants, Explainer, Projects, Urban Ecology, Your Wild Life Team|5 Comments