Frog Party


I’m back from the Bahamas but leaving for Greece tomorrow afternoon! Whew. I knew it was going to be a fast turnaround but my head’s spinning trying to keep track of the simultaneous fieldwork wrap-up and start-up to-do lists. I have a couple of pictures and videos ready to share from the Bahamas though so I want to get them posted quick before the next adventure is in full swing.

All in all the Bahamas visit was a success. We shipped 360 lizards back to Harvard for a big breeding experiment and got more data on habitat use for well over 1200 lizards across Eleuthera, Long, and Bimini islands. The team was terrific, the lizards were plentiful, and the weather was perfect. Well, almost.

The final day of fieldwork was a complete washout. As Raphaël said, “C’est la fête à la grenouille” – a party for frogs. Alas, we were after lizards, not frogs, so we stayed in until the last minute hoping it might clear. When it became obvious that a thorough drenching was inevitable though, Raphaël and I put on our swimsuits and set out. We needed to return all of the lizards that we’d caught that we weren’t bringing back to Harvard with us. It was a sloppy wet hour and a half for us but I’m pretty sure the lizards appreciated being brought back home.

Here’s a short video documenting the adventure:


The requisite car trouble

The roads on Andros were tough! Even the “highway” spanning the island north-to-south was dirt, and while the graters were doing their best to keep ahead of the erosion following each deluge, many of the secondary roads leading to our sites required a sturdy truck. Luckily this Yukon had been brought to the Navy base on the island some years ago and purchased by our landlord. Somehow it had over 200k miles on it! I’ve a feeling it covered most of those miles somewhere other than the 50-mile long North Andros. We rented it for the week and it performed admirably on the island’s potholes, nearly pond-sized puddles, and overgrown embankments. Truck

Of course this wouldn’t be a field trip without some kind of car troubles. We got ours out of the way on day 1. While the car put up with a lot, this massive stick jutting out along one of the roads was the end of our back tire.

Tire with stick

I’ve never seen such a catastrophic flat!

Luckily (and a little surprisingly) the vehicle was equipped with a spare and full tire-changing kit.

Spare Tire

The light faded fast, but we got the spare on with the help of a few headlamps. Of course, the spare was nearly flat with a slow leak, and we were pretty far off the beaten track. We limped back to the highway and stopped at the first convenience store we could find to ask about an air compressor. Even more luckily, there was a quarter-operated compressor only a few miles away. By the time we were there we really were practically rolling on the rims – it took two 75 cent sessions to get the tire looking approximately full again.

We never did get a replacement spare from the landlord, but luckily we didn’t need another. Aside from its insatiable appetite for gas, the Yukon held up great for the rest of the week. There’s a lot to be said for getting the equipment failures out of the way at the beginning of the trip.

So what were we up to in the Bahamas?

Well, the Thanksgiving holidays got the better of me and I didn’t get the next post up as quickly as I was hoping. However, now that cold weather has really settled in in New England, another few photos from warmer climes are a welcome distraction.

As I introduced last post, I just spent a week on the island of North Andros looking for lizards. While the accommodations were cushy, the work was tough and we spent most of the daylight hours (rain or shine) looking for sites and lizards.


A Brown anole, Anoles sagrei, I found on Andros

The research was part of a larger project looking at the widespread Brown Anole, Anolis sagrei. This species is found in a wide range of habitats in the Bahamas ranging from mangroves, “beach scrub” with low bushes and sandy soil, primary coppice, which are remnant patches of closed canopy forest, and secondary coppice, forests in earlier stages of succession.


Mangroves from one of our sites.

Our target was to catch 10 males and females from each of the four habitat types on Andros. Unfortunately, that goal was made trickier by terrible weather:

Driving Rain

Driving rain

Our first two days were spent largely jumping out of the car to catch lizards at a new site, only to dive back in as the clouds opened up and dumped rain on us. We did manage to catch quite a few lizards in drizzle, which was a surprise for me given how wimpy my Greek lizards are in bad weather – any hint of rain and they’re running for burrows. Catching the numbers we needed though was almost impossible in bad weather so the first two days were spent largely driving the island looking for good sites with our fingers crossed that one of the days would clear up and give us a good shot at catching our quota.


Lush primary coppice. A beautiful habitat but tough for lizard spotting!

Luckily, on day three we caught our break. We had beautiful sunny weather and hot temperatures that brought the lizards out looking for food. We polished off 3 habitat types in that day alone! It was a long day of catching but felt great to make that progress after the first couple of slower days.

More Mangroves

One more look at Mangroves because I didn’t get good pictures of the other habitat types given the raininess. 

This project has been covered pretty extensively over on Anole Annals. You can read more posts about it here. Up next are posts about what we were measuring on the lizards and more pictures of the lizards themselves!