Monday, July 20, 2015

Snails, Leaves, Lizards oh My!

This post was written by Karen Patterson, and the photo and video are hers.

Hello! My name is Karen and I am a senior biological sciences major from the University of Missouri. I ventured on this excursion with Ellee to study the behavior of female anoles with an emphasis on aggression and territoriality. All I can say is WOW. What a trip this has been! We’ve had our fair share of hurdles to jump but I’ve experienced so much! 

One of Karen's favorite leaves!
Up until our arrival, I was having slight difficulties imagining what field research would be like. I had read articles Ellee sent me conveying similar experiments and methods related to what we would be doing, but I couldn’t quite piece it all together to form the big picture. Fortunately, Ellee was very accommodating and eased us into the world that is field research. Day one proved to me that beginner’s luck is real. I caught 14 lizards that day and a wimpy 3 the next. Our first day of data collection began with me being ashamed of not being able to use binoculars correctly…until Ellee asked to borrow mine and quickly reassured me that it was them, not me. This of course led to our fun filled day out in town which a previous blogpost recounts. I found that I enjoyed taking locations of lizards because it was like a game of “I Spy”, or “Where’s Waldo?”. I also confirmed Ellee’s sentiments that lizard watching requires a comfy rock. Surprisingly, there is such a thing…at least for 20 minutes. I learned to eat my lunch without actually touching my food and different ways to reference lizard locations on trees. These included phrases such as “approximately 4 inches below the white spot” or “3 inches above the snail”. Speaking of snails, I discovered I have a slight fascination with them. As Ellee says, I’m probably going to quit my aspirations of attending veterinary school to go get my PhD in snails. On multiple occasions, she would catch me taking time-lapse videos of poor little snails trekking across a branch or sliming across a rock…or me simply taking pictures of them “kissing”. 

video

One last obsession…leaves. There were some pretty spectacular ones (see photo above). Being out in the field all day is definitely a completely different experience than being behind a microscope in lab. I’ve found that I enjoy aspects of both. The chairs in lab are more comfortable than rocks and I enjoy the mosquito free surroundings. However, unexpected findings in the field are pretty neat…except when they’re spider webs that you find with your face.

My favorite part of this trip so far has been watching a female A. stratulus dig, turn around, squat, lay an egg, and bury it! What incredible timing did we have to witness such an event! I’ve also enjoyed our many trips into town. Whether it was for groceries, eating out for dinner at El Verde BBQ, or walking along the Luquillo Kiosks, I always seemed to experience a different side of Puerto Rico. Shopping at the grocery store enabled me to see familial interactions while eating at El Verde BBQ allowed me to experience real Puerto Rican cuisine. The Luquillo Kiosks were an experience in itself, filled with music, people dancing and the epitome of casual relaxation. Interesting enough, it was my first time seeing people camping on the beach; something that is apparently common around the 4th of July. One major thing I will miss upon arriving back in Columbia is falling asleep to the sounds of the Coqui frogs and other nightlife. While providing difficulty sleeping the first night here, eventually they became a welcomed chorus. Every time I spoke to my parents on the phone, they would comment about how loud they were, even when I was inside! One thing I won’t miss so much…the bugs that come out after it rains! Last night, I starred in my very own horror movie with hundreds of flying insects swarming the apartment with more than a handful making their way inside. After tiring of swatting myself repeatedly, I retreated to the bedroom where none had managed to get in. All in all, this trip has been filled with excitement, learning, and the establishment of new friendships with Deborah and Ellee. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to learn more about field research, anoles, and Puerto Rico!

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