My lizards are on Atlas Obscura!

Geoffrey Giller is a recurring character on the blog and while people are usually most impressed by his terrific science journalism, or maybe his stunning nature photography, I’m very proud to share that he’s on his way to becoming a champion lizard catcher!

Geoffrey has helped out on trips to Redonda and to the Bahamas and will be returning with me to Redonda next month (more on that soon). He recently wrote a piece on Atlas Obscura about the Bahamas work and the lizard colony at Harvard that I wanted to highlight. You can see it here. Enjoy!


Geoffrey with an Antiguan Racer on one of the offshore islands of Antigua. This snake has made a stunning comeback thanks to years of dedicated conservation efforts. You can read more about the project here.

Finished my first postdoc!

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.


Anolis sagrei, the Festive Anole

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!


More leads on lizards in CT

This weekend a great article about the Italian Wall Lizards in Greenwich was published in the Greenwich Time. Give it a look here. Thanks to Peregrine Frissell for the interview.

I’m excited because new tips are starting to roll in about lizards in Southern CT and New York. It turns out lizard diversity in the area is higher than expected – we’re getting reports of some other species too:

Here’s a cute little Sceloporus:


(Photo credit: K. Ladd)

And here’s Anolis sagrei, the “festive anole” a long way from home!


(Photo credit: K. Eisley)

Very cool lizards but we’re on the lookout for this guy, Podarcis siculus:


Here are a bunch more pictures. Email me to let me know if you think you’ve seen one in your backyard!

Honeymoon Herps


Claire and I got married! For long term followers of the blog that might not come as such a surprise. We had a blast at Mass Audubon’s Habitat Nature Sanctuary for the ceremony and after, we left for Amelia Island in Florida.

Alright, so Amelia Island was nice, dolphins off the porch every morning, biking through live oak forests, kayaking through salt marshes, and sitting on miles of powdery white sand beaches. Really nice. But there were lizards!! PERFECT!

We found four species including this Anolis carolinensis above and below.


One of his cousins looked somewhat smug after being caught, don’t you think?


Alright, enough of the extraneous ring cameos. We found lots of Festive anoles too (Anolis sagrei). How appropriate.


Among all of the Anoles we found a couple of other species too. Here’s a picture of a cool skink, Scincella lateralis.


And I never managed to get a grip of the couple of whiptails dashing around the B&B but Aspidoscelis sexlineatus was also streaking through the dunes. Another really cool lizard!

All in all it was a terrific week of relaxing and recharging. If you’re ever looking for a great spot for outdoor adventure, quiet beach time, or good food, try Amelia Island!