Joseph O’Neill has been interested in ants since he was very young.
“Of all insects, ants are my favorite,” he said during a recent interview with KUAF 91.3 FM news director Kyle Kellams. “They build complex societies with division of labor, they take slaves. There’s one ant, the Kamikaze ant, that mixes two chemicals in its belly, then explodes.” A horticulture major in Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences and an Honors College blogger, O’Neill will be getting his fill of ants over the next 10 months, as he mounts and identifies ants collected throughout Arkansas. He plans to write up this documentation as his senior honors thesis and post online at AntWeb, where his Arkansas page will resemble the page done for Missouri. This documentation will provide a starting point for future researchers, said his Honors College faculty mentor, Ashley Dowling.
“There’s so much we don’t know,” Dowling said. “The Ozarks as a region have been overlooked; I suspect a large proportion of what Joseph finds will be new records for the state.”
So far, O’Neill has pointed (mounted) about 130 ants and expects to point “10 to 20X that amount, AT LEAST” by the time he wraps up work on the project next fall. He describes the painstaking process of collecting, pointing and identifying ants and his collaboration with Dowling in the interview, which aired on KUAF’s “Ozarks at Large” program at 12 noon and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15. This interview is the first of a series of interviews on “Ozarks at Large” that focus on student/faculty research collaborations within the Honors College. Stay tuned . . .