On Joining the Lab (Boat)

Some people go from early life to death focused on one mystery. This approach, I am told, can be very satisfying. One of my mentors, Carl Rettenmeyer, spent fifty years studying the animals that live with army ants. In this endeavor Carl found enough rewards and mystery to sustain another dozen lives.

Yet while I appreciate (at least in an abstract sense) the fruits of such an approach, it is not for me. My greatest scientific joys come instead from making connections across fields, connections that require me to read about and engage scientists who do work very different from that which […]

By | April 26th, 2015|Behind the Scenes, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

Why We #CitSci

Your Wild Life is relocating to the West Coast this week to participate in the inaugural meeting of the Citizen Science Association in San Jose, California. We’re looking forward to two FUN-FILLED days of building connections and exchanging ideas with 600 other scientists, volunteers, data managers, educators, and science communicators who – like us – are dedicated to engaging the public in scientific research.

Together with our colleagues and collaborators at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, we’ll be sharing insights and lessons learned from many Your Wild Life projects including Belly Button Biodiversity, Wild Life […]

Happy Holidays from Your Wild Life!

Want a chance to win a custom Your Wild Life 2014 ornament? We’ve got a little holiday cheer to share in the form of handmade wooden ornaments inspired by the Arthropods of Our Homes project and the crafts of summer camp. Comment on this blog post with a story about the bugs you’ve seen in and around your home (if you’re having trouble giving those bugs a name, refer to this handy guide to identify the common insects) and we’ll randomly select a commenter to receive one of these custom ornaments to adorn your home on midnight December 31, […]

By | December 24th, 2014|Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

Mapping the ants of the world

Several years ago, Benoit Guénard decided that he was interested in knowing where one kind of ant could be found. Another ant biologist asked. Benoit didn’t know. The other ant biologist didn’t know. Benoit is not the sort of person to let a question go unresolved. Questions boil in his brain sometimes and this was one of those kinds of questions.

And so Benoit set about to understand where ants of the genus Formica could be found. But the problem was he did not seem to be able to find an answer and so he set out to systematically go […]

By | August 13th, 2014|ants, Explainer, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

Behind the Science: Sorting out the murky affair between scale insects, ants, red maples and climate change

This week I followed researcher Elsa Youngsteadt and her undergrad assistant Danielle Schmidt, members of Steve Frank’s lab in the NC State Entomology Department, into the field. When I arrived at their field site, I found each holding a leaf and staring at it so intensely that I first thought they were under some sort of spell. As it turns out, they were focused on counting tiny scale insect nymphs.

Elsa and Danielle are studying how scale insects — a common pest on trees — might benefit from climate change.  Scale insects may do better under climate change simply […]

Wowing Washington with Wild Life!

Last weekend (April 25-27, 2014), we took our wild brand of citizen science on the road to Washington, DC, to participate in the USA Science and Engineering Festival, the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and math in the country.

We enjoyed meeting and engaging 325,000 students, teachers, parents and enthusiastic science enthusiasts in conversations about the biodiversity in their daily lives — from camel crickets in their basements to the ants in their backyards. Drs. Roland Kays and Stephanie Schuttler added some “backbone” to our exhibit by sharing awesome camera trap photos of backyard […]

Your Wild Life Heads to Washington!

This weekend (April 25-27, 2014), hundreds of thousands of students and science enthusiasts will swarm the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the Nation’s Capital for the USA Science & Engineering Festival.

Your Wild Life will join over 700 other exhibitors for 3-days of non-stop science awesomeness that include thousands of hands-on activities and over a hundred different stage shows (including performances by our friend, Science Comedian Brian Malow).

Come find us in the NSF & Friends Pavilion (Exhibit Hall A, Booth 423) – Meet and greet the ants and camel crickets that call your backyard and […]

Fifth Avenue and the Entangled Bank: Fashion in Field Biology

For his 1918 field season, ornithologist Edgar Chance made a gentleman’s bet. Like many scientists before him, Chance was, in fact, a gentleman. His family founded one of the largest glass companies in Britain. The same company that put the glass in Big Ben’s clock and the crystal in London’s Crystal Palace. But Chance was also an avid egg collector, and he bet that in one season he could collect more eggs from a single cuckoo than anyone had before.

The science behind the bet, though, is not what drew me to Chance’s story. I’ll get to that later. What drew […]

By | March 11th, 2014|ants, Urban Ecology, Your Wild Life Team|2 Comments

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

It’s HERE!

Today we are pleased to announce the publication of Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of New York City!

In this new FREE eBook, Dr. Eleanor delights readers young and old with tales of the Big Apple ants most commonly encountered by students participating in the School of Ants project. Her stories of the heroes and villains that tiptoe around the city are brought to life in this interactive new book featuring the vibrant photographs of Alex Wild.


What are you waiting for? Download Dr. Eleanor’s Book […]

By | February 17th, 2014|ants, Books, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

The Art and Science of Life After Chernobyl

At first glance, the insect paintings by Cornelia Hesse-Honegger look no different than the images in a Peterson field guide. The subjects are set against a white background and copied in exact detail. Stare at them long enough, and something seems off. A rumpled wing, or a misplaced antenna. The insects are not merely damaged, claims the artist, but have been mutated by chronic exposure to radiation. For the last 30 years, Hesse-Honegger has been collecting and documenting insects that live in and around Chernobyl, the site of the world’s largest nuclear disaster.

I have admired Hesse-Honegger’s paintings for […]

By | January 6th, 2014|Explainer, Q & A, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

Spricket Sketch

Our citizen scientists are really the best around, hands down. You are such a thoughtful and creative bunch.

We so appreciate the love notes, holiday mix CDs and other special prizes that have accompanied your sample submissions and observations about the biodiversity in your daily life.

Most recently, we were delighted and surprised while reviewing the latest batch of camel cricket observations.

Rather than uploading a photo, visual artist Suzanne Stryk of southwestern Virginia submitted the lovely sketch above.

She reports:

I’ve seen these crickets in our basement since we moved in this house in 1987.  I rather like them, […]

By | December 24th, 2013|Camel Crickets, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

Looking ahead to 2014 — We want to hear from YOU!

Time sure flies when we’re having fun, doesn’t it? With 2013 winding down, we think it’s a good time to pause and take stock of where we’ve been this last year.

A few highlights:

  • We’ve sent hundreds, nay thousands (!), of swabs off to Colorado for DNA sequencing to identify the tiny organisms living on the surfaces of homes. Noah Fierer recently shared an exciting update about those analyses:

We’re now […]

Before They Were Scientists: Nyeema Harris

Nyeema Harris first went to Africa when she was a young teenager. She traveled with the Philadelphia Zoo to an animal rehabilitation center in Kenya. While she had extreme enthusiasm for animals, she wasn’t aware of her possible career options; she thought she could only choose between being a zookeeper or a veterinarian. All Nyeema had to go on was her desire to “spend as much time learning about wildlife, viewing them in the wild, and helping to make sure nature places existed for them in the future.” And her willingness to jump in and get her hands dirty.

By | December 16th, 2013|Before They Were Scientists, Education, Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments