The Lizard Log

The Langkilde Lab in Action

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A Langkilde lab #reviewforscience

While looking up ideas for how to run some of my immune assays in the field, I stumbled across the twitter hashtag, #reviewforscience, where scientists leave reviews for common, everyday items they use in their research. So, in the interest of sharing how our lab has repurposed some everyday items for science, I thought I’d do a few reviews of my own.

Dental flossdental floss

As has been noted by other esteemed colleagues, dental floss is excellent for making nooses when capturing lizards. Just tie the noose on the end of a cheap fishing pole to reach lizards high up in trees!






Plastic Sterilite tubs


Work well for individual or group-housed adult fence lizards. Adding clean, damp sand substrate makes an ideal habitat for females ready to lay and bury their eggs. Smaller versions can be used for hatchlings and juvenile fence lizards. Easily sterilized in standard cage washes! Just remember to wrap in opaque paper before use to prevent adult males from seeing one another.


24 hour plug-in timerstimer

Work great for timing basking lights to match up with daylight hours outside, to maintain the circadian rhythms of captive-housed fence lizards. Make sure you get the type with 2 grounded outlets!






Plastic deli containersIMG_20180112_111835361

So many uses in a lizard lab! Can be used to hold lizards, crickets, and eggs for weighing. Great for transporting hatchlings from the lab to the field! When filled with damp vermiculite, they make an excellent place to incubate fence lizard eggs!





Thermocouple thermometer img_20170221_131145

Like other scientists, we’ve found that a thermocoupler probe “fits neatly inside a lizard’s cloaca” for measuring body temperature.






Bug vacuumbug vacuum

Works great for collecting leftover crickets in order to track how many were eaten. Fairly quiet, and less stressful to fence lizards than reaching in to hand-capture the crickets, as well as being much less time consuming! And crickets are undamaged, so can be used again in later feedings (hand capture of crickets often results in squished crickets). Long-lasting battery, can vacuum over 100 cages before needing to be recharged.






Surprisingly effective organic glue for attaching deceased fire ants to live crickets for a fence lizard feeding study. I wanted the fence lizards to consume fire ants without being stung, which meant the fire ants needed to be euthanized first. But fence lizards won’t consume unmoving prey, so I had to attach the fire ants to a living insect. Using <5µl of honey, I was able to stably attach 10 fire ants to each cricket, and the cricket was still able to move about freely.


Tea strainertea strainer

Great container to hold isoflurane-soaked cottonballs for lizard anesthesia. The wire mesh allows the lizard to breath in the isoflurane, but holds in the cotton ball to avoid direct contact with the animal. Have not tried to use tea strainers with fire ants. Can also be used to strain particulate matter out of feces when performing fecal parasitology tests.



Plaster of Parisplaster of paris

Used in the production of fake lizard models for predation studies. Easy to use, and held up well to short-term exposure to the elements.






White duct tapeduct tape

Works well to make dry-erase labels for tubs, in order to quickly label and re-use for weighing crickets and lizards.






Sous vide cookersous vide cooker

I’m thinking of using one of these this field season as an inexpensive, travel-friendly alternative to a water bath. When in the field, just clip this onto the side of a container full of water, plug into a wall outlet or portable car charger, set the temperature you want the water at, and go! No need to transport an expensive, bulky water bath.




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Starting the year with a bang!

2015 ended in style for the Langkilde Lab, and we are proud to report that thus far 2016 has been just as exciting! In the last few months, we have celebrated a number of lab accomplishments and enjoyed some attention from the media. Here’s a taste of what we have been celebrating:



LangkildeLizard 2Penn State News featured the lab’s work on adaptation to invasive species and anthropogenic noise in this great article by Matt Swayne, complete with disco references. It’s definitely worth the read!


Tracy1Penn State Science recently covered the lab’s research on the effects of stress, our collaborations, and Tracy’s mentoring style. The story quotes many lab members and also includes a “person-to-person” feature on graduate student Gail McCormick.



