I'm a herpetologist by training but a naturalist at heart. My masters thesis is looking into the Panamint alligator lizard, Elgaria panamintina. In particular I'm focusing on identifying its range and testing out a variety of novel techniques which may benefit the field of herpetology as a whole. I post things that interest me and often post updates on what I'm doing in the vertebrate museum, in the field, or in the lab.

 

dendroica:

It’s not just extinction: meet defaunation

Get ready to learn a new word: defaunation. Fauna is the total collection of animals—both in terms of species diversity and abundance—in a given area. So, defaunation, much like deforestation, means the loss of animals in all its myriad forms, including extinction, extirpation, or population declines. A special issue in Science today shines light on this little-discussed global trend and highlights how it’s impacting human society.
"Though for emotional or aesthetic reasons we may lament the loss of large charismatic species, such as tigers, rhinos, and pandas, we now know that loss of animals, from the largest elephant to the smallest beetle, will also fundamentally alter the form and function of the ecosystems upon which we all depend," writes Sacha Vignieri, an Associate Editor with Science in an introduction on the issue.
Starting with the bigger—more well-known—species, vertebrate populations on average have declined by over a quarter in the last forty years, according to a review paper in the issue. Such numbers are borne out by a lot of anecdotal reporting of the “empty forest” syndrome, where scientists are noticing more-and-more seemingly intact forests and other habitats that have been stripped of their medium to large vertebrates.
Meanwhile at least 322 vertebrates have gone extinct since 1500, a trend in human-caused extinctions that likely began during the Pleistocene. Many additional vertebrates remain unrecorded for decades and could be extinct.
But “fauna” also extends to invertebrates, which really comprise the vast bulk of the world’s animals. Most of these animals—which includes everything from insects to mollusks and jellyfish to spiders—have been far less studied than the world’s vertebrates and so much less is known about how imperiled they are and their population trends. Still, the data that we do have is not good.
A global review of 452 invertebrates find that these populations have fallen by 45 percent over the last 40 years. The best data is in the Lepidoptera family—moths and butterflies—which shows a drop in abundance of about 35 percent.

(Read more at Mongabay.com)

dendroica:

It’s not just extinction: meet defaunation

Get ready to learn a new word: defaunation. Fauna is the total collection of animals—both in terms of species diversity and abundance—in a given area. So, defaunation, much like deforestation, means the loss of animals in all its myriad forms, including extinction, extirpation, or population declines. A special issue in Science today shines light on this little-discussed global trend and highlights how it’s impacting human society.

"Though for emotional or aesthetic reasons we may lament the loss of large charismatic species, such as tigers, rhinos, and pandas, we now know that loss of animals, from the largest elephant to the smallest beetle, will also fundamentally alter the form and function of the ecosystems upon which we all depend," writes Sacha Vignieri, an Associate Editor with Science in an introduction on the issue.

Starting with the bigger—more well-known—species, vertebrate populations on average have declined by over a quarter in the last forty years, according to a review paper in the issue. Such numbers are borne out by a lot of anecdotal reporting of the “empty forest” syndrome, where scientists are noticing more-and-more seemingly intact forests and other habitats that have been stripped of their medium to large vertebrates.

Meanwhile at least 322 vertebrates have gone extinct since 1500, a trend in human-caused extinctions that likely began during the Pleistocene. Many additional vertebrates remain unrecorded for decades and could be extinct.

But “fauna” also extends to invertebrates, which really comprise the vast bulk of the world’s animals. Most of these animals—which includes everything from insects to mollusks and jellyfish to spiders—have been far less studied than the world’s vertebrates and so much less is known about how imperiled they are and their population trends. Still, the data that we do have is not good.

A global review of 452 invertebrates find that these populations have fallen by 45 percent over the last 40 years. The best data is in the Lepidoptera family—moths and butterflies—which shows a drop in abundance of about 35 percent.

(Read more at Mongabay.com)

Lizard ID?

I’m not so good with the little hatchling guys. I just about forgot I saw him, he was hanging out in the pullout I used to turn around when I took a wrong turn.

