07 Feb The Tiny Gardeners Project
The Tiny Gardeners Project
The Tiny Gardeners Project is a nationwide citizen science project that studies how ants are planting seeds across the vast Australian Landscape!
Ants are some of the most important animals living beneath our feet. They carry out important ‘ecosystem services’ like bioturbation (the disturbance of sedimentary deposits by living organisms), soil aeration and pollination. One of their most important services is called ‘myrmecochory’. This is when ants pick up and carry plant seeds. In doing so they disperse the seed and help it survive.
Think about how you plant a tree. You get a seed, place it underground, and keep it safe, watered, and provided with nutrients. By carrying seeds into their nests ants are essentially planting trees. Once inside a nest the seeds are safe from predators and bushfires, and placed in a moist sheltered area with high nutrients.
Australia has more species of ‘ant-dispersed’ plants than anywhere else on the planet. But where are ants the most effective ant dispersers? In the rainforest? In the arid inland? How does urbanisation effect seed dispersal? This project will answer all these questions and more!
What is the Tiny Gardener’s Project?
To survey the behaviour of ants across Australia we are recruiting keen schools and community groups who are interested in learning more about what ants are doing in their backyards or school grounds. Participants will conduct a standardised survey or ant behaviour so that we can compare how ant behaviour varies across the country. To conduct the experiment you will place seeds outside on the ground and see how fast ants collect them over 5 days. It is best to conduct the experiment during the warmer months (October to March) as this is when most ants are active. You will check the seeds once a day for the next four days and count how many seeds are remaining. This will tell us what seeds ants prefer and how effective they are at collecting them. Once you have collected your data you will email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it will contribute to a nationwide effort to understand how ants are planting Australia’s forests.
Think you can help?
We are looking for schools that are interested in taking part in the Tiny Gardeners Project between now and the end of March. Alternatively, contact us if you would like to book your school for next season’s data collection round beginning in October 2020.