The Lizard Log

The Langkilde Lab in Action

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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.


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.




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


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Cam joins the lab!

Where do I begin? I guess I will start with a little background info. My name is Cameron Venable and I hail from the great state of Maryland. If that means nothing to you, then in a nutshell I really love the MD flag and crabs (which is a key part of a Marylander’s life).  Anyway, after high school, I went to Lebanon Valley College in Annville, PA. At LVC I majored in Biology and minored in Spanish.  As a side-note of my story, LVC was around 1500-1600 people… TOTAL. So coming to PSU was a huge jump! Not only were there exponentially more people, but also grad school is a completely different world.

I may be the odd ball of the current students because I am a second year. So how am I just now introducing myself? Well, that’s another long story, but basically I switched advisors last semester and joined the Langkilde Lab (for my lab-mates that may read this, thanks for making me feel welcomed). As a part of this lab, I’ve been endlessly brainstorming for future projects to begin. As of now the big plans for the near future are as follows:

1) Embryo nutrition in the fence lizard and fire ant system. The idea would be to investigate the influence of fire ant presence on the maternal input into offspring.

2) Looking forward to working with a past member of the Lab, Dr. Lindsey Swierk within her study system, which will focus on how urbanization affects wood frogs in various ways.

3) Lastly, becoming an expert on Bomb Calorimetry, which would be helpful for various projects in quantifying nutrition.

Those are the ideas for the upcoming months, but of course in this field things are subject to change. Which means… Stay tuned for the adventure!!!


Cam on La Isla Mona, Puerto Rico with Anolis monensis