How to apply a concept from ant ecology to other disciplines…. or a post about organismal fidelity

The ant: study species of choice. Photo Credit: Alex Wild

The ant: study species of choice. Photo Credit: Alex Wild

By Jane Zelikova

I love it when things come together. This is exactly what happened to me just the other day. To start at the beginning, I took an Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) graduate tropical biology course in 2003. It was a great course, I learned a lot, and I made some great friends. While a lot of my memories from the course are a bit murky (many many late nights working on projects, writing papers, and drinking cervesas has put a fog on the course), looking through the course book has brought some things back into focus. Turns out, my personal claim to fame was extreme organismal fidelity. You know those people who always ask a question related to their study organism, even if the subject being discussed is completely unrelated? For example, the seminar might be about jaw bone development in fish and the person I’m talking about asks about plant secondary chemicals …. and receives a blank stare from the speaker. Ok, apparently, the person asking those annoying and distracting questions was me, and my inquiries always (and I mean always!) came back to ants. At the end of the course, we gave each student an award and I got “The Taxonomic Fidelity Award” for my ability to guide any scientific discussion toward ant seed dispersal. That being said, it is not a huge surprise that my ability to turn things back to the ants has stayed with me, despite my scientific departure from the world of ants. Continue reading

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