Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Poppin' some tags!

My debut post on the Chipojo Lab blog!

I'm Levi, a first year grad student in Manuel's lab (aka the sunburned lobster in one of the below posts), and I joined the team down here in Marsh Harbour for my first lizard field season!

This is my first time in the Caribbean, and I love it. On the whole this town has been very amicable to field work. It is a short jaunt across the street to one of my sites, and a short walk down the road to the other. These sites are not only dripping with lizards but they are also nicely mowed and maintained, which makes our job pretty easy (we can catch lizards in shorts!). Sure, my food options might not be the best (more on that later!), but studying lizards here is just great.

Tagged lizard butt.

Over the last three days we have tagged exactly 47 lizards. The "we" I refer to includes myself, Manuel (while he is here!), and my two field assistants/minions Will and Josh, mentioned in a post below. We have all enjoyed honing our lizard wrangling skills as we run around our sites to find, catch, and tag any lizards we can find.

Most of the lizards we have tagged are Anolis sagrei or brown anoles, a trunk ground species found on tree trunks and bushes all around this area. In our endeavors we have seen plenty of Anolis distichus and even a few elusive A. smaragdinus, two other anoles common to this region.

A curious male brown anole

Although most of the tagged lizards are anoles, we have also tagged 4 curly tails (Leiocephalus carinatus), feisty Caribbean lizards that are kind of the "white whale" of the lizard community here. They are much more skittish and a lot stronger, making them more difficult to sneak up on and catch. Manuel has caught all of those we have tagged to date. Despite their attitude, it is the cutest when these guys are on the run, as they scuttle around like some kind of lizard-toad, holding their tails above their backs as they go. I will have to get a picture to post here later.

A curly tail sunning outside our room.

We tag the lizards using tiny little tags that are usually used on bees. These tags are "popped" out of a card (hence the title) and we glue one on each side of the lizard's hips. These tags don't impede the lizards and allow us to identify individual lizards using unique color and number combinations. We weigh and measure each lizard before tagging it, data which we can use later, and flag the tree on which it was found so we can hopefully find it in that area again later. We can use these tags to follow the lizards over successive days, which is necessary for the field learning task we are trying to use in this study. More on that later!

Me with one of my tagged lizards.

A cute tagged lizard.

Until next time, stay cool!


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