Ants and Citizen Science


Hi, my name is Dr. DeAnna Beasley and I’m
an Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga and I’m currently
leading the Ant Health Watch project on StudentsDiscover.org. Today I’m going to share with you what we’ve
learned so far with the help of students and teachers such as yourselves and the next steps
we’re taking to learn more about ants and their environment. I hope you enjoy this short
story I’m about to share with you. This is Benoit. Benoit doesn’t fit into this frame
because Benoit is very tall. Benoit likes to collect ants. When Benoit was a grad student
at North Carolina State University he found the Asian Needle Ant. North Carolina is not
the home of the Asian Needle Ant, it came all the way from Japan. We started the School
of Ants project where children collect ants in their back yards using cookies as bait.
Through time we learned that the Asian Needle Ant is in more and more parts of the Southeast.
Which we thought was the end of the story, until a little boy finds the Asian Needle
Ant in Wisconsin. (It’s not actually that big.) And then another little boy, “Hey Isaac!”
finds it in Washington State. So two kids extended the range of the Asian Needle Ant
by 4,000 miles and helped scientists have a better understanding of the real distribution
of this invasive species. Now we have new ant projects that you and your students can
be involved in. For the first project, Invisible Pathogens, we want to learn more about how
ants stay healthy. Ants seem to get sick less than humans, and we want to find out why.
So we will collect ants and find out what pathogens live on them. Once we figure out
who these ant pathogens are and where they live, it will help us think about how ants
stay healthy under various conditions. Which could help us figure out ways to keep humans
healthy. And when we have harmful ants, like fire ants, which crawl up Benoit’s legs, we
can figure out how to control them. In our next project, Ant Picnic, we want to learn
more about how fast ants from around the world come to food. We know that in some parts of
the world ants get to food faster than others. As our global environment changes, so too
will the things that ants do. And this project will help us track these changes over time
and help us make predictions about how species respond to climate change. [instrumental music]

Leave a Reply