First Post by an Aspiring Anologist

I’m writing this en route back to Vancouver, after getting my first taste of anole fieldwork in the Bahamas the last few weeks. This summer I’ll be finishing my PhD thesis at UBC on the evolution of food web structure in marine and freshwater fish (see here for my previous research). For my post-doc, I’ll be working with Jonathan Losos at Harvard, asking some related questions using anoles as a study organism.

To get to know the system, I’ve been working with Jonathan, Rob Pringle, and others, helping to set up a terrific experiment around Staniel Cay in the Exumas (see Jonathan’s post for details). It’s been my first foray into anole ecology, and really to terrestrial ecology in any habitat. It was slow going at first, but I learned a few food web sampling techniques, and rapidly improved my ability to spot anoles in the vegetation on small islands. I spent most days helping to spray paint Anolis sagrei to estimate population sizes on the islands.

The rest of the time, I learned to catch A. sagrei, green anoles (A. smaragdinus) and curly-tailed lizards (Leiocephalus carinatus) using the time-tested dental floss noose. Here is my very first captured A. sagrei, which Jonathan tells me is sufficient to begin calling myself a herpetologist (it seems like a low bar to clear, but it was nice to get it out the way early).

I managed to catch a few more during the trip, including some memorable nighttime collections of sleeping anoles.

I’ll be formally starting at Harvard later this summer, and starting to make more concrete plans for my own research. I’m interested in whether predation on smaller anoles by larger ones (intraguild predation) plays a role in driving divergence into new ecomorphs, and how ecomorph diversification alters the structure of the food web. I’m thinking of setting up enclosure experiments (maybe in Puerto Rico and/or Florida) to get at these questions. I’m looking forward to meeting other members of the anole research community over the coming months and years – please send me an e-mail if you have any questions about my ideas, or just to say hello. I’ll plan to post some more once my anole research gets underway.

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