Probably 1” SVL with a big tail. Thought he was a grasshopper when I saw movement out of the car window, and he of course bolted (at an amazingly fast speed) as soon as I got out of the car… So no capture/better ID pics.

white mountains, Inyo Co. CA

Update from the field: wrens! scenery!

Today after taking a few wrong turns I eventually found my way to a 4x4 jeep trail which quickly became impassable for my vehicle. Unfortunately I couldn’t turn around and it took me a good fifteen minutes to very carefully back out between the two rocks in the second picture (made more difficult by several other large rocks in the immediate vicinity, the slippery rock path… and the fact it was on a decent slope). I had maybe 4 inches clear on either side as I went through the rocks… But I made it out and backed up another thirty feet to a good turn around point where I parked.

So instead of driving up to the habitat I wanted to survey, I hiked in.

It was a gorgeous albeit steep and exhausting hike up the road, loads of gorgeous scenery and stunning rock formations.

Eventually I started seeing birds- dozens of black-throated sparrows, my visual (and photographic) lifer canyon wren, followed by half a dozen other canyon wrens and a dozen or so rock wrens, later a lone northern flicker who seemed quite out of place and a trio of says phoebes (photo lifer) and one really noisy blue gray gnatcatcher.

Alas there were no lizards to be found, but the thicket of wild rose was 6 feet high and so dense nothing bigger than a lizard could navigate. Interesting the little stretch of flowing water was 55 degrees (f) and the shaded riparian ~70, when I finished for the day, but the surface temperature of the rocks nearby in the sun ranged from 115 to over 140f and air temps were in the mid 90s.


This made it all the more surprising when on the hike down I spotted a very large collared lizard basking on a huge boulder, the only herp of the day.

mo-mtn-girl:

"My lionfish research is going viral…but my name has been intentionally left out of the stories, replaced by the name of the 12-year-old daughter of my former supervisor’s best friend. The little girl did a science fair project based on my PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED DISCOVERY of lionfish living in low-salinity estuarine habitats. Her story has been picked up nationally by CBS, NPR, and CORAL magazine, and has received almost 90,000 likes on Facebook, yet my years of groundbreaking work on estuarine lionfish are being completely and intentionally ignored. At this stage in my career, this type of national exposure would be invaluable…if only my name was included in the stories. I feel like my hands are tied. Anything I say will come off as an attempt to steal a little girl’s thunder, but it’s unethical for her and her father to continue to claim the discovery of lionfish in estuaries as her own.I’m looking towards you - my valued friends and colleagues - for suggestions on how I might be able to remedy this intentional misrepresentation without doing anything to disparage the little girl. Most of you are aware of the massive amount of time I put into exposing kids to science, and I obviously don’t want to do anything to diminish this young lady’s curiosity or enthusiasm. I’m thrilled that she chose to look at lionfish for her science fair project, but encouraging an outright lie is poor parenting and a horrible way to introduce a youngster to a career in the sciences. This picture was taken in 2010, when I first discovered lionfish occupying estuarine habitats - 3 years before the little girl’s “discovery” “
-Dr. Zack Jud
I pulled this directly off his Facebook page. 
I will state again that I have nothing against the little girl being so involved and excited by marine biology etc. but it’s appalling that his name isn’t even being mentioned (WAY TO GO SCIENCE JOURNALISTS). 
I don’t think many people realize how valuable this kind of recognition would be for someone who just graduated. 
To look at more of his work that pre-dates the “breakthrough discovery” of the kid go HERE. 
Please spread. Get this guy the recognition he deserves. 

mo-mtn-girl:

"My lionfish research is going viral…but my name has been intentionally left out of the stories, replaced by the name of the 12-year-old daughter of my former supervisor’s best friend. The little girl did a science fair project based on my PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED DISCOVERY of lionfish living in low-salinity estuarine habitats. Her story has been picked up nationally by CBS, NPR, and CORAL magazine, and has received almost 90,000 likes on Facebook, yet my years of groundbreaking work on estuarine lionfish are being completely and intentionally ignored. At this stage in my career, this type of national exposure would be invaluable…if only my name was included in the stories. I feel like my hands are tied. Anything I say will come off as an attempt to steal a little girl’s thunder, but it’s unethical for her and her father to continue to claim the discovery of lionfish in estuaries as her own.

