To study the architecture of ant colonies and their nests, entomologist and myrmecologist Walter Tschinkel developed a way to “record” their three-dimensional underground chambers: he pours 1200F molten aluminum into the hill and then excavates the hardened cast. The entire process can take around seven hours.
From the tunnel depths, patterns, variations, the “room” arrangements, and more, these resulting casts are full of information about different ant colonies and their behavior:
"You can see that where there’s a lot of traffic near the surface, the shaft is actually a ribbon, a wide tunnel like a superhighway," he says, gesturing to and describing the incredibly intricate ant architecture. “The more traffic it has, the wider it is.”
And beyond that, the sculptures mix science with art. But, of course, there’s a cost of insect life in this process:
"I don’t do it lightly, actually… The technique has helped prove that colonies can thrive up to 3.6 metres deep and house between 9,000 and 10,000 workers."
Filling the nest with molten aluminum (or concrete, as shown in this rather stunning video) started an interesting discussion in our house: sacrificing an entire ant colony to learn about it — agree or disagree? And why?
Related reading: Not All the Bugs In Your Home Are Bad.
Made by Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada for the Ulster Bank Belfast International Festival in Belfast, Ireland, this is WISH, an 11 acre portrait of a girl. It’s been nicknamed “The Face From Space” by locals.
Using 2,000 tons of topsoil, 2,000 tons of sand, grass, stones, and 30,000 manually placed wooden stakes, the face was originally plotted with state-of-the-art GPS technology, and then took four weeks and a huge team of community volunteers to make. Here’s a time lapse vid of their work.
We’re wondering if the project can be seen from the International Space Station. Follow this up with Sesame Street’s That’s about the size.
From Untamed Science, a tour with Dr. Lindsay Zanno, Director of the Paleontology & Geology Research Laboratory at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
The key things she emphasized were that a) it’s a lot of work b) it’s not glamorous c) rarely to they find complete skeletons d) they don’t excavate it with little brushes out in the field and e) they spend close to 50 times the effort on a skeleton, in the lab, once it’s been pulled out of the earth.
There’s also a field trip to Crystal Geyser Quarry, “the largest feathered dinosaur graveyard” in the world… so far, at least! From the team’s site:
We are living through the most exciting period in the history of dinosaur paleontology. More than half of all known dinosaur species were discovered within the past 25 years, including nearly all of the remarkable feathered dinosaur specimens. One of the hottest areas for dinosaur discovery in North America is the Cedar Mountain Formation of eastern Utah, where new dinosaurs are being discovered and described at a phenomenal rate. These fossil beds span the last 25-30 million years of the Early Cretaceous, a time when North America was undergoing a period of climate change that resulted in localized extinction events and invasive dinosaur species.
Our team returns to Utah every year to hunt for new dinosaurs. This year we began excavations at an unprecedented dinosaur burial ground in the Cedar Mountain Formation known as the Crystal Geyser Quarry (CGQ). The CGQ is a mass mortality site entombing a rare and remarkable dinosaur dubbed Falcarius utahensis. One hundred and twenty-five million years ago an estimated 300 Falcarius individuals ranging in age from hatchlings to 4-meter long adults died and were buried here under mysterious conditions.