**Today we have a guest post from Lauren Nichols about the School of Ants project. Enjoy!**
When you start a large-scale project to map the diversity of ants across the United States, there is a certain amount of uncertainty involved. Will anyone send us ant samples? Will we manage to collect ants from across a variety of cities? Will a sampling scheme as simple as putting out cookie crumbs and collecting whatever shows up for a mid-afternoon snack actually allow us to collect a diversity of ant species?
I must admit, I’m a bit of a skeptic.
Fortunately, immediately after the launch of School of Ants, our concerns about potential lackluster participation were allayed and quickly replaced by worries that we might not be able to keep up with the mountains of samples clogging our mailroom. Citizen scientists pulled through!! To date, we have received more than 600 samples from across the United States. Participants have sent us samples from parks in Chicago, sidewalks in Arizona and median strips in New York. We’ve now sorted tens of thousands of ants from cookie crumbs – about half of the samples we have received – and identified close to 1,000 individual ant specimens down to species!