Cold Feet, Warm Heart

Raleigh has had a fit of cold, snowy (and icy) weather this week. So while I watched this snow-covered Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) swim around an icy lake near my house, I couldn’t help but think “Brrrrr.”

The core temperature of a goose, wrapped in its fluffy down coat, is ~104° Fahrenheit. But what about those feet? They must be freezing!

In a way, they are. The feet of this goose are only ~35°. As warm blood from the body travels to the toes, it transfers heat to the blood making the return trip. By the time the blood reaches the […]

By | February 27th, 2015|Nature in Your Backyard, Science Art|0 Comments

Look but don’t touch

Watching Out for Nesting Birds

Look but don’t touch. This was a lesson I learned early on as a young boy, staring intently along with my grandmother at a bird nest. Inside a shrub-like tree, a bowl of straw lay almost hidden. Within it, several nestlings, their mouths wide open, were awaiting their next meal.

After a quick look, we hurried away, soon noticing that the mother robin returned with sustenance for her young. Folklore, of course, advises people to not harm bird nests, for doing so was commonly thought to bring bad luck (1). However, for many […]

By | February 23rd, 2015|Education, Nature in Your Backyard, Science Art|1 Comment

Before They Were Scientists: Mette Olufsen

Dr. Mette Olufsen found mathematics very easy in middle school and had an interest in biology. Yet, she never predicted that she would grow up to become a biomathematician, working in an interdisciplinary field that uses math to solve big biological questions. She describes a middle school experience that is very typical of Denmark in the 1970s: very free and focused on the importance of play and project-based learning, picking up three foreign languages, and adhering to the Jante Law.

Where were you in middle school?

I was in Denmark. We didn’t have middle school. We just had elementary school and […]

By | February 20th, 2015|Before They Were Scientists, Education|1 Comment

Life at the Margins

Some discoveries and innovations come from big labs funded incredibly well by governments in affluent countries. They come from those in the mainstream, freighters plowing ahead, forward, straight, with ever better technologies and ever, larger groups of young minds. I tend to write about the other discoveries, the insights and revelations made by the folks at the edge of this mainstream, those in the oxbows and edge riffles.

Even in the era of “big science,” discovery still depends on folks at the margin, folks far enough on the outside to see what others are missing. Often these individuals do not have […]

By | February 19th, 2015|Books, Feature, Hearts, Stories of Your Wild Life|0 Comments

Our Bodies Are a Habitat

Thanks to PBS Digital Studios and YouTuber Coma Niddy we can now add face mites to the list of subjects featured in a science parody music video!

“You might not think you have mites. But you do! So face it, our bodies are a habitat!”

Head on over to Coma Niddy’s original post to read more about his experience meeting his face mites!

By | February 16th, 2015|Education, Video, Your Mites|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 […]

Tracking Turtles with Juliana Thomas

“We were tracking turtles today!” Juliana Thomas immediately and enthusiastically tells me after I asked her how her day was going; “We’ve never tracked them during the winter before. We don’t know what they’re doing.” Her turtle earrings, almost a perfect tiny replicate of the Eastern Box turtle, sway side to side as she uses her hands to describe the work of her students.

Since 2007 (over eight years at the time of this writing) Juliana’s sixth graders, along with the Centennial Center for Wildlife Education, has been working to track Eastern Box turtles using non-invasive telemetric […]

By | February 9th, 2015|Education, Feature|0 Comments

The Beat Goes On

Princess Ahmose Meryet Amun — daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh — died with a heavy heart in 1540 BC.  It was not until 2008, some 3500 years later, that scientists discovered it was clogged arteries, or atherosclerosis, that ultimately contributed to her death.

Click on the timeline above to learn about this and other great moments in heart history and medicine. As you’ll see, our understanding of the heart happened in fits and starts through history, rather than a continuous series of progress. Learn more in Rob Dunn’s latest book, The Man Who Touched His Own Heart.


By | February 3rd, 2015|Hearts|0 Comments

The Pump of Youth

What is the secret to a long life? The heartbeat of some animals may hold a clue.

