I’ve just finished my first postdoc appointment!
Let me qualify that a bit: I’m “finished” in that I’ve been paid all I’m getting paid for that project. Unfortunately, I’ve only completed about half of the work I’m hoping to do for the team, so I’ve really got a long ways to go yet.
Way back in June I started working on a big project in the Losos lab looking at patterns of morphological and genetic variation in a widespread lizard species, Anolis sagrei (also called the Festive Anole) across its range in the Caribbean. The field trip I took to the Bahamas last year was a part of this project.
The project is two pronged and there are (were) two of us postdocs leading the charge on the day-to-day work here on campus. I’ve been trying to keep track of all of the questions with data that’s lizard-sized and larger. The other postdoc, Anthony is master of all of the genetic methods and questions about things (much) smaller than lizards.
The festive anole can be found on a whole lot of islands in the Caribbean (and it’s making its way onto the mainland in Central America and the southeastern US). Across that range it can be found in a variety of habitats from mangrove forests or beach scrub all the way to primary old growth forests (where those forests can still be found). The first stage of the project was gathering morphological data on the species across the many different habitats it inhabits to better understand the drivers and extent of the considerable morphological variation we see across these areas.
Above is just an example of male A. sagrei from three different islands in the dataset. Look at all that variation in dewlap color!
The second part of the project is a massive breeding experiment. We’re trying to look at the reproductive compatibility of different A. sagrei populations that have been isolated from each other for millions of years. Our thinking is that over this time they’ll have evolved differences in body size or dewlap color, for example, that prevent them from interbreeding successfully. The breeding experiment is underway and will be for a while longer.
So, what’s next? Well, last spring I won a three year fellowship from the National Science Foundation to conduct my own research at Harvard. My funding for that project started January first so I’m fleshing out plans for next steps. I’ll update you more on those plans, but it’s going to involve quite a bit more time back in Europe with my old friends, Podarcis. As that’s gearing up though I’ll be analyzing the data I’ve collected this last Fall, trying to keep on top of all of these breeding lizards, oh, and heading to a deserted island only accessible by helicopter to get baseline data on three endangered, endemic lizard species in partnership with the government of Antigua and Barbuda. Hope that’s enough of a teaser to keep you tuned for more!