Back from Greece!

Greece came and went this year faster than it ever has before. I think it had to do with the fact that it was the third of my field expeditions this spring. Maybe it had something to do with the only three days at home between returning from the Bahamas and leaving for Athens. Much of my time in Greece was spent breathless trying to get from island to island and now, in retrospect, the three weeks of fieldwork seem like a bit of a hazy dream.

Luckily I’ve got a big stack of data sheets to remember the lizards by.

The goal this year was to revisit the island introduction experiment I started in 2014. This is year three and the first year where all of the lizards we originally introduced to the island have likely died of old age. This means that most of the lizards we were catching were the grandkids of the original colonists and had never experienced any environment other than the little islands they were born on. This is terrific for our ability to start asking questions about evolution over the course of those three generations.

We revisited all five experimental islands and all of the lizard populations are still doing great!

Two of the islands now have well over 100 lizards on them. That’s starting from a seed population of just 20! The lizards are getting big too. It seems like they’re not having any trouble finding food on these little islands.

I’m putting together video from the trip now. I promise to show a bit more restraint in the aerial video than I did on Redonda. Here’s a short fly-over of one of the islands just to give you a look. (Don’t forget to play it on HD). This island was one of our most densely populated – well over 100 lizards on it!

For those of you with a particularly keen eye (and a very long memory on this blog) this is Galiatsos which used to have a fort on it. Here’s a map of the Bay of Naoussa from 1776. Galiatsos is the island with a “Batterie de 35 Canons.”

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From the flyby you can still see the raised embankments around Galiatsos that formed the foundations of that fort. Once upon a time, those canons were watching over one of the best-protected bays in the Cyclades. It’s fun to be on the island 250 years later and still be able to make out hints of its long history.

 

More fieldwork on the horizon

The Redonda posts have trailed off because I’m neck-deep in prepping for the next two trips this field season. I’ve still got a few more Redonda stories in mind to write up though so I’ll try to get them posted before I leave next week. I have to tell you about the next trips though!

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Next Saturday I’m headed to the Bahamas for a quick 2 week and 2 day trip to catch Anolis sagrei, the “festive anole.” This is the last field foray of my first postdoc and the second round of sampling in the Bahamas that I was a part of last fall. You can read the posts Here, here, a little disaster here, and more pretty pictures here.

We’ll be surveying lizards on three islands: Eleuthera, Long Island, and Bimini. In each of those islands we’ll be looking for lizards in two habitats – “primary” undisturbed forest and coastal beach scrub to test for differences in morphology between the populations. We’ll also be taking 360 lizards home with us to breed here in the lizard colony. Whew, sorting out those logistics – permitting, charting flights for the lizards (yes, actually), storing them happily for long periods of time – has been a huge challenge.

To help, I’m going to have 6 people along in the field with me. This is going to be great but means we’ve had to find and sort out 4 train rides, 5 car rentals, and a total of 29 different flights. I’ll be on 8 of those flights over the 16 days! I’ll try to keep posting from the field; you’re going to see some familiar faces. Rob has caught lizards with me in Connecticut before, Geoff was with me in Redonda, and Angus was one of my old field assistants in Greece!

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Rob with his first Podarcis

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(Sorry, Angus, I was looking through old pictures and I just couldn’t resist)

Three days after getting back from the Bahamas I’m hopping on a plane to Greece! Just enough time to do some laundry. Whew!

This Greece trip is another revisit to the island manipulation experiment. The islands are steadily filling up with lizards (I think… Greece did get record snow this year…) and this time around we’ve got a lot of projects going. Anthony and I will be back measuring morphology and bite force, Menelia will be there with her sprint speed setup. Kinsey is back! This time looking at the lizards’ throat color. All in all I’ll have 10 people there running around so, again, coordinating everything has been a huge effort.

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Menelia’s hoping we won’t have this much stuff this year. Shhh… nobody tell her we’re actually gonna have 5 kayaks to haul around!

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Kinsey’s excited to get back to Greece!

I’ll be in Greece until the end of May when I’m headed back to Cambridge for a much quieter summer. Stay tuned for all of the stories from the field!

 

It’s Working!

I’m about to fall into bed after and before another big day of lizard catching tomorrow but just a quick update because I’m really excited. The island manipulation experiment is working! We’ve revisited two of the islands so far – actually the two least productive I think – and the lizards have made it. What’s more, several of last year’s individuals sporting flashy PIT tags (read more and watch a video about that from last year) have survived. It’s such a delightful feeling catching a lizard, seeing that little bump, bagging it, and then waving a little magic wand over the bag to figure out who the lizard was. In fact, it’s such a terrific feeling I’ve video recorded it and uploaded a video so you can experience it as well. Enjoy!

More from the field soon but I’ve put a bet down that we’re going to catch 50 lizards on Agios Artemios so I’m going to get some sleep! Kali Nichta!

The islands revisited

After several “are you still alive?” emails yesterday I think it’s time to update the blog! I’m sorry for the delay, but it was for good reason: this last week has been non-stop revisiting of the five introduction islands from last year.

I’m going to stretch this out over several posts because it was a lot of work and the results are really exciting. The short of it though: we found our lizards! All five island populations had survivors and they seem to be doing well. Some island populations had spread out over much of the island, others remained right in the neighborhood of their introduction site. All of the populations had new recruits – i.e. lizards that were born last year after the introduction, and just about all of the females we found this year were pregnant! That means they’ve figured out how to survive on the islands and now we can start tracking them year to year.

Each island required either ferrying people to and fro in kayaks or hopping on and off of Captain Rofo’s excellent boat. After that, the team stomped in line over the whole island noosing, baiting, or diving on anything that wriggled (to the surprise of not a few errant geckos).

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This photo was shot by SNRE MS student, Zachary Gizicki from the next island over where he was surveying vegetation for his thesis.

Once we caught the lizards, it was back to measure them, and put in a permanent PIT tag (more on that very soon!). These islands don’t exactly have a lot of cover though so we’d huddle in whatever shade we could find. Here’s a video of the team in a cave on Agios Artemios:

Thank you all of your support and excitement. I cannot wait to tell you more about the experiment, the process, and the preliminary results!