Author: Julie Walker
So I want you to think back to your old middle school science textbook. Did it have an image of ant burrow cast like this one in it?
Shaners Becker, Seattle, USA - Ant Nest Excavation
Mine did. And I remember because I distinctly remember having my mind blown by thinking about how crazy it is that those tiny little ant that I would see everyday on the playground or in my yard could build such elaborate tunnels and caverns. The inherent coolness of the people who first figured out how to get a better look at the mysterious world happening right under our feet has stuck with me to this day.
Which brings my to the now.
As you know I don't study ants. However, recently I have been thinking back a lot on this picture when trying to study something a little closer to my proverbial science home of coastal wetlands. Fiddler and other benthic crabs can be found in huge numbers in all sorts of wetlands, and much like ants are quite good at engineering the subterranean environment. This got me thinking, I have never seen a cast like those of ants colonies for burrowing crabs, why? What are those little guys hiding under there? So need less to say I was very interested in trying to make one. My first thought was no one in their right mind would let me go anywhere near molten metal ( and rightly so), some literature sites making crab burrow casts out of resin, but being able to set and dig up these casts and working between tidal cycles, as well as the significant cost of resin also seemed like quite an undertaking ( I am trying to graduate y'all). It wasn't until talking about this issue with a non-science friend that I found my solution. She had mentioned that she vaguely remembered someone on an environmental educator on a school field trip, using some sort of foam solution to fill in burrows (leave it to environmental educators to be the crafty problem solvers that the science world needs more of). So it was off to the hardware store for me where I found some great stuff, no really its called "Great Stuff".
Traditionally used to fill gaps for pluming... I have a feeling in the near future there it will be more famous for being used to make these beauties...
Ok, so it may not be six feet tall. BUT. ISN'T IT SUPER COOL??? Just me? ok...
Anyways moral of this story is sometimes you can't always get exactly what you want (six foot 3D models of subterranean tunnel systems made out of molten metal), but if you try sometimes you might just find you get what need ( a modest sized, light weight foam structure, of the below-ground habitat of your study species)
Learn about a day in the life of our Fellows, from the field to the classroom as they compete their journey through graduate school.