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“The Wild Life of Our Bodies, Homes, and Gardens: Engaging the Public in the Discovery of New Species and Phenomena Where we Live.”

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Thursday 29 June 2017, 15:00 - 16:30


Over the last ten years my lab has shifted from a focus on rain forest ecology to the consideration of the ecology of daily lives. In this latter effort it became clear early on that many basic and interesting discoveries about the life on and around us had been overlooked and that, we could best make such discoveries if we engaged the public. Over the subsequent years, we have engaged over forty thousand amateur collaborators in the study of the biodiversity in belly buttons, the insects spreading through backyards, the life in dishwashers and salt shakers, and even the biology of shower heads and sourdoughs (though never, as I sometimes erroneously say, "showerdoughs"). More recently, we have made two key shifts in this work. One has been to use ecological and evolutionary theory to predict which of the organisms in our daily lives might most readily be of use to humans (I'll share an example from the guts of camel crickets). This avenue has led us to work on bread, beer, caviar, and industrial waste. A second has been to recognize that one of the places in which amateurs can make some of the most important discoveries along with our team is in gardens and small farms. I'll share a story of new work we are doing globally on squash and chilies in this regard. Finally, all of this work is helped by collaboration with museums. I'll briefly mention the ways in which we have engaged the California Academy of Sciences, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Danish Natural History Museum among others in this work. 

Location Jozef Schell Seminar Room
Contact Prof Rob Dunn
Department of Applied Ecology
North Carolina State University, USA
CMEC, Natural History Museum of Denmark