The Lizard Log

The Langkilde Lab in Action


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One JMIH in the books

Destination: New Orleans, Louisiana

Purpose: 100th Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists

Dates: July 6th- July 10th

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Early morning flight out of State College and I couldn’t resist a cloud picture.

Flying has never been my favorite thing but I was really excited for this trip. To say I was also nervous would be the understatement of the century. I had been told about all of the important and, in my mind, “big name” people I would meet. These same people would potentially be at my talk. No pressure though, right? Wrong! I booked a practice room the morning of my talk (the 7th) and had a half an hour to work out all of the bug in my talk. I was certain I would never be ready but I had no choice. After weeks of preparation for my first talk, it was finally time to get up in front of a room full of strangers, important strangers. The whole thing was a blur but everyone clapped and a few of the observers even came up to talk to me after. It was a huge relief for me to be done with my talk because that meant I could go to other talks and meetings and enjoy myself. I met some of those “big name people” and believe it or not, they were people just like you and I. Who would have thought?!

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Seeing your name in print for everyone else to see is a pretty great feeling.

Throughout the conference I got to see quite a bit of the city of New Orleans. I saw live music, street performers, and the place where the Mardi Gras floats are made. I had some amazing food, some a little too spicy for my tastes but, when in Rome.. I made friends from all over the country and learned a lot about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had no idea there were so many options in this field. There was a live concert put on by those members of the conference who brought instruments, an unlimited Rock ‘N’ Bowl, and so much free food. I cannot put into words how rewarding and fun this trip was for me.

To wrap up the conference, there was a live auction with a lot of interesting things to bid on. The first thing I could work up the courage to bid on was a “The Book of Frogs”. Lucky for me it was a student only item so only other poor graduate students could bid against me. The auctioneers were so entertaining that I didn’t mind that I wasn’t bidding. The night ended a little later then anticipated but I think it was worth it.

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I was irrationally excited about this win!

The whole trip made me grateful to be studying wood frogs and to be a part of this scientific community. I would recommend that every new graduate student attend a meeting/conference of some sort as early as they can. The networking possibilities are endless, communicating your work to others is priceless, plus it is a blast! If giving a talk seems like too much, poster presentations are another great option. You truly never know who you are going to meet! Stay tuned for more updates from the Lizard Lab!

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What’s all the fuss about Alabama?

Since joining the lab, I’ve heard nothing else more than field seasons in Alabama; from the heat, lizards, those darn fire ants, and the wonderful people they come in contact with. So of course, I was anxious as ever to finally embark on my first field season in the Langkilde lab. After months of preparation, designing projects and all the logistics involved, May 9th had finally arrived and it was time to head south.

The first round of people in the Alabama crew this year had 3 newbies to the lab; Dustin Owen (our personal herpetology specialist), Dr. Kirsty Macleod (our Scottish Post Doc who should’ve been born in the southern US) and Myself aka Frog stallion (long story). The last member of the crew was David Ensminger. This was his third year there, sort of making him our expert of all things and everything that we needed to know (in other words he was our ear to ask a million questions).

The wonderful staff of The Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center welcomed us to the 5 starred field station (in my opinion – I don’t know who could possibly refute that). There were also lots of Auburn University students that were super interested in our work and simply cool people to hang out with. Essentially, everyone we met made sure we left knowing that southern hospitality is 100% real. I now understand why everyone in the lab loves and talks about it so much.

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Some Auburn students were successful on their first lizard hunt. It was Herp week in their class, luckily for them, they had some experienced catchers around

Now on to the fun science! In case you’re reading this and don’t know, the Langkilde lab is well invested into the Fence Lizard and Fire Ant system, but I’m just going to focus on my specific part for now. In the broadest of terms, I am interested in the diet of the Fence Lizards, but of course I can’t help but wonder about other aspects of this creature. A former member of our lab (the undergrad king Mark Herr) published a paper that suggests fence lizards seemingly build an addiction to the fire ants. My first thought was the possibility that the fire ants may be more nutritious. In Alabama, I collected loads of ants to quantify carbs, lipids, and proteins in comparison to fire ants, hoping for something to support a risk-reward relationship. My next thought was, if the lizards are presented with a second option, what will they pick? To test this, The Lizard Queen (Dr. Tracy Langkilde) and I ran food preference trials. We used the fire ants and “Dory ants” (still waiting for a true identification, but we call them Dory ants) in tubs with one lizard to see the choices they made. Now back in State College, I’m going through and analyzing all the data. I won’t spoil the surprise, which will hopefully be published, so stay tuned in the near future.

 

 

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My first Catch of the trip. Gotta love when they just pose and hug your thumb!