Hi! My name is Amy, and I’m the new member of the Lizard Lab. Right now, I spend most of my time helping out on little projects, and learning as much as I can about the way things work here in the lab. Being the newest member of the lab, my summer here so far has been a series of “firsts.”
Last week, we took a field trip to Palmetto State Park. This was my very first field expedition! There, I learned all about observing lizards in their natural environment, and I learned to identify the different behaviors they perform. In order to study lizards in the lab, it’s important to understand how lizards behave outside the lab. We focused on observing lizards of the species Anolis carolinensis (or, green anoles). Typical lizard behaviors include crawling, running, jumping, eating, and displaying. Green anole lizards display by extending their dewlap (a pink throat fan) and doing head bobs and push-ups. These displays help male lizards defend their territory and attract females. We record all of these behaviors when observing lizards, but writing, watching, and counting displays all at the same time is a lot to juggle, especially for a newcomer like me!
I also learned how to capture lizards and take their measurements. When I was a kid, I would spend hours running around my grandmother’s garden catching lizards with my bare hands! (Maybe you do this too?) In the field, catching lizards with your hands works fine, but more often we use a pole and noose. We carefully extend our pole towards the unsuspecting lizard, and quickly tighten the noose around its neck. (Don’t worry – this may sound like it hurts the lizard, but we are very careful not to harm them.) After catching a few anoles, I learned how to measure a lizard’s body size. When we measure a lizard in the field, at first it seems complicated to hold the lizard and the measuring tools, but after a few tries, I was pretty good at it.
Lizards are not the only kind of animal at Palmetto State Park! I saw many spiders, cool bugs, and tree frogs. I also saw a doe (a female deer) run right past me while I was watching a lizard! Although we didn’t see any snakes, there are venomous snakes in the area, so when we work we wear special gear called gaiters, which wrap around your legs to protect against snake bites. (In the photo here, you can see us wearing gaiters and watching for snakes – we hoped we’d see them!)