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Thrifty Thursday: School of Ants

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Thrifty Thursdays feature photographs taken with equipment costing less than $500.

[Apple iPhone 4s - $300]

Working at the microscope yesterday I suddenly remembered Thrifty Thursday. I needed a photo! So I stuck my iPhone behind the carpenter ant I was examining and took this self-portrait.

The insect arrived at my desk via the citizen-science project School of Ants. Thousands of people country-wide are mailing in ants collected from their yards and gardens. The level of popular interest has taken nearly everyone by surprise, and I have signed on to help identify some of the midwestern samples- including this Camponotus pennsylvanicus.

This image would not have happened with my professional-grade SLR gear. For one, I don’t lug all that heavy equipment around with me unless I have reason. For another, the SLR simply doesn’t fit under the scope. It’s too bulky, and the working space is too confined. The iPhone, in pleasant contrast, slides right in.

I suppose you could accuse me of phoning it in this week. And you’d be exactly right.

Alex Wild About the Author: Alex Wild is an Illinois-based entomologist who studies the evolutionary history of ants. In 2003 he founded a photography business as an aesthetic complement to his scientific work, and his natural history photographs appear in numerous museums, books, and media outlets. Follow on Twitter @myrmecos.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. HBG_Dave 6:43 pm 02/4/2012

    I suppose this is one of those projects that stops at the border?

    Link to this

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