The (Ant) World as Revealed by Public Science
Here we have a map showing off the places in which citizens have sampled ants as part of the School of Ants project. We’re constantly updating the map as new shipments of ants come in.
What goes on behind the scenes to add each point to the map? For each and every ant that arrives in our mailbox, we must dry the ant out, carefully arrange its legs, glue it to a tiny paper triangle, put the triangle on a pin and then with the ant arranged so as to make all of its bits and pieces visible, identify it. But no ant biologist is capable on his or her own of identifying all of the ants in North America and so with most ants we receive, we have to send the specimen back out to an expert who specializes in a particular region or kind of ant. Finally, the ants are returned to our lab with their scientific name in tow, and this information is entered into our system.
Each point you see on the map represents many hours of work both in terms of the work citizens like you did and the work done in the lab by our team of ant-elves. If you click on an individual point you can see more about the collection location and the species collected there at that point. If the species are common ones, you can read more about their story thanks to the work of Dr. Eleanor Spicer Rice who has written an online Book of Common Ants. If the ant species is rare, you might be better off going back outside to learn more about it; the truth is that for many North American ants we know very little beyond where they occur. Fortunately, that tiny bit of knowledge is changing as citizens continue to send in their specimens. If you do go back outside to watch the ants, be sure to send us your notes and observations. We want to know what you are finding.