Kirsti: So this is what I’ve been doing. And it’s now official!
This week colleagues and I launched the School of Ants Australia project and website. It is a nation-wide citizen science project run through the University of New England, and it aims to combine research into large-scale patterns of ant diversity, distribution and diet with hands on science education.
The project is an international off-shoot of the very successful citizen science project School of Ants in the US. And it appears to be timely: citizen science in Australia is really only just kicking off on a national scale. The Citizen Science Network Australia launched earlier this month too.
Our site, and project, will go through several phases and will [eventually] include an interactive map allowing contributors to see their data, and integration with the biodiversity mapping project Bowerbird run through Museum Victoria.
Up in my neck of the woods there have already been 12 schools that have participated in our inaugural pilot project. We looked at ant diets across an altitudinal gradient between Coffs Harbour and 1330m at the top of the Great Dividing Range. Kids have loved it, and I’m now up to my eyeballs in ants to identify. I’m loving being back at a microscope, but secretly mortified at how much I’ve got to learn about the ant fauna here!
At School of Ants we’re also currently developing a comprehensive Primary Connections style teaching unit, covering 9 lessons and fully aligned to the new primary school curriculum. It is so exciting working with passionate, committed and knowledgeable teachers on this stuff. Our heads were exploding with ideas this week!
So as well as blogging here with Sarah I’ll be posting regular news updates and blog posts on our School of Ants site, and summaries and updates of data collected will be posted quarterly so you can keep tabs on us keeping tabs on the ants. You can keep your eyes out for writing, photography and poetry competitions we’ll be running in the coming months.
Check us out! Feedback most welcome.