Ant Game of Thrones
Ants are everywhere—from logs in the forest to a cracks in the sidewalk, even on your kitchen counters! Some have become very good at living alongside humans, while others are unable to quickly adapt to our constantly changing human habitats. In forests, ants strongly compete with one another for suitable habitat, which often results in the "losers" moving to a new location.
Global climate change and the conversion of land from forests to cities are warming the environment above and beyond what forest-dwelling ants would normally encounter. This warming allows heat-loving ants to better compete for nest sites and hold their nests for far longer than they typically would, giving them an advantage over other ant species that are more vulnerable to human impacts. By monitoring artificial nest boxes throughout the year, we can easily observe which species are living in the nest sites, and can figure out which species are winning (and losing) the battle over nesting sites.
Our latest citizen science project in the Diamond Lab allows the general public to be part of the action. Citizens in the Clevelandarea are able to photograph our nest boxes and upload their observations to our iNaturalist page.
Outdoor learning areas are popping up in schools all over the country, shifting focus away from electronic screens and back to nature. By converting a bare urban space to a green learning area, we can stimulate interest in science by allowing students the freedom to explore the natural world in an informal setting. We have worked with two Cleveland elementary schools to construct green classrooms equipped with artistic and scientific activities including insect, bird, and bat houses, butterfly gardens, and activity stations where students can identify insects, monitor and record plant growth, observe wildlife, or even make eco-friendly crafts.