I’m looking towards you - my valued friends and colleagues - for suggestions on how I might be able to remedy this intentional misrepresentation without doing anything to disparage the little girl. Most of you are aware of the massive amount of time I put into exposing kids to science, and I obviously don’t want to do anything to diminish this young lady’s curiosity or enthusiasm. I’m thrilled that she chose to look at lionfish for her science fair project, but encouraging an outright lie is poor parenting and a horrible way to introduce a youngster to a career in the sciences. 

This picture was taken in 2010, when I first discovered lionfish occupying estuarine habitats - 3 years before the little girl’s “discovery” “

-Dr. Zack Jud

I pulled this directly off his Facebook page. 

I will state again that I have nothing against the little girl being so involved and excited by marine biology etc. but it’s appalling that his name isn’t even being mentioned (WAY TO GO SCIENCE JOURNALISTS). 

I don’t think many people realize how valuable this kind of recognition would be for someone who just graduated. 

To look at more of his work that pre-dates the “breakthrough discovery” of the kid go HERE

Please spread. Get this guy the recognition he deserves. 

sixpenceee:

The following is a white blood cell chasing a bacterium. It eventually ends up swallowing it. The following white blood cell is specifically a neutrophil. They end up ingesting the microbe a process known as phagocytosis. 

VIDEO

Update from the field: travel day


Grouse! 

Started with a roadkill sooty grouse who looked headless but was mostly intact except for the hole the ravens poked rendering it unsalvageable (photo is after moving the bird out of the middle of the road). Initially the ravens acted like they might mob me for stealing their lunch, but later seemed almost pleased when I tossed the carcass off the road into the grass so they could eat without risk of being squished.

While moving the bird I heard another sooty grouse, but once again was unable to find it, sooty’s remain on my heard only list.

A super surprise occurred later when a female GREATER SAGE GROUSE (!!!!) and two fuzzball little grouse glided across the road at windshield level as I turned a corner in a sagebrush canyon… They’re big! I couldn’t stop to try to snag a picture as it was a blind corner on a highway, but nonetheless an awesome way to pick up a new lifer (the babies were super cute).

Tomorrow I go check out road conditions (though it sounds like my sites should be accessible) and look for lizards!

Update from the field: travel day


Grouse!

Started with a roadkill sooty grouse who looked headless but was mostly intact except for the hole the ravens poked rendering it unsalvageable (photo is after moving the bird out of the middle of the road). Initially the ravens acted like they might mob me for stealing their lunch, but later seemed almost pleased when I tossed the carcass off the road into the grass so they could eat without risk of being squished.

While moving the bird I heard another sooty grouse, but once again was unable to find it, sooty’s remain on my heard only list.

A super surprise occurred later when a female GREATER SAGE GROUSE (!!!!) and two fuzzball little grouse glided across the road at windshield level as I turned a corner in a sagebrush canyon… They’re big! I couldn’t stop to try to snag a picture as it was a blind corner on a highway, but nonetheless an awesome way to pick up a new lifer (the babies were super cute).

Tomorrow I go check out road conditions (though it sounds like my sites should be accessible) and look for lizards!

Update from about the field:

Apparently the super heavy rain last weekend decided to wash out a lot of the roads in the White Mountains (Inyo NF)… which may prove problematic. I find out tomorrow which of my sites are still accessible (the roads looked sketchy (4x4 with erosion damage, lots of big rocks and otherwise technically challenging) before the rain… so they’re probably all obliterated). 

Things I wasn’t expecting: flooding to wipe out the roads… followed by another week of above 100F weather.

My timing is either ideal (avoiding the storms and not getting washed away/trapped above a road washout) or not ideal (avoiding the storms which might have caused additional activity in the lizards).

