The main empirical part of my current research project will take me far from my current, chilly homes in Sweden/Vancouver – in fact, far from pretty much anything! I’ll be investigating patterns of maternal stress effects in a social lizard that’s found in the southernmost part of Australia – Tasmania. I took a trip there in October/November of last year to test out some lab protocols, and to set up a similar stress experiment that will run for the next couple of months, and which will give us an idea of what to expect when I return later this year.
Great news for me – Hobart, where the University of Tasmania is based, is an amazing city, and my research collaborators there – Geoff While and associated researchers in the BEER group (Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology Research) are a fantastic, supportive team and awesome fun to be around. I had a blast learning how to catch Egernia lizards (unlike Sceloporus, which we catch with mini nooses, Egernia are caught by baiting a line with mealworms!), and familiarising myself with the lab set up.
— Kirsty MacLeod (@kirstyjean) October 23, 2018
— Kirsty MacLeod (@kirstyjean) October 29, 2018
My lab work aimed to test the efficacy of the “stress” dose regime that worked so well in my previous fence lizard studies. If anything, it seemed to work even better in the smooth-scaled Egernia – so happily, very few tweaks will be needed when I return. As was the case in my previous work, this “stress” regime mimics the short-term spike in hormones that naturally occur when a lizard, or really any species, gets a fright – for example, as a result of a predator encounter. I’m very happy that this protocol works here too, because it means no injections (as would be associated with a hormone implant), and no pain!
After an acclimatisation period in the lab, my preggo lizard ladies were transferred to outdoor enclosures to soak up that Australian sun and gestate in as natural conditions as possible. They’ll continue in this experiment until they give birth, at which point they’ll come back indoors with their offspring, and we’ll measure morphological and behavioural traits.
A happy last sight for me before I leave – a little lizard empire! Colleagues will be continuing to work with these females until after they give birth, I’m excited to hear how they get on! #Tazards2018 pic.twitter.com/7FlRy31k7x
— Kirsty MacLeod (@kirstyjean) November 5, 2018
I had a fantastic time in Hobart, and am so looking forward to returning later this year!
P.S. Follow me on Twitter and check out the field season hashtag #Tazards2018 for more!
Of course my time in Tassie brought many wonderful wildlife/herpetological encounters – some calmer than others…
Of course after I talk about how much I love and have no fear of all reptiles, I lose my ENTIRE SHIT when trying to take a pic of a blue-tongued skink and it runs towards me
So glad I was recording this priceless moment 🤦♀️😂 pic.twitter.com/fkZvJQeme1
— Kirsty MacLeod (@kirstyjean) October 19, 2018