I kept telling you I had big news and here it is: I took at job at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences! So, I moved from Arizona to North Carolina last week and have loved every minute of the new job. I’m the manager of citizen science for the Museum, so I have the very fun task of bringing scientists and non-scientists together to do science together, both in person and online. This is absolutely the perfect job for me as it’s something I’m passionate about, I get to work outside much more than I used to, the Museum is amazing, and I’m working with a fantastic group of people. I’m based primarily at the Prairie Ridge Ecostation, a 45 acre tract of land on the outskirts of Raleigh where the Museum does a lot of outdoor and environmental education, so I’ve gotten to spend a good part of each day wandering around the grounds so far. And have you ever heard of a little event called BugFest? I get to participate in BugFest! Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with this job and I am looking forward to what I am going to help build for the Museum.
As you might imagine, North Carolina is very different from Arizona, so I thought it would be fun to do a little comparison between the two for my first Friday 5 in my new home. Up first we have, of course…
Wow, there is crazy humidity in North Carolina! As a lifelong southwesterner, humidity is a very different experience for me. My shoes don’t dry when I get them wet. Sweat doesn’t dry off your skin very easily and you don’t get nearly the same cooling effect that I’m used to. The light from the sun isn’t as bright. When it gets cloudy, the temperature doesn’t go down more than a few degrees and it’s often as warm when it rains as it was before the clouds rolled in. That last one is the strangest thing for me because rain cooled everything down (sometimes A LOT!) in the southwest. On the plus side, I haven’t had to apply lotion since I got here, AND there have been clouds everyday since I arrived. It’s the dry season in Arizona now and there will be practically no clouds at all until July, so June clouds are a fantastic sight! Who knew what a little moisture in the air could do?
We had ticks in Arizona. My little longhaired dog got several over the 5 years she lived with me there. I almost never saw them otherwise though. Here in North Carolina, I got through a whopping 8 days before I got my first tick. The photo is terrible as it was a very active little guy and kept running around after I removed him from my belly, but that’s him up there in the picture. I believe it might be a lone star tick, but if anyone knows better I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Arizona has grasslands, but the southern part of the state also has a lot of desert with little to no grass most of the year. If you happen to remember the photo of the grass near my field site I posted last year… well, I was beyond excited to see that. That photo above is where I’m working now. It’s going to look like that ALL SUMMER too! Crazy! That grass might be full of ticks and I might be allergic to it, but I love it.
You know what you never see in southern Arizona? Bumblebees! There are lots of large carpenter bees that sort of resemble bumblebees, but they’re just not as fuzzy and adorable as their fluffy cousins. Happily, there are scads of bumblebees in North Carolina! I see them all over the flowers at Prairie Ridge, several species even. It’s so nice being back in a place that has them. I didn’t realize I’d missed them until I moved here and saw my first bumblebee out in the prairie. I was so excited to see a very common bee!
I always became giddy when I saw dragonflies in my yard or the parking lot for my housing complex in Tucson. They usually only appeared when the drip system sprang a leak and sprayed water all over the parking lot, and often not even then. Now I head out to walk the dogs and see 5 dragonfly species within a few feet of my front door! I am living in a big apartment complex for a while, so I’m shocked, yet thrilled, that there are so many dragonflies flying around the perfectly cut grass. The dragonflies I’m seeing at home are all common eastern species, but several of them are new to me and a few I haven’t seen in a decade. Fun! I’m also looking forward to doing a sort of informal survey to see how many of the 103 species known in Wake County I can find at Prairie Ridge.
So far I think North Carolina is a pretty great place! I am really happy with my life here, so I hope you’ll all enjoy the posts as I explore the bugs in my new area. I’ll kick things off Monday with a post about the fabulous facility where I’m based at the Museum. But first, look for a new, rather short Swarm Sunday this weekend. Swarming season is about to begin in earnest, so I hope you’re all ready!