Other achievements:

  • PI Tracy Langkilde recently accepted the position as the Head of the Department of Biology.
  • Gail McCormick successfully defended her PhD dissertation and won the Alumni Association Dissertation Award. This award is among the most prestigious available to Penn State graduate students and recognizes outstanding achievement in scholarship and professional accomplishment.
  • Chris Thawley won the Intercollege Graduate Student Outreach Award, a university-level award that recognizes outstanding achievements related to bringing scholarship to the community. Chris will be defending in February and will be starting a post-doc with the Kolbe Lab in May, where he will be investigating the effects of urban light on anoles.
  • Kirsty MacLeod will be joining the Langkilde and Sheriff Labs as a post doc this spring. We are excited to have her!
  • Michaleia Mead will be staying on as a Masters student with Chris Howey. They will be investigating the effects of prescribed burns on amphibians and vernal pools.


Stay tuned throughout 2016 for more exciting research and updates from the Langkilde Lab!

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Here Be Dragons

In August, my two older brothers and I went to Komodo National Park in Indonesia for a week of scuba diving and backpacking.


Departing the plane in Surabaya: this photo was actually taken midmorning. The hazy skies are due to smoke from the rampant slash and burn agriculture which is devastating virgin forests on Borneo and other islands.

Going to see Varanus komodoensis in Indonesia was most certainly on my herp bucket list, and so when my older brothers mentioned that they wanted to take a trip somewhere and Komodo was an option, I naturally jumped on it. My brothers wanted a place where we could backpack and also go scuba diving, and it turns out that Komodo has some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. Komodo National Park consists of a series of small islands (Including Komodo and Rinca, where one finds the dragons) between the relatively large islands of Flores and Sumbawa. It is a part of the Lesser Sunda Island chain. The Lesser Sundas are bio-geographically fascinating. They essentially form an arc of mid-sized islands directly to the east of Java – extending almost to Papua New Guinea. On the far western end of the arc is Bali – a popular vacation destination. Incidentally, we had a longer than expected layover in Bali on our way to Flores: Mt. Raung in eastern Java erupted while we were in the air and disrupted air traffic through the whole region. We had a mid-air reroute to Surabaya on Java and then barely made it into Bali where we missed our outgoing flight! We managed to get onto a standby flight early the next morning, though, and our schedule was left essentially intact.

Directly to the east of Bali is the Island of Lombok. Between these two islands runs the famous Wallace Line. The Wallace Line is the biogeographic barrier between the Asian and Australian Faunal regions. It was first identified by Alfred Russell Wallace – one of my professional heroes. Wallace collected zoological specimens throughout Indonesia, and I re-read his incredible travel memoir The Malay Archipelago during this trip.

Of all the Lesser Sunda Islands, only Bali is on the Asian side of the Wallace Line. However, the line is not a clean break. If it were, one would expect to go from seeing tigers and elephants in Bali to kangaroos and wombats on Lombok. This isn’t the case. While there actually are tigers on Bali (at least there were until they were hunted to extinction in the 20th century), crossing the Wallace Line instead takes you into a sort of transition zone between the true Asian and Australian faunal regions. A place where one can find a bizarre mix of species – like cockatoos flying over herds of native wild boar – as well as endemic species like the Komodo dragon. This region is referred to as Wallacea.

Incidentally, it isn’t just a transition point in terrestrial biogeography. The incredible biodiversity of Komodo’s reefs is due to the fact that the National Park lies at the interchange between the Pacific and Indian Oceans – resulting in an incredibly biodiverse marine ecosystem as well. The diving was incredible – but I’ll stick to the herp stuff for this blog entry.

The vacation was spent on a live-aboard dive boat, and we spent days alternating diving and trekking (really mostly just herping on the Islands!). We went on 2 big hikes, the first on Rinca island where we found the majority of the cool herps for the trip. The second was a 2-day hike to Mt. Satalibo, the high point of Komodo Island. We spent the night camping on the summit and then bushwhacked down to the tiny ranger station at Sebita where we were picked up by our dive boat’s zodiac.

