Your Wild Life Landing2017-10-26T12:38:46+00:00

Getting Sourdough on the Map

A quick update on the Sourdough Project! We are currently up to 300 samples (and counting) and we’ve got a fantastic team of undergraduates working on processing and characterizing our samples: Kinsey Drake, Nick Kamkari, and Shravya Sakunala. Check out the map of our where the starters we have processed in the lab.

February 20th, 2017|

What’s your flour type?

The Wolfe lab has been working to pinpoint just what makes sourdough starters so magical. It turns out that each flour has its own microbial “signature.” Tufts undergraduate Nick Kamkari has been plating out and characterizing different brands of-off-the shelf flours to learn more about what we should expect to find in each starter fed by that flour, to better be able to pinpoint what are the extra (delicious) microbes that make the starters successful.

February 20th, 2017|

We have Sitophilus as pets

Attention students! If you have published a paper in which you have studied the natural history of a pest, a paper you think is elegant, transformative, or just cool, you can enter it here to win a prize of $500. This money is for students only, though if you are a faculty member and have done interesting work on the natural history of pests we want to hear from you too (you just won’t get any money). And, if you have some money you want to donate, in order to support students doing this important work, work that has so long gone undone, you can donate here.

February 20th, 2017|

The Wild Lives of Gutters

As a rule of thumb, we like to assume that if a surface exists, there’s something (or many things) living on it. These “things” are microscopic organisms – bacteria, fungi, protists, and even archaea – and they’re all very hard at work turning dead things anew into life, or even turning the nutrients in air into bits and pieces of their cells. We smell the presence of these workings, but forget to consider the thriving life forms it bespeaks.

February 9th, 2017|

The Syrians and Iraqis at Your Dinner Table

Each detail of our daily lives has a history and, just as with any history, it is a history we would do well to learn from. Consider the biology of your dinner table. Your table itself is Syrian or Iraqi as is most of the food on it.

January 28th, 2017|

Sourdough Stories: Patty Ellis

We will begin a series of sourdough stories wherein we highlight the oral history that accompanies many different sourdough starters. For many, this starter becomes a part of the family. It requires a place to go and be fed when its humans are away; be it a family member, house sitter or a sourdough hotel. Some feel a connection to past generations through the taste, method and baking; breaking bread that was passed down generations, traveled across countries and tested through time.  When Patty Ellis happened upon her mother's old bread bowl in the cupboard, she was reminded of her family's history with sourdough bread. She grabbed her mother's recipe box and found [...]

October 3rd, 2016|

Updating the Species Scape

This post was written by Clint Penick & Magdalena Sorger As the world’s entomologists gather in Orlando this week for the International Conference of Entomology (ICE), we thought it a good time to revisit the famous Species Scape—the illustration showing that insects make up the largest portion of life on Earth. We scoured textbooks, scientific papers, and online databases to find the most current numbers for all species that have been described. There are new winners and new losers, but insects still make up nearly half of all species. The history of the Species Scape began when biologist Quentin Wheeler and artist Frances Fawcett created an illustration that used the [...]

September 25th, 2016|

A Letter to the New Students of Vassar

[Rob has been invited to Vassar to talk to the entering class of students about his book The Wild Life of Our Bodies, but also about our wild lives, theirs, his, those of the future. This is his letter to those students.] Dear students of Vassar, Let me begin with a warning. Don’t trust anything a writer says about his or her own family. That said, my grandmother, Barbara, grew up in Oxford, Mississippi. She lived in a room that was meant for an observatory and spent at least some days on William Faulkner’s porch listening to him tell stories to younger children. My grandmother Barbara (who I only ever [...]

July 24th, 2016|

Does a cat’s personality predict its hunting?

All pet owners know that every animal has its own personality.  Some are shy, some are bold, some get freaked out by cucumbers.  We also know that cats vary in their hunting interests and ability, meaning that certain individuals might be a much bigger problem for native wildlife than others.  We want to see if we can find a link between cat personality and the amount of wildlife they kill and eat. First, the personality - working with colleagues at Discover Circle in Australia, we have implemented a survey you can take to evaluate your cat’s personality. For example, how often do you think your cat acts in a vigilant [...]

June 28th, 2016|

New Project: The Life of Pants

Do clothes contribute to body odor? Let’s be real: I have body odor, you have body odor, we all have body odor. Most of us can at least vaguely remember that time during our awkward preteen years that our parents made us aware of our smell and introduced the concept of deodorant. I’ve been applied deodorant daily, been aware of and at times self-conscious of by body odor for almost two decades, yet, it never occurred to me to investigate the cause of this odor and how my activities are affecting it. As a microbiologist, I know that bacteria cause this odor. Several studies have linked a few key microbes [...]

June 21st, 2016|