Lions, tigers and water bears: The International Society of Tardigrade Hunters finds a home at UNC

Activism is everywhere on UNC’s campus. Many people spend their afternoons raising awareness in the pit, outside of Chase Dining Hall, even in the quads. However, one subject is horrifically overlooked by many: water bears. (Exactly what you expected, really).

No, I’m not talking sea bears here. Don’t worry, you won’t attract a water bear by playing the clarinet badly, waving your flashlight back and forth really fast, stomping the ground, eating cubed cheese (sliced is safe) or wearing a sombrero in a goofy fashion.

This is a water bear:

Yes. Tonight I will sleep soundly, affirmed in the fact that I have just changed your life forever. LOOK at this thing. It’s equal parts terrifying, adorable, vacuum cleaner and potato. Confused why you’ve never seen this glorious creature on National Geographic before? It’s probably because they are smaller than a millimeter.

The water bear is a microscopic animal, formally called a Tardigrade. It lives in moss and lichen, but it can basically survive in any environment. When there is a lack of moisture in its environment, it shrivels up and stops living life and just WAITS until the water comes back. Revolutionary. I wish I could shrivel up and just wait for midterms to be over.

I understand that by this point you are probably dramatically and irrevocably surrendered to the awareness and research of water bears. I can feel your desire to know more pulsing through the screen. You are not alone! A beautiful thing called The International Society of Tardigrade Hunters was founded on March 20, 2015.

This is a group of people unified by the pursuit of water bears aka quite literally the pursuit of happiness. To celebrate its recent founding, the society had a “collecting expedition” RIGHT HERE on UNC’s campus. Tardigrade lovers took to the mossy woods and ended up finding 27 vacuum cleaner-potatoes. We probably see so many of these things on a daily basis without really seeing them/ knowing they exist.

This society has it’s own blog. Interested in hunting water bears? (Don’t deny your heart) The International Society of Tardigrade Hunters is as much a hidden treasure as sweet, pudgy water bears themselves. It is your new home, my recent converts. I believe in you, UNC. I believe that together we can end rampant water bear ignorance. Spread awareness. Acceptance is the first step to recovery. 


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