Before either of those scheduled hikes, though, we had some downtime between dives. We were quite close to Komodo Island, and even though it was midday and blazing hot, I couldn’t help myself from getting on land. I asked Andrew and Daniel if they wanted to come with, and they said yes – so I directed one of the crew members to fire up the zodiac and drop us off for 30 minutes or so. He thought we were crazy to go on the island by ourselves but dropped us off just the same!


Daniel and Andrew in the grassland on Komodo with their sticks for defense! I had assumed – correctly – that we wouldn’t encounter any dragons with the midday sun beating down on us like it was.


Daniel and Andrew with the dinghy in the background. The tan and gold colors of the islands contrasted beautifully with the blues and greens of the surrounding ocean.


That night we went to a spot frequented by the dive boats in the area. The mangroves are packed with flying foxes – and there were thousands of them! Each one of the dark flecks in the sky in this photo is a fruit bat leaving the mangroves and headed to forage in the moist forests on nearby Flores.

The next day we began our first hike on Rinca Island. Rinca and Komodo are home to the majority of the dragons in the world. I was excited to finally get in some serious herping. Our first spotting was a mammal though: a semi-aquatic crab-eating macaque in the mangroves by the dock.



First dragon of the trip! This was a juvenile dragon basking in the morning sun by the ranger station. Like deer by any National Park headquarters in the US, the dragons near the ranger stations on both Rinca and Komodo were habituated to humans. Once we got off the common tourist trails we found that the lizards acted much differently.

We waited for our guides and then set of on a hike across the island. Although we’d set everything up ahead of time, when we actually got there none of the professional guides wanted to go on the hike that we’d scheduled – it was too long! It took some negotiating, but we finally got some guides that were willing to take us on the planned route.


A swarm of bees making a hive in the monsoon forest.

I started flipping logs and rocks along the trail looking for herps. Our guides were laughing at us and told us that they see snakes only very rarely. That might be true, but it only took us a few minutes on the trail before we’d found our first snake.


I glimpsed a snake slithering in the cracks of a dried-up buffalo wallow. I grabbed it with the tongs and there it was – my first ever live Elapid!


A Javan Spitting Cobra – Naja sputatrix


I quickly tubed the snake (wearing sunglasses!) and showed the guides – who at this point were past the “Americans are INSANE” stage and into the “Wow this is actually really cool!” stage. This was their first time touching a cobra, and they loved it! Showing people that snakes are something to be respected and admired, rather than feared, feels awesome.


The spitting cobra lived up to its name and doused my go-pro while I was getting some close up footage!


Water buffalo spending time in a pool during the heat of the day. Our guides told us that this pool was one of the few that didn’t dry up completely in the dry season, making it a favorite ambush spot for hungry dragons.


Next one of our guides spotted this Island pit-viper Trimeresurus insularis high up in a tree.


I flipped this gecko underneath driftwood. I’m totally unsure about the species, but I think it’s a species in the widespread genus Cyrtodactylus.


This giant centipede was under the same piece of driftwood as the gecko! Unfortunately I don’t have anything good to show the scale but the centipede must have been 9-10 inches long. Easily more terrifying than the cobra – and quite capable of making a meal of the gecko!


Our guides asked if we’d be interested in seeing a bat cave that they knew of. Of course we were!


The day after Rinca: more diving!


After a full day of diving my brothers retired to eat some dinner. I still had energy, and we had anchored off of Komodo Island – where we would begin our hike early the next morning. I hopped on the dinghy and went to see what I could find at night and found this gecko foraging in the intertidal zone! I think that it’s a Hemidactylus of some sort.


After returning to the boat with a single herp for the night, I was ready to eat some food and drink some beers and get ready for the following day. Incredibly, I would get one more herp for the night back at the boat!


With tongs at the ready, we managed to get this banded sea krait! She may have been attracted to the boat’s lights.


She sure looks like she’s ready to lay eggs!


The crew told us that the local lore said that it was good luck to have a sea krait swim up to a boat. This boat was new and it hadn’t happened yet – so the captain was particularly excited! It was his first time touching a snake of any sort, and definitely the first time one had been on his boat!


