Hi, I’m Alyssa and I’m a research student in the Lizard Lab. My project involves working with Texas Spiny Lizards. I am using DNA to see how lizards in different parks in San Antonio are related to one another. In the past year, I have caught over 200 lizards!

The Texas Spiny Lizard likes to hang out on trunks of trees, and this is where I catch them when I am walking through a park. When I catch a lizard, I take a small piece of the end of the lizard’s tail that I can use to sample the lizard’s DNA. I also measure the mass and length of the lizard, and record the GPS location so that I know exactly where I caught each lizard. After I’ve taken these measurements, I let the lizard go right where I caught it.  Then, I go back to the lab and use the tail sample to look at how each lizard is related to the others I have caught. I also use the GPS information to see if lizards that live close together are more likely to be related to each other. So far, I have found that lizards in the same park are usually close relatives.

I also compare how lizards in different city parks are related to one another. In some cases, parks are connected by a natural area called a corridor. If lizards move between two parks using a corridor, the lizards in those parks may be closely related to one another. I use methods from a field of biology called “population genetics” to study these patterns.  I hope my work will help us understand how we can best conserve lizard populations in urban habitats, by learning what kinds of connections between parks allow lizards to be most diverse.