The School of Ants

The School of Ants

The School of Ants project is a citizen-scientist driven study of the ants that live in urban areas, particularly around homes and schools. Teachers, students, parents, kids, junior-scientists, senior citizens and enthusiasts of all stripes are involved in collecting ants in schoolyards and backyards using a standardized protocol to help make detailed maps of the wildlife that lives just outside our doorsteps. The maps created with these data say quite a lot about native and introduced ants in cities, not just in North Carolina, but across the U.S. and, as this project grows, about the ants of the world.

The School of Ants project accepts samples from anywhere. Right now they are prioritizing samples from New York, Wisconsin and Washington, where citizen scientists have recently found the invasive Asian needle ant. The project is also quickly going through samples more generally from Chicago, New York City or Raleigh-Durham. They will continue with samples from elsewhere too though, just more slowly. Forgive our speed, science takes time (as does gluing each ant onto a tiny, tiny, pin to identify them—people who choose to participate are electing to sacrifice animals for science).

Project Details

  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: University of Florida's Department of Entomology and Nematology
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Fieldwork
  • COST: Free
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    SAMPLING ANTS for the School of Ants involves placing cookie baits outdoors in green spaces (lawns, gardens, woods) and paved places (asphalt, concrete, cobblestone) for one hour on a warm day. We want to know what ants discover the baits in your neighborhood! (ALLERGY WARNING!: This activity uses Keebler Pecan Sandies cookies, which contain pecans, wheat, egg and whey).
    E-mail to learn more.

See more projects in FreeFieldworkAll Ages.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

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