Studies have concluded that mammals get about a billion heartbeats per lifetime. They can use them at a rate of a thousand per minute, like the shrew, or space them out into slow, ponderous beats, over many years, as is the case for the grey whale. But there are notable exceptions. Some species get more than their fair billion beats. The extent to which these species live beyond a billion beats must depend, in part, upon unique features of their biology. Whatever these features […]

By | February 2nd, 2015|Books, Hearts, Participate, Projects|0 Comments

Dodging that Winter Coat

Have you ever wondered how our Cat Tracker participants in northern climes fare compared to their southern counterparts? Do these indoor/outdoor kitties continue to roam outdoors during the winter months or do they remain indoors for comfort?

Over the past 3 months, temperatures on Long Island have ranged from lows around 10 degrees Fahrenheit to highs in the 70s. Conditions up north have varied wildly from blizzard to 60 degree sunny afternoons. During these temperature fluctuations, we have continued to monitor our furry companions, and have observed their behavior varies (much like the weather!). Some Long Island cats […]

By | January 30th, 2015|Cat Tracker|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Mariano Vázquez

I recently interviewed physicist Mariano Vázquez. From his office in Barcelona, Spain, Mariano told me about the supercomputer encased in a crystal box located in a century old church a few hundred meters away from him. Read on as this Argentina native recounts how his time spent traveling around the world in a merchant ship with his family, the giant map on his childhood bedroom wall, and the invention of his own term for “scientist” all ultimately led him to a life of inquiry.

Lea: I’m excited to include your story in this series.

Mariano: I don’t know if it is going […]

By | January 30th, 2015|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

A Heart-to-Heart with Rob Dunn

We’re excited for the upcoming release of Rob Dunn‘s new book, The Man Who Touched His Own Heart, on February 3! After taking on the parasites, microbes, mutualists and predators that shape our human selves in his last book, The Wild Life of Our Bodies, Rob has moved on to explore the history and science of our most vital organ, the heart. Get a sneak preview of the book in this Q & A:

Interviewer: I’d like to ask you more about the story behind the story of your heart book.

Dunn: OK, sounds great.

What is the heart?

Oh, […]

By | January 27th, 2015|Books, News, Q & A|1 Comment

The Fashionable and Practical Turkey Vulture

Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) remind me of 16th century European royalty (you know those “ruffs” they wore around their necks?). That regal appearance results from a bald head, which keeps the birds a little cleaner as they dig around in decomposing roadkill.

Evolving with bacteria goes beyond losing some feathers though. After all, if you ate rotten meat, you’d get sick. Vultures, however, have extremely acidic digestive tracks and host special gut bacteria that help them digest those rotten meals.

Oh, and don’t bother vultures while they’re feeding. They’re known to vomit as a defense mechanism.

p.s. Robert Krulwich of […]

By | January 22nd, 2015|Nature in Your Backyard, Science Art|0 Comments

The Secret Life of Roukus, Part 2

Roukus the Cat is a snowbird…in the sense that she spends her winter months in warmer locales.

Roukus has finally moved south, from Maine to the sunny shores of Florida where she now basks in the glory of the Sunshine State. In the summer, Roukus roamed the forests. Now she travels along the sand dunes, not once crossing the roads near her beach house. While she enjoys long walks down the beach with her owner, she also seems to enjoy long walks by herself at night… at 1:30 in the morning! We can’t help but wonder what this kitty […]

By | January 20th, 2015|Cat Tracker|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Emily Graslie

In addition to interviewing traditionally trained scientists, I sometimes get the opportunity to interview the science communicators that help translate what happens in the lab to the rest of the world. Today’s interview is with the incredible science communicator, Emily Graslie. You may recognize her from her wildly popular YouTube series, The Brain Scoop, now based at The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Before we started our interview, with me in Raleigh and Emily in Chicago, we took note of our surroundings. Behind Emily were some familiar surrounds seen in many of her videos. We both clutch our coffee mugs […]

By | January 16th, 2015|Before They Were Scientists, Education|4 Comments