survey local ant species
This year marks the 50th anniversary of a 1970 study on ant biodiversity that was done right here in Coachella Valley’s Deep Canyon. This landmark study revealed the species composition from near sea level up to 8,717 feet, an area of nearly 80 square miles! The study found 59 species of ants in over 20 genera! Today, the Coachella Valley has changed tremendously with many new (human) residents, housing and retail developments, and of course The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, creating a new footprint on the original study area. Also, over 50 years, the climate has changed in our valley and we wish to determine how that may have influenced the ants of Deep Canyon.
To investigate how changing conditions have affected biodiversity since the original study, we are replicating this study as it was done fifty years ago! And, your contribution as a community scientist is essential to this endeavor!
Become a Scientist!
You can help us discover how ant diversity in our valley has changed over fifty years by collecting ant species from the same study area as the original study. It's easy - and fun! Simply follow the protocol below & return your samples to our scientists at The Living Desert. We will identify the species of ant in each sample and then publish the data to a map you can view!
Questions? Contact us at Conservation@LivingDesert.org
What you'll need
MATERIALS FOR EACH SAMPLE LOCATION:
- 4 index cards, 3”x5” Pen or pencil
- 1 Pecan Sandie Cookie* These attract the most ants
- 4 quart-size Ziplock bags
DATA TO WRITE ON EACH INDEX CARD:
- Type of habitat (Green, Paved, Native)
- Write your email on the back of one card to be contacted with results
Three Easy Steps to Gather Data
Step 1 - Attracting Ants
Choose one of the three study areas below (Green Space, Paved Space, Native Desert Landscape) and follow the instructions for attracting ants in that area. Check the map to be sure you are sampling from within the study area!
GREEN SPACE. Take 4 index cards and 1 cookie to a landscaped area (e.g. a grass lawn, under ornamental bushes and trees, gravel xeriscaping). Write the date, the location* and the word GREEN on the cards and place them on the ground about 10 feet apart. Place a rock on the cards to hold them down. Break the cookie into 4 pieces and place each piece on top of the card. Be sure the edges of the cards touch the ground so that ants can find the crumbs.
PAVED SPACE. Use the same protocol as for Green Space, but choose a site that has paved surfaces (e.g. sidewalk, driveway) and write PAVED on each card.
NATIVE DESERT. Use the same protocol as for Green Space, but choose a nearby site that would be considered untouched, native landscape. Write NATIVE on your four index cards.
Samples for this category can be collected from a nearby wash, hiking trails, and wilderness areas further up Route 74 and into Deep Canyon.
*Note on Location: Write location as best as possible on each card. This could be a street address, an intersection or the closest landmark if an address is unavailable. If possible, use a smartphone or GPS device to write the exact coordinates of your sample location. Giving GPS coordinates is particularly helpful for non-residential sampling locations.
Step 2 - Collecting Ants
One hour after you set out your cookies and index cards, it is time to collect the ants! Pick up each card and quickly pour the crumbs, ants, and card into its own zip-lock bag. Certain ant species, like Red Imported Fire Ants, can bite & sting! If you cannot tell whether your ants are fire ants, be careful, move quickly and wear gardening gloves when putting the card and ants inside the Ziplock bag. Seal each bag right away! To preserve your samples for research and prevent them from decomposing, place bags into a freezer and freeze them overnight. Freezing is an ethical way to take these ant samples for science.
Step 3 - Delivering Sample
Bring them to Chase Administration building at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. The Administration building will be on your left-hand side after you enter our gates. You may leave them at the front desk.
Address: 47900 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260
STEP 4 - RESULTS
Our team will publish results as soon as possible! Please be patient! If you have written your email on the back of your index card, we will contact you directly when results are available.
Maps and Locations