Actual field updates will resume tomorrow.

crispysnakes:




USARK - United States Association of Reptile Keepers




Read this Lacey Act article by Kassandra Royer of Royer Reptiles. You’ll learn something. Then, comment against the Constrictor Rule if you haven’t at www.usark.org/2014-blog/constrictor-rule-1/. And share!…. 










I felt obligated to reblog this as a reminder to the herp community that the Lacey Act is in fact actually EXTREMELY important, used regularly by law enforcement and if it were to go away… it would be VERY BAD for wildlife in the US (very good for poachers though, they’d be quite pleased).

I’m not going to address everything… but just mention a few important things about the act and clear up some misconceptions in the article:

1) Why are some species that aren’t commonly heard of by people listed and not others?:

Species are NOT considered for this list based on the public’s knowledge of that species. Species are considered when there is evidence to support that introduction into the United States COULD be detrimental, proof of current detriment within the US is NOT required, but certainly helps with the listing process. Specifically:



"The Service evaluates two sets of scientific data. First, the agency evaluates the factors that contribute to a species being considered injurious, including:  




the likelihood of release or escape; 
potential to survive, become established, and spread; 
impacts on wildlife resources and or ecosystems through hybridization and competition for food/habitats, habitat degradation/destruction, predation, and pathogen transfer; 
impact to threatened and endangered species and their habitats; 
impacts to human beings, forestry, horticulture, and agriculture; and 
wildlife or habitat damages that may occur from control measures 




 Second, the Service evaluates factors that reduce the likelihood of the invasive species causing harm, including the: 




 ability to prevent escape and establishment; 
potential to eradicate or manage established populations; 
ability to rehabilitate disturbed ecosystems; 
ability to prevent or control the spread of pathogens or parasites; and 
any potential ecological benefits to introduction. “


Further, the mammal species provided as examples of the regulations COULD cause great ecological harm which is why they’re listed. If we waited for all species to establish and prove that they’re exceptionally injurious then it would be too late.  Once established, invasive species can be near impossible to eradicate (as demonstrated by the Burmese pythons in Florida, Brown Tree Snakes in Guam). This list is all about trying to stay a step ahead of, or at least slow down the spread of invasive species in the US.

2) Why are some clearly problematic species not listed?
Many species deserve to be on the list, but simply aren’t. Lots of species aren’t listed because transport and possession by humans isn’t the primary reason why they’re such a big risk/problem. This is usually because there’s no/minimal interstate/international trade in live individuals, but other reasons can play a role such as:

Wild Boar- Genetically considered the same species as the domestic hog. Adding this species to the list would also ban the movement of hogs, and products like bacon across state lines.
House Mouse/Brown Rat- same problem as wild boar, domestic variants used for scientific purposes.


3) Why are species that can spread themselves on the landscape listed?
By its very definition an invasive species is able to spread itself on a landscape, or else it wouldn’t be considered invasive! So all invasive species meet that criteria, but why are some listed and others are left off? A species is listed if it meets the criteria presented above in #1, those words are taken directly from the USFWS (which as a side note is the proper acronym for the US Fish & Wildlife Service).  

4) So what about the big snakes… why are they being listed/proposed for listing?
The big snakes being proposed for listing were evaluated based on the list of criteria presented in #1, and found to be a potential threat to the United States and its territories, hence the proposed listing. While I don’t know the exact specifics as to why these species were selected, here’s some likely reasons:

Established invasive snakes (Boa constrictor (Aruba, elsewhere), Burmese python (Florida), Brown tree snake (Guam) near impossible to monitor/eradicate and shown to be absolutely devastating to native wildlife.
Reported sightings of some of these species including gravid, healthy individuals
Suitable habitat present for each species within the US/US territories
High probability of release or escape
Similarity between species in both ecology and appearance
Lack of scientific research on some species (Python natalensis for example has only a handful of scientific publications; the Beni anaconda has even less)- in situations like this its safest to list a species if closely related species are high-risk


5) Is the Lacey Act effective?

YES!

At its core, the Lacey Act allows for federal prosecution of poachers and other wildlife law violators who break a state, federal, tribal or international law but then flee to another state to avoid prosecution.

