Saturday, April 16, 2011

18 Feet of Biologists

Hello from Spain! We've been on the island of Formentera for a few days now and are slowly settling in and getting used to what will be our home for the next 6 weeks.
lighthouse on the ferry ride to Formentera
 The reason I am here in Spain is to help a phd candidate with his research. He studies Ibiza Wall Lizards and they only live on certain islands in the Mediterranean. From island to island they vary in color and size and Nate studies the evolution that leads to these differences. Nate has a house in the small town of Es Pujols (pronounce the "j" unlike normal Spanish pronunciation) for a few months every year while the lizards are most active. We started straight to work when Ryan and I arrived by making clay models of female lizards. The females are slightly smaller and skinnier than the males. We used clay of 3 different colors to represent the different colors found on various islands/parts of islands.
lizard mold

 We made over 300 lizards! It takes a lot longer to make them well than you would assume and we worked on it for all of Thursday afternoon and Friday until midday. The house is really functional and Marina (when she arrives) and I have our own room. 

The girls' room

 Yesterday (Friday) was our first day out in the field. We placed the clay lizards in transect lines 5 meters apart. At each 5 meter mark, 3 models of the 3 different colors were placed in a triangular shape. The point of this experiment is basically to see what color gets preyed upon more. The brown lizards are the ones who live in this area so it's predicted that the bright colored ones will get attacked more often. Predation is shown by marks left in the soft clay. We also got a chance to practice catching the lizards using a noose. Together Nate, Ryan, and I make up 18 feet of biologists(and more once Marina gets here!)

We also saw an area of rock formations that Nate told us some 60-year-old speedo guy makes during the summer. They were everywhere....

Today we did some more field work and started another experiment involving live male lizards, harnesses, and fighting! Sounds exciting, right? More on that in a future blog. So far we are having a lot of fun here on Formentera and the internet is actually pretty quick compared to the Galapagos so I promise lots of pictures for this trip. The frequency of the blogs might be unfrequent because we are busy for so much of the day, but keep checking back!

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