I’ve just finished laying pitfall and sticky traps for my insect sampling and it’s already almost time to start picking them back up. I set over 200 pitfall traps and over 150 sticky traps these last two days and I’m worn out! Here’s a quick picture of a pitfall trap, and a video showing the process! Make sure your sound is turned on for full effect. The pitfall traps are buried plastic cups with a bit of antifreeze in the bottom. They’ll be filling up with crawling insects that are especially delicious lizard food. The sticky traps are 3×5 notecards covered in glue and will be collecting the aerial insects flying around these terraces. Soon it will be data crunching time! I’m anxious to see what I find!
All is well! I’ve had a busy few days though. I’ve decided on terraces, so now I am setting up an experiment looking at the insects, lizards and plants surrounding olive terraces in the Moni valley here on Naxos. I planted 12 pitfall traps and 8 sticky traps around each of 9 terraces and am planning on doing the same tomorrow. That means in three days when I go back to collect I’m going to be up to my eyeballs in soggy or sticky insects. I’ll make sure to send a picture.
Sinking traps makes for long days in the field, but I have high hopes that the data will give me a lot more information about the workings of these terraces. I’ll upload a few pictures of the pitfall traps and terraces soon once I get them off my camera.
I’m excited about my field site though. I’ve tons and tons of lizards all over the place and have actually seen three snakes so far including, most recently, Elaphe quaturolineata, a harmless but very big snake. This one was approaching 5 feet long but was very docile in-hand. I wish I’d had my camera with me so I could have taken a picture. I hope he’ll be wandering around my sites again in the future.
If you want to see some of my terraces you can actually see them on google maps. Search for Moni, Naxos, Greece and look in the valley to the south. That’s where I’m spending my days!
More updates soon!
Y’all have been asking for details on the bite force meter I’ve been alluding too. Here are a few pictures to illustrate what I’ve been talking about.
The meter was borrowed from and built by Anthony Herrel, a collaborator in Paris. at its core are two metal plates to the left of the picture where the lizard bites. Biting on these plates causes the top metal arm to swivel on the pivot point supplied by the micrometer in the center. This then causes the plates on the right to pull apart, which creates an electric current through the metal cylinder at the right of the picture. That current is proportional to the force exerted on the bite plates and can be interpreted by a bit of electronics as seen here:
It’s a beautiful piece of equipment and has already proven very useful. I have data for about 40 lizards and I’m hoping for at least ten times that! I’ll try to post a video of it in action soon but here’s a picture to show the setup in the field.
Every once in a while driving to my field sites I have to pull over, take a picture, and pinch myself that this is where I’m getting to work. The landscape here is really spectacular. Click on the link to see the picture at a larger size.
As I mentioned earlier I decided to make a few apple pies as a thank you, first to the family who invited me over to dinner for Greek Easter and another to the family living above me who has on several occasions brought me food, and now puts up with 8 Americans living below them. I decided to make a third pie just to make sure it was going to taste alright. Tonight was my night to cook for the group so I decided it was apple pie time!
I had to make a few impromptu substitutions, especially in the crust. Without measuring cups there was a lot of best guessing going on. Instead of lard I used… something… I’m not sure what. I think it was a pastry butter but it may also have been an olive-oil rich vegetable crisco type thing? No sour cream, but Greek yogurt worked very well. Anyway, despite all of that, I was happy with the result.
I even carved the Greek word for Apple into them. While they were still warm from the oven I delivered them to the neighbors with many thanks. They were very excited to get such a delicious slice of Americana and it was so fun to deliver hot pies. I’ll have to think about what next to cook, perhaps sometime next month.
Here’s one of the five sand boas that friends and I have found over the last few days. I really like this picture, but the fun thing about it is that I was caught in the act of capturing it by Kinsey, another scientist here in Greece. You know how excited I get about snakes. Now you can see I fit right in with the other dorky scientists I hang out with.
I recently spent a couple of excellent days islet hopping off of Schinoussa. This involves riding in a fisherman’s boat to a few small deserted islets, jumping ashore while the boat is bobbing in the water, and then catching lizards for a couple of hours until it’s time to progress to the next islet. It’s one of the parts of the field work I enjoy the very most.
We visited three islets this trip and had pretty good success with the lizards on the first two. Here’re a few photos to illustrate the process:
Here’s an example of an islet we jumped ashore on to survey. It’s about 300 m across.
And here’s a bit what it looks like on the islands. Many of them have been fairly heavily grazed, you can see the shrubs on this island are low and far between. Lizards loved those rocks though, but they all to often took off running for the nearest bush as we’d approach.
Here is my friend, Kinsey, demonstrating the proper technique for “noosing” lizards. It requires patience and a steady hand – difficult with the often strong wind – to slip a thin thread slip knot around a lizard. But once you have them in hand the hard work is all worth it!
I wish I could hear what the lizard is thinking. Some of them have quite a lot of personality! Others just bite me and look grumpy until I let them go. If this lizard had a speech bubble what do you think it’d be saying?