Saturday, March 31, 2012

Days 4 and 5 of the Lizard Project- repost from Aaron's blog

We are already into day 5 of The Lizard Project.  Our team is settling in to our daily routine of working in the field, When it comes to science in the field, nothing is ever really routine.

Yesterday, was a really full day.  We left at 6:00 am to get our rental pickup truck.  This is great for us, because we can now pull a trailer with all four of our kayaks and carry all of our gear in the back, all in one trip.

Tim caught a bumble bee with a lizard noose.  No way!
We did four Skype video calls with classrooms. The first call was to Adam Taylor's class in Nashville, TN at Overton High School.  They asked lots of great questions and Mr. Taylor even ran a live webcast of our conversation!  We then talked to 3 of Mr. Will Reed's classes at Kelly High School in Chicago.  The first conversation actually took place from the water while we were paddling the kayaks out to the islands!  We had  hot sunny weather and it was a great day for the lizards. We caught 76.  Tim also became a legend among our crew when he caught a bumble-bee out of mid air with his lizard noose.  If you don't understand why that is amazing, check out this quick video of a lizard noose in action. Now picture using that to catch a bumble bee in mid-air.

Threatening Sky
Today mother nature dealt us a completely different day to work with.  We got out to the islands around 9:00am, but it was cool and windy with storm clouds threatening.  We worked at catching lizards for 4 hours total on three different islands and only caught 6 lizards. Lizards are ectothermic or what you might know as cold-blooded. Because they are ecothermic, they can't move very fast when they are cool.  So on days when it is not sunny and hot, they spend most of their time hiding inside of trees or underneath palm fronds.  They are almost impossible to find under these conditions and we only found a few. We decided that any more time spent searching for hidden lizards was not worth it,  the sky grew more threatening and we spotted lightning. That was our cue to head for home.  We hurried to load up our gear in the boats and paddle for the dock.  We  paddled with a huge wind at our backs and loaded the kayaks onto the trailer just as the rain and hail hit.  No we are back at the field station catching up on data processing and waiting out the rain.

Aaron Reedy

Lizard Project Day 4 and 5

Day 4 was a busy day.  We, picked up a truck which makes transporting kayaks easier, caught 76 lizards on 2 islands, released lizards from the previous day on 2 islands, and skyped with 4 different classrooms.  We also processed (weighed, measured, photographed, and marked) a ton of lizards.  On day 4 it was very sunny, which made for active lizards.  This both helps us (as lizards are out and about) and hinders us (as the lizards are really hard to catch).  The lizards become hard to catch because they are ectothermic, and in warm temperatures they are operating close to their optimal body temperature, which makes them very athletic.  Still, we managed to get a lot of them.  

Today is Day 5 (Saturday).  Today it was very cool and overcast, and we found very few lizards in the morning (only 6 captured in total).  In the early afternoon, it started to storm, so we got of the islands as quickly as possible and made it back to shore just before a huge rain, lightning, and hail storm.  So now we are catching up on other work.

Lizard Project- Day 3 videos

We had a busy Day 3!  Here are videos of the Island Glass lizard we found, how we capture lizards, and  how we measure dewlaps!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lizard Project- Day 3. The little things.

One of the best parts about doing research in the field is the little unexpected things that you get to see because you are spending time looking at nature so carefully. Today we got a lot of work done.  We measured dewlaps in the morning for 20 lizards, paddled out to islands M and K where we caught 76 more lizards, took a break for dinner and then measured, weighed and marked our catch.  We did a lot of work, but the things I will remember about today were the little things that happened in between the work.

While paddling between islands in our kayaks, we saw a snake swimming out in the middle of the estuary.  We paddled over to try and catch it.  Once Tim had it in hand, we realized that it wasn't a snake at all.  It was a eastern glass lizard, a species of lizard without legs.  It is a great example of convergent evolution.  They look like snakes, but they evolved this body completely independently.  None of us had ever seen one in real life (aka: the wild) before.

In the middle of working on the islands, we heard loud snorting and slapping noises.  In the estuary, we saw several dolphins swimming in the shallows.  Quite a site to see for us, since we all live in the midwest, nowhere near an ocean.

The other fun part of the day occurred as we chased down a large male anole.  Aaron spotted the anole in the tree, and it was eating the lunch of a fat spider.  Tim then tried to catch the anole with his lizard noose but accidentally caught the spider instead. The seconds later, Dan caught the lizard.

We are looking forward to more of the little things.  -Tim and Aaron

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lizard Project- Day 2

 Yesterday Dan and I arrived in Florida.  Today was our first field day.  We kayaked to 6 islands today, and tagged every tree on every island, for a total of 410 trees tagged! We tag each tree so we can note exactly where we catch or encounter each lizard we see. For example the tag at right is on Tree 45 at island "N".   Of the six islands, we saw lizards on every one.  Some islands were crawling with lizards, others were much more sparse. We finished tagging the trees at about 2pm, and decided to revisit a few of the islands to try and get some lizards.  We saw very few lizards the first time around on the two islands we revisited, so we were very happy when we ended up catching 20 lizards by the end of the day!

LIzard Project- We have arrived in Florida

Here is a little info about our first day in Florida. Stay tuned, as we head out to our Islands on Day 2 for the first time since last August.  We can't wait to see what is out there.

Millie, the snake in Mr. Morris's Class is  also a Corn Snake.  This one is a lot younger, and cruising around in the wild, though!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dan "The Lizard King" Warner

I have learned a tremendous amount from Dan Warner, who is currently a post-doc in Fred's lab.  As you know, I am very interested in sex-ratio evolution (see "Why I study Turtles?" post).  And so is Dan.  Dan has developed a very big and intriguing project on sex ratio evolution using on islands in Florida.  I am going on my second trip to Florida next week with Dan to continue work on the project.

Here is a little bit about Dan.  You will be hearing much more from us in the near future!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tweet tweet!

In order to correspond with students and anyone else interested when I am in the field, I have just opened a twitter account. @timsturtles is my username.  Start following, as our Lizard Project adventure starts next week!