Unisexual Ambystoma

Unisexual Ambystoma

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A research lab that herps together, works together

Back in August before the semester began, a good portion of the Gibbs lab headed down to Florida for a week of science and reptiles/amphibians. We were visiting some colleagues/collaborators at Florida State University as well as helping Sarah Smiley catch pigmy rattlesnakes for her thesis research.

Believe it or not, I've just recently downloaded the photos from my camera. Here are some of the interesting things we did and interesting creatures we found:

I almost ordered two slices because I didn't believe that they were "as big as your head".
David and Lisle appreciating the alligators
Sarah took us swimming at Wakulla Springs. We were all brave enough to high dive. 
There I was, expecting a honky-tonk. What a disappointment.
A lifer for me: Pig Frog (Lithobates Grylio)

A handsome juvenile Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)

Matt demonstrating the art form of laying out "rock snakes" to trick other cars searching for snakes at night. Classic.
The snake we were after: The Pigmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius)
Sarah studies how these snakes' venom is locally adapted to their prey

Pigmy is a good descriptor. Here are four adult snakes at the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket.
Another lifer for me: Little Grass Frog (Pseudacris ocularis). I thought the first one I saw was an insect jumping through the grass.
Sarah gets the royal treatment during the half of the year she spends in Florida at Stetson University.
It was hot and humid, but we found snakes. Left to right: David Salazar, Sarah Smiley, Terry Farrell, Lisle Gibbs, Matt Holding, Rob Denton

Sunday, October 27, 2013


As if he were making art just for my interests, Nate Milton presents this animated short film, "TANK"

This beauty is well worth nine minutes of your life, especially if you were anything like me growing up: chasing creepy crawly creatures and playing junior naturalist. I don't think I've ever seen anything that has so accurately tapped into the magical feelings that surround connecting with the natural world as a child, feelings that certainly still resonate with me as an adult.

This film was the results of a successful Kickstarter campaign and you can see more behind-the-scenes videos/photos on Mr. Milton's production blog. Go give his website some love for his awesome work.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Science links: Science Studio educates, entertains, and inspires

Whew, I've been away from the blog for a bit while I finished my PhD candidacy. Now that I've been deemed a competent scientist by my senior colleagues, I have a backlog of blog posts to get to.

I'm going to start by pointing you towards Science Studio, a collection of the best science multimedia on the web. This idea comes from Rose Eveleth and Ben Lillie, who are two people behind the equally excellent podcast Story Collider

So, why is Science Studio cool? Well, finding really good science media isn't easy. Unfortunately, the best and most effective science multimedia isn't easily accessible via traditional outlets like television anymore.
No no no, Discovery, what is this?
Wait, really? Awww dagnabbit

Fortunately, the internet is still a source of so much great science media. It is also the source of so much terrible, pseudo-scientific poo. So if you are a science-seeking human with a limited amount of time to scour the internet, what do you do? Sites and programs like Science Studio could be the answer: nominate really good science media, have people judge it for its quality, and display the results in an easily accessible way. 

So go check out Science Studio for yourself. Here are some of my favorites from the collection:

Some days I'm Jad, some days I'm Robert.

One of the first science podcasts I always mention to folks is WNYC's Radiolab. While this podcast might not always satisfy those who seek for hardcore science, the stories are always entertaining and Jad and Robert make one of the best radio teams you can listen to. Their episode "The Bad Show" displays prominently on top of the Science Studio collection.

Look at this video explaining DNA folding from the blog The Last Word On Nothing. I was so enamored by how simple and whimsical this video is while so accurately and clearly presenting a very complicated topic.

Here is a neat podcast that I had never heard of, One Species at a Time. This one is about an under-appreciated group of species: moths. This is delivered by Ari Daniel Shapiro, who you might have heard all over the radio talking about cool science.

Cutest organism alive

Next, an informative and concise video about Tardigrades from the YouTube channel SciShow. I told my students that the Tardigrade is my spirit animal and they seemed impressed.

Go check the rest of the collection out for yourself and support good science media!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Field Herpetology at The Southwest Research Station (Part 3)

I had a fantastic time teaching at the Southwestern Research Station's Field Herpetology course this year. We returned to Ohio on Wednesday and definitely needed a couple of days to recover from eight straight days of hiking, teaching, and chasing after reptiles/amphibians.

I had a few more pictures of animals and class activities, so we needed a part three to finish things up.

Last beautiful day at the research station:

The students had an awesome time catching Sonora Mud Turtles (Kinosternon sonoriense) with Dr. Justin Congdon, Professor Emeritus at the University of Georgia. He's about the coolest guy you could meet.

I didn't eat it. They smell bad.

During a pit stop to meet Justin, we found two Ornate Box Turtles (Terrapene ornata):
Bad photo because I was on the phone due to my credit card information being stolen. Thanks criminals.

In between catching mud turtles, we spotted this really beautiful Greater Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi):

Very photogenic.

If you take the field herpetology course, the instructors promise to wear you out and then laugh while we take photos of you asleep.

One of the most fun labs is the sprint speed lab, where students race lizards with different locomotion strategies and compare.

Sonoran Whipsnake (Coluber bilineatus):

 Chiricahua Leopard Frog after being released:

Finally, here is Matt at airport security during the trip back home to Ohio. He is a guy who is used to answering 100 questions from TSA agents regarding the safety of snake tongs (the orange and silver device under inspection in this photo):

I can't wait 'til next year. We are home for just a few days before embarking on the first annual Gibbs lab field trip to Florida, where we will be assisting labmate Sarah Smiley in catching pigmy rattlesnakes for her research.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Field Herpetology at the Southwest Research Station (Part 2)

More photos from the 2013 Field Herpetology course!

The first female Leopard Lizard (Gambelia wislizenii) I have ever seen hold still:

Herpetologist photobomb:

Round-tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum):

Twin-spotted Rattlesnake (Crotalus priceii):
Huge male!
Think rattlensakes are mean? Look at this individual hiding his head.

Bad lighting, but a beautiful snake.

My very first Bunchgrass Lizard (Sceloporus slevini). A tough find all the way up the mountains:

Here is some of the variation in Long-nosed Snakes (Rhinocheilus lecontei):

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Field Herpetology at the Southwest Research Station (Part 1)

We are three days through the 2013 Field Herpetology course at the Southwest Research Station. Whew, what a whirlwind this course is for the second year in a row. We have students from all over the country: college students, retired doctors, government contractors, and environmental consultants. 

I've been busy tweeting some of our activities, but need a place to show you some of the photos of the class at work and the animals we are finding. So here ya go.

A handsome Greater Earless Lizard (Cophosaurus texanus):

Dr. Carol Simon gives a seminar on the natural history of the Chiricahua Mountains:

My main man Dr. Steve Mullin describing the sexual differences between kingsnakes:

Here is a group of endangered Chiricahua Leopard Frogs (Lithobates chiricaheunsis):

Here is Matt Holding demonstrating to the field herpetology students and local residents how scientists safely transport and restrain venomous snakes:

Dr. Emily Taylor and Matt Holding implant a radio transmitter in a Black-tailed Rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus):

My favorite rattlesnake: The Rock Rattlesnake (C. lepidus)!

A really nice find from night driving was a pair of Desert Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis splendida). She was no doubt cruising around looking for a nice rattlesnake meal. 

One of our first field trips was to Granite Gap, an area in Arizona know for having both a beautiful community of cactus and a thriving population of Gila Monsters (Heloderma suspectum).

And here is the star of the show. Worth all of the heavy hiking, for sure.

Gila Monster relaxing center-middle.