Welcome to my 'Adventures Down South' series!

As this may be my last field season as a PhD candidate (and I had a few requests), I decided to document what it is exactly that I do when I disappear for several weeks (or months) into the wilds of the south in the summer, in search of lizards. Although my family and friends have known for years that I am a herper* and an evolutionary ecologist, they’ve never quite known what that means in terms of what the heck I do on a daily basis (“Yes dear, but what exactly do you do?”). I hope this clarifies it all a bit! I’ll be updating this blog throughout the summer, so you can see the trials, tribulations, and hopefully the joys of a scientific study in progress. 

*for this and other terms I often use that  you might not be familiar with,  check the sidebar on the right. If there are any terms you’d like me to define, please let me know.

This summer I am working on my study Postcopulatory sexual selection in Anolis carolinensis. My goal is to find multiple large (~200 individuals) populations of the green anole, A. carolinensis, in Georgia. Once I find these populations, I’ll measure habitat characteristics, estimate population densities, and then collect a few animals to determine how habitat, male density, and postcopulatory traits (testis size, sperm traits, and genital morphology) are related and vary across populations, to understand the role of the environment in driving sexual selection in this species (and to give us a better idea of what’s happening in this regard in lizards and reptiles in general). No problem, right? Follow my blog and find out!

In late April I drove from western Massachusetts to Augusta, Georgia, with a stop in Charlottesville, VA to meet up with my collaborator on this project, Ariel Kahrl – say, “Hi” Ariel!

  Ariel Kahrl, everybody! Oops, it appears that she's got her mouth full...

Ariel Kahrl, everybody! Oops, it appears that she's got her mouth full...

Ariel studies sperm morphological evolution in lizards. She’s done some pretty amazing work and is helping me with the sperm portion of this project. Check out her website!

  Ariel demonstrating how to collect ejaculate from an  Anolis sagrei  (brown anole)

Ariel demonstrating how to collect ejaculate from an Anolis sagrei (brown anole)

Once I got to Augusta, I immediately started checking out local areas for populations of the green anole…

I present, Looking for Lizards (April 23-25).

Spoiler alert! I eventually found some :)

Unfortunately, the one population I found wasn't large enough to study. I had a week of rain ahead of me, and I had just spent a week at this point searching every roadside and park I could find for these lizards (hours and hours at every "good" site I had heard about, plus hours searching anything that looked "lizardy"). I also contacted several local herpers in the area to try to find new sites, with little luck. With bad weather looming, and no study population in hand, I made the best of a bad situation and filmed the few lizards I could find so you could see how wonderful they are and maybe learn a little about their ecology. Though the video is slow at parts, there are some wonderful surprises in there, too! Enjoy! 

Wanna See Some Lizards? (April 25-27)