Thursday, August 8, 2013

Animal Behavior and Life in Tempe

Standing by my poster at the ABS meeting
Ted and I just spent a week in Boulder, CO, at the Animal Behavior Society meeting (ABS 2013). We had the opportunity to learn about some great research and some not so great research. While there, we made quite a few new contacts and rekindled some old ones. I also came up with a new research direction that I'm really excited about and looking forward to starting. Juergen (one of my advisors) was also excited and encouraging, which is a definite bonus. I'll be investigating some the proximate mechanisms involved in nestmate recognition. This involves determining how an ant knows what her colony smells like versus another. For  those of you that haven't reached the level of enthusiasm about ants that I have, it's important to know that ants use cuticular hydrocarbons that are smeared all over their body kind of like a lotion to identify nestmates from non-nestmates. So, I want to know how they know what their colony smells like. It's kind of like learning what your house smells like versus your friend's house and being able to determine who lives in each house using only that smell. Some of you may be yawning at this point, but I'm excited and hopefully if you're reading this post you are at least somewhat interested by proxy.

Unfortunately, the meeting kept us pretty busy, and so we didn't really get to explore Boulder. It's a pretty small city with a hippie/outdoorsy vibe to it. I'm glad I got to visit, but I'm not sure I'd add it to my list of places to vacation or live. However, it is surrounded by some gorgeous mountains, which are known for their amazing hiking and rock climbing opportunities.

Fritz likes to help Ted while he's working at home.
We came back to Tempe to pick Fritz up from PetSmart Pet Hotel to find him emitting a squeaky, tiny bark. Apparently he enjoyed playing with the other dogs and barking so much that he lost his voice during the visit. There's no need to worry though; he quickly regained his voice and is as talkative as ever!

We've been having a few overcast and rainy days in Tempe, which I am finally coming to appreciate. Initially I loved that every day was sunny here and disliked the occasional grey sky. However, once in awhile it is nice to walk around outside without feeling like some giant being is holding a large magnifying glass above you and directing a beam of sunlight straight at you. After living here, I'll be sure to encourage all children to avoid partaking in this activity which many of us did with ants when we were young.

Because Ted and I haven't posted on our blog for a couple of years, I thought a longer post was needed. I'll try to update it more often so that friends and family living far from us can keep abreast of our adventures. To start this off, I thought I'd post some photos of the ants I work with. Enjoy!

Below are pictures of the Environmental Growth Chamber that many of our ant colonies live in.


Here are photos of two of the species of ants I work with.

Camponotus festinatus

This is a typical nest box made of dental plaster.
 has a nest area and foraging area.

This is a close up of the nest area.

These are some workers (both majors
and minors) and brood.
This is a C. festinatus queen.

Aphaenogaster cockerelli

Aphaenogaster cockerelli queen
Workers and brood in the nest area

This is a typical nest box for
Aphaenogaster cockerelli.

Here is a video of the Aphaenogaster queen in the nest.
 Note the egg stuck to her gaster (i.e., her butt). :)

1 comment:

Eileen Pavlic said...

Great post. Enjoy hearing what you two are up to :) Love, Mom