The next day we began our trip to the top of Mt. Satalibo. For reference, almost nobody does the hike we did. The head ranger managed to scrounge a tent that they give to film crews to use on the porch of the ranger station to keep bugs away. What we did is definitely not part of the normal menu – and by the time we made it back to the boat the next day we were well aware of why that is.


A dragon that was NOT habituated to humans.

This was the first non-habituated dragon that we encountered. I was amazed by how curious it was. Curious in a predatory sort of way. I absolutely don’t want to be sensationalist, but the fact is that the dragon saw the group of us and immediately began a slow and steady walk towards us. When it got particularly close, the guides repeatedly hit it in the head with their forked sticks. In response, the dragon backed up and then tried to circle around and come from a different angle. It was a fascinating experience. The dragon wasn’t sprinting at us – it was merely walking. However, I have no doubt that if we were to stand still and allow it to approach, that it would have sunk its teeth into one of our legs. It wasn’t in a rush like we normally see predatory encounters, so it was an alien experience – but I am quite certain that that dragon wanted to eat us. That obviously doesn’t make it malicious, but the experience is one that I cannot get out of my mind. It simply wanted to eat us if we didn’t cause much trouble. As it was, the guides hit it in the head several times (which I am led to believe is standard procedure), and eventually it retreated and stared as we walked away.


Soon after encountering that dragon, the bushwhacking became incredibly difficult. I have had the privilege of going through some thick and thorny vegetation during my research in the lab. The “Blue-creek hell hole” that lab alumnus Sean Graham and I went through to collect Cottonmouths comes to mind. I can say that without a doubt, the bushwhacking on Komodo Island was the worst I’ve ever been through. I want to come up with a way to describe the horrible-ness of the Thorn Forest on that island, but I cannot. Anything that I could write about it would detract from the reality of how bad it was.


After the “Thorn Forest” we arrived the highest elevation forest type. The late Walter Auffenberg wrote several lengthy monographs about Komodo dragons and the herpetofauna of Komodo Island. While he was curator of Herpetology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, he decided that he wanted to research Komodo dragons. To accomplish this, he simply moved with his wife and small children to Komodo Island and began research! His writings made up the bulk of my pre-trip research. He categorized the vegetation communities on the Island and referred to this semi-moist forest as Quasi-Cloud Forest. It was clearly distinct from the lower elevation forests – with more evergreens and bromeliads indicating a wetter environment.


We reached the top of Mt. Satalibo and set up camp. Backcountry camping on Komodo is something that almost nobody does. Once we set up camp and got a fire going, I actually asked the guides how frequently they camp on the island with tourists. The answer was something like “We did it one time with a crazy Dutch guy like 5 years ago.”

At about 1am I gave up sleeping. Naturally, I hadn’t brought any cold weather gear on our Komodo Island hike, and it was amazingly cold up at the top. First I, then Daniel, surrendered and just spent the rest of the night huddled with our guides by the fire. Somehow Andrew managed to sleep through the whole night. Once it got light enough we began our hike down. The plan was to hike from where we had camped on Satalibo down to the small ranger station of Sebita. We had scheduled things rather tightly and had a flight to catch in the afternoon but figured that we would be able to make it down to Sebita relatively quickly.

I’ll just say up front that we did not make our flight. The bushwhacking the day before had just been a taste. I knew we were toast early on, when I checked my GPS and found that 2 hours into our hike we had made it a grand total of 750 meters. We spent hour after hour going through a thorn forest that – like before – I won’t try to describe based on principle. Everything had thorns. Every branch, every tree trunk, every vine. There was one single tree species that had no thorns; I remember it vividly: at even the lightest touch it would hemorrhage black ants that would cover everything. I was stung early on in the hike, and hours later my arm still throbbed.

We spent hour after hour hiking through an endless thorn forest, going prone for significant stretches when it was too thick to crouch or crawl on our hands and knees. Turns out that when the guides had “done this before” with the Dutch gentleman that they had gone back down the way they came to the main ranger station – not to Sebita. This was everyone’s first time doing this bushwhack. At the utter mercy of the Island, I started laughing at the hilarious helplessness of our situation. There was nothing to be done but push through the thorns and the ants until the end. It was the most difficult day of hiking in my life so far, but I am glad we did it. My respect for the ecology of that island is utterly cemented.

