by undergraduate Tommy Cerri
This semester, being my fourth semester working within the lab, I like to think I have heard about all the research that’s been going on in one way or another. I had previously finished working with Bradley Carson last Spring semester on tadpole analysis and was eager to delve into something new. Dr. Langkilde got me in touch with Gail and we quickly met to discuss more work for the next 14 or so weeks. Taking 19 credits this semester and getting ready to apply to medical school rendered me nearly unavailable during the week. Gail of course knew the feeling and set me up on something I could do on my own time, at my own pace. This something was a project I had not heard of within the lab, and this excited me. When I went to meet she immediately brought up about 7 or so videos of lizards. The set up looked something along the lines of this.
When I saw this I immediately asked myself a few questions. First, why are there so many lizards in this video? And second, what’s that huge log in the middle of their bins? Gail started to explain her research to me and answered these questions. She was observing the lizards’ behavior over a short period of time within these bins to see how they would react to different hormone treatments. This experiment allows us to see if treatment with stress hormones (corticosterone), sex steroids (testosterone), or both have lasting effects on behavior–like aggression. She also let me know that huge thing in the middle of the bins is just a small shelter. I have been spending my time watching these lizards show all different types of behaviors. I see some lizards spend 10 minutes running circles around their bins and other lizards so lazy I have to zoom in on their stomachs to check if they’re actually breathing! Some of the lizards aren’t very social.
While others seem to be good friends with one another.
Nonetheless, these videos have occupied much of my time and have continued to keep me interested. I look forward to see what Gail does with all the behavior charts I have filled out for her and am eager to help her with the next step in this experiment.
(Ed. note: Hopefully this helps us explain how hormones affect behavior. Maybe lizards dosed with testosterone are more aggressive? Maybe stressed out lizards are more solitary? Stay tuned for the results!)