The California Academy of Sciences is receiving nearly $2 million to send researchers to the Southwest Indian Ocean Islands and east Africa, to capture, photograph, and analyze thousands of exotic ants. The photographs of the ants – over 3,000 species’ worth, according to the grant proposal – will be posted on AntWeb, a website devoted to organizing and displaying pictures and information on the world’s thousands of ant species.
The project’s goals are, to the lay person, both laudable and arcane: In addition to “foster[ing]…a large pool of ant taxonomists,” it also strives to document “the vast majority of ant species known from [Africa].” “[Ants] give us back the most data on the environment than any other group. Their life cycle is shorter, they change very quickly,” says the project’s Principal Investigator in a promotional article on the Academy’s website. “Everyone has run into ants . . . now we need to listen to them.”