After making it to the ocean we got on our boat and figured out flights for the next day,  I even managed to make it home in time for one final week of field work in Pennsylvania before the semester started!

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Science Communication and Art!

In addition to answering herp- and stress-related research questions, the members of the Langkilde are also very interested in outreach and science communication. I am personally quite interested communicating science and recently exercised my scicomm skills by interning with Penn State Research Communications. I wrote two stories over the summer and hope to write a few more later this year.

The first story covers the use of drones in research and conservation by recent Penn State Ecology graduate Jeff Kerby. Jeff does great work across the globe and is a photographer himself. Check out the story, entitled “Ecology on the Wing,” for more on his research and some of his photos. (For more of Jeff’s amazing photos, check out his flickr and instagram.)

Penn State graduate student Jeff Kerby used drones for his ecological research in Greenland and is sharing his expertise to enhance research and conservation efforts worldwide. Image: Martin Holdrege

Penn State graduate student Jeff Kerby used drones for his ecological research in Greenland and is sharing his expertise to enhance research and conservation efforts worldwide. Read the story at Penn State NewsImage: Martin Holdrege

The second story I wrote was a news story, which, unlike the “feature” story highlighted above, is written in AP (“news”) style and focuses on the results of a recently published paper. I summarized a study by Penn State Ecology and Neuroscience grad student Lauren Chaby, which was recently published in Animal Behavior. Lauren investigated whether stress in adolescence affects problem solving in adult rats. Read the story, entitled “Stress in adolescence prepares rats for future challenges,” for more information.

"Unpredictable stress can have dramatic and lasting consequences, both for humans and for free-living animals," said Chaby. Image: Lauren Chaby/Penn State

“Unpredictable stress can have dramatic and lasting consequences, both for humans and for free-living animals,” said Chaby. Read the story at Penn State News.
Image: Lauren Chaby

Thanks to my new connections at Research Communications, I was also able to revisit one of my other hobbies–paper cutting! As you may have guessed by our herp-flake holiday door, I am also a paper artist. I was commissioned to create three paper cut illustrations for a story about the evolution of skin color in the Penn State Research magazine.

Paper cut portrait of Nina Jablonski; Research at Penn State Magazine 35(2) Fall 2015

Paper cut portrait of Nina Jablonski, printed in Research at Penn State Magazine 35(2) Fall 2015

The story is based on the work of Penn State anthropologist Nina Jablonski. The first illustration is a portrait of Nina, based on a photo by Patrick Mansell. This is probably the most complicated portrait I have made to date!

Paper cut portrait of Nina Jablonski, created for the Research at Penn State Magazine.

Paper cut portrait of Nina Jablonski, created for the Research at Penn State Magazine.

Curious how this was made? Check out this work-in-progress video:

As part of Nina’s research, she and her colleagues created a map predicting skin colors of indigenous peoples based on ultraviolet radiation. I converted this map to paper for the story’s opening spread.


The opening spread for the story, written by David Pacchioli.

Both the portrait and the third piece posed quite a challenge, as the black shadows blended into the background in one seamless piece. The third piece in particular was quite stubborn, but it turned out all right in the end.

Paper cut hands created for the Penn State Research Magazine. Based on a photo by Patrick Mansell.

Paper cut hands created for the Penn State Research Magazine. Based on a photo by Patrick Mansell.

I am very pleased with how these illustrations turned out! Pick up a copy of the magazine on campus to see them for yourself.


Research | Penn State – Fall 2015. My illustrations can be found on pages 12-17.

You can learn more about my paper art on my website and facebook. I also take commissions–or at least, I will after defending!


Modified from a post originally at

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We’re Not In Kansas Anymore…

…but we were last week! Tracy, Chris (Howey), Mark, and I roadtripped it from State College, PA to Lawrence, KS to attend the 2015 SSAR annual meeting, where we presented our research, heard lots of other exciting presentations, and had a great time. While the following is a travelogue of the past week for us, you can also check out the content of the research that we presented on.

