These past few weeks I had the chance to get back into the field to start some new research on Sceloporus. Its been about 10 years since my Master’s and going out catching lizards, but I still had my old nooses; as well as some new equipment to estimate cutaneous water loss. This is a new research direction for me, stemming from some of the results we found in our 2011 Sceloporus paper, suggesting scales may be important for water loss. My goal this summer is to visit some sites, see if I can still catch lizards, and work out some of the kinks in the methods to get an idea of water loss variation. I had originally thought about bringing lizards into the lab, but since I am not quite setup for it yet, I decided to just measure water loss in the field, establish some sites, and plan to bring some into the lab next summer to measure water loss in more controlled environments.
My first stop was South Carolina, revisiting one of my old sites. I remember collecting gravid females from here for my Master’s and getting 12 females in 4 hours. This site is managed quail habitat, so it has lots of clear cuts, with the Sceloporus on the edges. I only spent one day in the field and managed to catch and measure a good number of males and females. They are there, I can still catch them, and I can measure water loss in the field (by myself, which wasn’t easy). A pretty successful trip. One of my favorite things about being out in the field looking for Sceloporus is seeing other organisms. Aside from the many birds (which I have no idea what they were), I saw a green rough necked snake and a rat snake, both in trees. Here are some photos.
My next stop was Oklahoma, a place I have not been to before to work on Sceloporus. An old grad school friend and collaborator is now there near the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, so we caught and measured lizards there. This was very different habitat than I am use to, not forest, but plains. The Sceloporus were pretty abundant here and over two days we caught and saw more than I did in SC. One thing I noticed about these lizards is their tendency towards arboreality. At some of the sites, where the lizards were found on trees, they were going up much higher in the trees than I am use to….out of noose range. Almost all of the ones we caught were on trees, except for one on a gazebo and another on the ground. None on any of the many fallen trees and logs like I am use to, so it was a good learning experience for me.
This wildlife refuge was an amazing place. Aside from the Sceloporus, there are lots of other herps, the main ones we saw were Collard lizards, and the males in this population are really blue. They have reintroduced a lot of other animals here, one of my personal favorite, Bison, which originated from the Bronx Zoo, where I use to work. These bison were not afraid of people, and at one of the sites, were not too far from us (see photo below). There are also elk and lots of prairie dogs. Again, a very different habitat than what I am use to, but a cool place to catch some Sceloporus.
Now its time to get some lizards from Maryland!