Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why should we care about ants?

I want to share an update about a fantastic workshop I attended last week.  I was fortunate to have been offered a spot in the 2012 Summer Session of the Urban Ecology Institute along with some amazing science teachers from L.A. and Boston schools.  As participants, we had the opportunity to work along side leading field biologists and to contribute to their NSF-funded field-research by assisting them in data collection.  The project topics included: crow intelligence research, tracking feral cats, identifying invasive plant species, and classifying ant diversity within urban habitats. After a week in the field, each team collaborated to modify their respective field-work experiences into an inquiry-based curricula for kids and also presented their work to the entire institute.

My group worked on ants.  The projects' specific aim was to look at species diversity in three different urban green spaces: community gardens, forests, and tall grass/wild flower fields, in order to answer the question, do certain habitats aid in the preservation of native ant species?  Specifically, do green areas that are connected to larger green spaces (>150 Ha) preserve a greater diversity of native ant species than do isolated green sites?

While I vaguely knew that ants are important players in the garden, I now appreciate the magnitude of their countless contributions to the world ecosystem.  Just to list a few.  Ants disperse seeds, pollinate plants, and are said to turnover more soil than earthworms.  I was also reminded that ants are predators, herbivores, decomposers, and scavengers.

If you want to check out our teaching tools please visit the wikispace below for ideas on ant projects for kids!


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