Our travels began despairingly early (5:55 am) on a Thursday morning with Tracy picking me up from my place, subsequently rounding up the rest of the lab, and obtaining our fleet vehicle (a newish Chevy Impala named “Vlad”). One look at the GPS revealed how far we had to go: 1,021 miles to Lawrence.


It doesn’t look very far on this map…

The drive was filled with all sorts of fascinating sights and occurrences:


We started out with high levels of excitement!


The corn in Ohio was beautiful for the first hour or so….


but we were soon grateful for a change of state.


However, the corn in Indiana looked almost exactly the same as that in Ohio.

Upon seeing the vasts swathes of corn billowing across the landscape, Mark Herr, resident undergraduate student extraordinaire, asked perhaps the most profound question of the trip: “Is popcorn corn?” The older and wiser among us proceeded to explain that popcorn is indeed corn (Zea mays, though there are specific varieties that make the best popcorn) that has been heated until enough pressure builds in the kernel to pop out of the hull. The group also made use of our phones to learn other fascinating popcorn facts, including: popcorn has likely been eaten by humans for over 6,000 years and that popcorn is the official snack food of the state of Illinois. Speaking of Illinois…


We rolled into the Land of Lincoln, the 5th state on our trip.


We kept our eyes peeled for the highest point in Illinois, and we’re mostly sure this is it.


At this point, it seemed that the populace had become so bored with their landscape that they were digging holes and making hills in the middle-of-nowhere just to produce some topographical variety.


Crossing the wide Mississippi River, was a good indication that we were getting closer to our final destination!


At least until St. Louis foiled us with traffic…:(

Rush hour in the St. Louis area meant that our best move was to pull off of the cursed Interstate 70 to stretch our legs and fill our bellies with some much needed grease and starch. We accomplished this in the most delicious manner by checking Yelp for reviews of local fast food restaurants and settling upon Freddy’s Frozen Custard.


The crew destroying steakburgers, shoestring fries, and various custard concoctions in the balmy St. Louis evening.


‘Nuff said

The final leg of the trip saw us reach our destination at the University of Kansas and the Oread Hotel just in time to grab a glass of wine at the opening social and then drop off to sleep with visions of the next day’s talks dancing in our heads.

Our three days at the conference were a whirlwind of talks, poster sessions, chats between researchers, good food and drink, and late nights. Some of the highlights were:

A visit with “grandpa” Rick Shine, Tracy’s former advisor and eminent herpetologist, who also happens to be the president-elect of SSAR.


One big, happy, research family.

Enjoying the beautiful weather and gorgeous campus.


View from the top of the Oread Hotel, where the closing picnic was held.

At the annual SSAR herp auction, there were many amazing finds to be had, including lots of herp-themed artwork, rare books, and the highest-grossing object of the night, legendary herpetologist Bill Duellman‘s personal machete from the 1960’s (with a winning bid of a cool $700).

I took home a selection of anuran auditory history with vinyl of Charles Bogert’s Sounds of North American Frogs and 78’s of Voices of the Night, the first frog song recording release in the U.S.


A sexy face for sexy frog songs.

The keynote speaker, David Hillis, showed the rest of the crowd how it is done by arriving with a cardboard box bar for making margaritas and martinis.


Auction revenues increased in direct proportion to the number of drinks dished out from David Hillis’ bar.

And of course we actually did discuss our research occasionally.


Tracy discussing the benefits of stress for fence lizards when dealing with fire ants.

We also did not go home empty-handed in the awards category, with Mark Herr taking 2nd place in the Herpetological Quiz (undergraduate division).


Mark enjoying being the only male lucky enough to snag a seat at the “Eminent Female Herpetologist’s Table” during the picnic.

The final night ended with a party in the backyard of local host, Rich Glor, an exceptionally fashionable gentleman.


Rich rockin’ the stubbies.

And no herpetological systematist function would be complete without David Hillis schooling some youngsters in leg wrestling.


Another one bites the dust (after being flipped over completely). Photo courtesy of Kelly Zamudio.

