A quick picture update from the Bahamas

There’s lots going on here in the field. We’ve just wrapped up collecting on Eleuthera and Long Island. I’m back on New Providence swapping out crew. Rob left after Eleuthera. He swapped spots with Geoff. We just lost Jon – a champion lizard catcher on Eleuthera and Long. Raphaël is still here and we’re being joined by Angus and Pavitra tomorrow. The rapidly switching roster is actually the least of the logistics worries but today, with twenty-dozen lizards safely ensconced in a cooler on their way back to Boston, I’m finally taking a few deep breaths.

Here are just a few pictures from the field. I’ll bolster them with a prosier post as soon as I can.

Here’s our quarry, Anolis sagrei, the “festive” anole.


And here’s one with dewlap unfurled.


This was Rob’s first time catching Anoles. Here’s his face after his first successful lasso.


Three days later he was catching like a pro while reposed under thorn bushes.


We’re catching a lot of lizards for this study – 120 per island. Here are a few in a lizard bag waiting for sorting.


While we’re catching lizards we’re also gathering data on their behavior and ecology – where they’re piercing and how warm that perch is for example. Here are Raph and Rob typing in some of the data. We’ve got well over 600 observations so far.


We’ve been doing a bit of driving between sites. Not a problem though with scenery like this. Note, the steering wheel is on the American side but the roads are all reversed (Thanks Great Britain). This causes some consternation trying to get used to the unfamiliar lane position with a familiar vehicle layout. Oddly, 2 of the 3 cars I’ve driven this trip have been reversed in this way. This however was the only car with a helpful red arrow to remind me where to be on the road. Luckily for these dirt paths it’s one car at a time no matter the side.


We’ve met a few other friends in the field. Here’s Geoff with a racer snake we found in the forest.


And here’s Anolis angusticeps, the coolest, most secretive anole we’ve seen this trip.


Here’s the final stage – a giant cooler in the back seat of a small sedan to the airport. Just peeking over the cooler in the back there is Jon, the ringer for lizard catching.


Bimini is our next stop for tomorrow! One more push on fieldwork, another ten dozen lizards, and then it’s back to Boston.


Happy Birthday, Festive Anole

I got up early the other morning to put a video camera on one of our A. sagrei eggs that was looking particularly ripe. About two hours later, this little hatchling crawled out. The whole hatching process took about 25 minutes, and I’ve sped up the video by 30x. The video is much more compelling with sound. I personally like “Also Sprach Zarathustra,”  though “Ranz des Vaches” by Rossini had some enthusiastic support in lab. If you have other music suggestions, add them to the comments!

Happy birthday, little one!

The Naturalist

Following my grandfather’s advice, I just finished reading “The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt, A lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Natural History.” I  enjoyed it so much I want to quickly share it here and encourage others to read it. 517ac-0mwbl-_sx327_bo1204203200_

The title leaves little to guess, it chronicles the story of Theodore Roosevelt’s life and his passion for the outdoors as a scientist, a natural historian, and a big game hunter (not necessarily in that order). I was consistently impressed throughout the book by Roosevelt’s passion for and devotion to the careful study of Nature and to a land-ethic that blended his love for hunting with conservation of wild fauna in natural lands. Roosevelt decried the loss of the tremendous large mammals in the west as humans moved in and hunters killed indiscriminately. Interestingly though, his instinct was to hunt those declining species for future study and appreciation. While this might seem counterintuitive, his selective hunting has provided a rich window into these creatures’ natural history for scientists and museum visitors alike for well over a century.

The book was especially exciting for me because I have unwittingly crossed Roosevelt’s footsteps more often than I’d realized. Roosevelt grew up in the Northeast and spent a great deal of his adolescence outdoors, including a particularly formative sojourn into the deep Maine woods. One of his passions growing up was natural history collections. When he was still fairly young, his father helped found the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, a museum I had the chance to go behind the scenes in to work with their collection of lizard specimens. Now, a lot of my postdoctoral research is based in natural history museums. Roosevelt went to Harvard and worked (for a short time) with the Harvard Natural History Museum. Several of his conservation mentors were alumni of Yale and connected to the Yale School of Forestry (one of his science advisors, Pinchot actually helped found FES). One of Roosevelt’s most spectacular adventures was just post-presidency when he went to Kenya and hunted for big game specimens in the shadow of Mt. Kenya to stock the newly created Smithsonian Museum in DC. That’s where I did my master’s research!

The book’s author, Darrin Lunde is a mammal curator at the Smithsonian and so is particularly articulate about the value of collecting museum specimens. There has been some argument in science about the value of killing and preserving voucher specimens, particularly of rare species. This argument has been thoroughly rebuffed (e.g. here and here and I’m happy to provide more!) however I think some of Mr. Lunde’s storytelling, particularly around Roosevelt’s Africa collections trip really nicely illustrates the importance of gathering specimens, the care needed for preserving them in a way that maximizes their scientific use, and the consideration needed for weighing which and how many specimens to take.

This was a great read and I would highly recommend it! Give it a look and tell me what you thought.

Woah. It’s 2017 already

Egads. There’s a lot to catch up on! The 4 months of 2016 was absolutely breakneck – I can’t believe I haven’t talked about postdoc-ing on the blog yet! Sorry! I’ve a lot to catch you all up with and there’s been lots of great stuff going on. I’m going to put together a bunch of posts this weekend to try to get you up to speed. Til then, here’s a pretty anole from Christmas in Georgia that’ll tease the tone of the Fall.

Sorry for the long absence, looking forward to catching everyone up with the goings on here at Harvard.


More stories around the web!

These little lizards in NY and CT sure are capturing a lot of peoples’ imaginations! The story has been picked up now in quite a few places! Here are a few that you might like to check out:

First and foremost, Peregrine Frissell, the author of the first Greenwich Time piece that started the momentum wrote a terrific follow up after going out into the field with Max, Greg, and I. You should definitely read it here – he had a photographer out in the field with him who got a bunch of GREAT shots!


That story’s been taken up in the Washington Times and by SFGate all the way out in California. Peregrine’s piece also inspired a post on the Mother Nature Network.

The NYTimes piece by Jim Dwyer really took off, and for good reason. If you haven’t seen it yet I’d highly encourage you to read it.


You can also catch the story at (e)ScienceThe Barre Montpelier Times Argus, NewsInn.org (with a cool (uncredited) header photo), WorldPrimetime, Singapore News, Headlines News 24, Digital News World, World of Online News. Alright, I’ll admit most of those are just news aggregators scraping off NYTimes headlines, but the Times did send the article out in the day’s Evening Briefing so that’s super exciting!

In searching for all those links (there are about twice that many easily found on google) I did find one gem. According to NewsDiffs, a site that tracks changes in articles after they are first published, the NYTimes article was first called “Immigrants To New York, Small but Fit, Seek New Turf.” I’m glad he swapped to “A Lizard That Made It in New York Heads North.”

I’m excited that these lizards are resonating with people and I’m looking forward to more lizard trips in the future to keep you updated on where they’re going and what they’re doing!