Our friend and Central Park naturalist-extraordinaire, Ken Chaya (Photo: Lea Shell).
Our meeting was my first time in Central Park, and I kept being awestruck at the vast amounts of nature that was surrounding us – we even saw an owl (but were sworn to secrecy where he was hiding). Hawks, vast tree diversity, and very daring squirrels seemed to be around every turn.
Ken shared his vast encyclopedic knowledge of the Park and its history, enriching our whole experience. We learned about how most of the soil in the Park was brought in by donkeys (since it was mostly exposed bedrock of sparkling Manhattan Schist), how Central Park was our nation’s first public park, and how George Washington took the island of Manhattan back from the British. It was fascinating to think of the land beneath our feet as a battleground, nature preserve and interesting geological formation all at the same time. It made us appreciate this natural space even more – motivating us further to investigate how the soil brought in by donkeys supports a world of arthropods!
We also met with the education and outreach team from the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) to talk about working collaboratively to bring the School of Ants citizen science project to the NYBG – We’re excited about all the possibilities!