The return trip was, not surprisingly, very similar to the outward journey. We were denied the opportunity to visit recent lab graduate Brad Carlson (via a slight detour), due to Brad becoming a father for the second time <48 hours before our trip…congrats Brad!


Most of us were exhausted from the trip, but Howey proved to be a tenacious driver, powering through the boredom of I-70.

We also fulfilled a wish of Mark’s by getting a drive-by glimpse of the St. Louis Arch.


Perhaps the least scenic photo of the Arch ever taken.

As day faded into night we were hit with dramatic thunderstorms and downpours, but nothing could dampen our enthusiasm for the next herp meeting (New Orleans!) or the fact that we were closing in on a return to our own beds.


The home stretch.

We’ve got one more lab conference this summer, a visit to the meeting of the Ecological Society of America (just next week!) so keep your eyes peeled for a final set of conference proceedings coming soon!

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THON 2015

by undergraduate Cecilia Zemenak

This semester, I have been working on my first manuscript from my research with Mexican Jumping beans. The paper will be focus on the variation amongst individual bean behaviors.

This past weekend though, I took a break from my first draft to take part in the largest student-run philanthropy event in the world, THON!


For those who don’t know, THON is a yearlong effort to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund, which assists pediatric cancer patients at the Penn State Hershey Medical Hospital. It is a 46 hour dance marathon for the kids and their families to forget about the illness for one weekend of games, performances, and fun with a supportive Penn State student family.

The whole event takes place in the Bryce Jordan Center, with the dancers on the floor and everyone else cheering them on in the stands. I take part in Atlas, which is a special interest group organized solely for the purpose of raising funds for THON. We had 10 dancers on the floor this year, and a huge group of Atlas members supporting them from the bleachers.


Every year, a different logo is chosen that encompasses why it is Penn State Students dance for the kids and for a cure. This year’s motto was to “Empower the Dreamers.”


A few phrases of the line dance, which is performed every hour by every person in the BJC, really explains the message behind the logo chosen:

Paint a face within the moon

Look closely and you’ll see yours too

Dreams grow in these small hours

Make them real, BE EMPOWERED.

I stood in the bleachers from Friday afternoon until midnight, and then I went back to my apartment to sleep while the dancers danced on. Saturday afternoon I excitedly went back and stood 25 hours until the very end Sunday afternoon. At the end of those 46 hours, the grand total raised by everyone was revealed: a whopping 13 million!


I am so proud to be a Penn State student because of this extremely worthy cause. 13 million dollars will go towards cancer research, providing care to pediatric cancer patients, and paying for treatment not covered by insurance. I am very fortunate to be a part of such an amazing student body at such a prestigious research university. WE ARE… PENN STATE!

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Herpy Holidays!

‘Tis the week of Christmas and all across campus,

Not a creature is stirring, not even a Krampus

The grades are all entered on Angel with care

While undergrads hope that “A’s” soon will be there

The herps are all nestled in their wint’ry beds

While visions of arthropods dance in their heads

Nope, we’re not actually brumating too, we just haven’t had a post in some time since it’s been so busy at the end of the semester. But, we’ve got a few quick tidbits to post over break to tide you over the holidays!:

It looks like our herpflakes from last year were a real hit with some. Colleagues Colin and Max at Yale threw a lab bash that featured some original designs including:



12 lizards leaping…


High-fiving frogs…



…And a gecko in an ivy!

I’ve also seen some nifty scientist-flakes around the interwebs.

While the PSU Biology Department’s Holiday Door Decorating Contest is no more (one lab in particular was a little too successful and drove the contest extinct), the Langkilde Lab still had a successful December. Both Gail and I passed our comps, so we’ve cleared the last administrative hurdle to getting our degrees prior to our defenses…now we just need to write!

And even without the Door Decorating contest, we still managed to clean up at the Biology Dept. Holiday Party. The Langkilde Lab table knocked down two strikes with colored pins in front to take home 2 out of 5 door prizes…we got a bottle of apple wine and a triple (that’s 3 separate containers in one) crockpot!


The Langkilde Lab enjoying pizza, wings, lager, and being awesome at bowling.

We hope you have a great holiday with your family and friends, and we’ll see you in the New Year!