The Lacey Act isn’t just the injurious species list. Even if it was, the injurious species list is important. Arguably one of the reasons why we don’t see many of these listed species roaming around the ecosystem is because they’re on the list… the ones that are present were simply listed too late. 

6) Where can I read more about this? 
Be aware that using USARK as the only source of information is going to be problematic-  its going to be biased towards never listing a herp as an injurious species. For more information about the Act, refer to the USFWS and the Act itself. This information can be found here:

http://www.fws.gov/international/laws-treaties-agreements/us-conservation-laws/lacey-act.html
Recent examples of the Lacey Act in action (along with other wildlife laws):
http://www.fws.gov/le/stories.html

crispysnakes:


Read this Lacey Act article by Kassandra Royer of Royer Reptiles. You’ll learn something. Then, comment against the Constrictor Rule if you haven’t at www.usark.org/2014-blog/constrictor-rule-1/. And share!
…. 
I felt obligated to reblog this as a reminder to the herp community that the Lacey Act is in fact actually EXTREMELY important, used regularly by law enforcement and if it were to go away… it would be VERY BAD for wildlife in the US (very good for poachers though, they’d be quite pleased).
I’m not going to address everything… but just mention a few important things about the act and clear up some misconceptions in the article:
1) Why are some species that aren’t commonly heard of by people listed and not others?:
Species are NOT considered for this list based on the public’s knowledge of that species. Species are considered when there is evidence to support that introduction into the United States COULD be detrimental, proof of current detriment within the US is NOT required, but certainly helps with the listing process. Specifically:
"The Service evaluates two sets of scientific data. First, the agency evaluates the factors that contribute to a species being considered injurious, including:  
  • the likelihood of release or escape; 
  • potential to survive, become established, and spread; 
  • impacts on wildlife resources and or ecosystems through hybridization and competition for food/habitats, habitat degradation/destruction, predation, and pathogen transfer; 
  • impact to threatened and endangered species and their habitats; 
  • impacts to human beings, forestry, horticulture, and agriculture; and 
  • wildlife or habitat damages that may occur from control measures 
 Second, the Service evaluates factors that reduce the likelihood of the invasive species causing harm, including the: 
  •  ability to prevent escape and establishment; 
  • potential to eradicate or manage established populations; 
  • ability to rehabilitate disturbed ecosystems; 
  • ability to prevent or control the spread of pathogens or parasites; and 
  • any potential ecological benefits to introduction. “

Further, the mammal species provided as examples of the regulations COULD cause great ecological harm which is why they’re listed. If we waited for all species to establish and prove that they’re exceptionally injurious then it would be too late.  Once established, invasive species can be near impossible to eradicate (as demonstrated by the Burmese pythons in Florida, Brown Tree Snakes in Guam). This list is all about trying to stay a step ahead of, or at least slow down the spread of invasive species in the US.

2) Why are some clearly problematic species not listed?
Many species deserve to be on the list, but simply aren’t. Lots of species aren’t listed because transport and possession by humans isn’t the primary reason why they’re such a big risk/problem. This is usually because there’s no/minimal interstate/international trade in live individuals, but other reasons can play a role such as:
  • Wild Boar- Genetically considered the same species as the domestic hog. Adding this species to the list would also ban the movement of hogs, and products like bacon across state lines.
  • House Mouse/Brown Rat- same problem as wild boar, domestic variants used for scientific purposes.
3) Why are species that can spread themselves on the landscape listed?
By its very definition an invasive species is able to spread itself on a landscape, or else it wouldn’t be considered invasive! So all invasive species meet that criteria, but why are some listed and others are left off? A species is listed if it meets the criteria presented above in #1, those words are taken directly from the USFWS (which as a side note is the proper acronym for the US Fish & Wildlife Service).  
4) So what about the big snakes… why are they being listed/proposed for listing?
The big snakes being proposed for listing were evaluated based on the list of criteria presented in #1, and found to be a potential threat to the United States and its territories, hence the proposed listing. While I don’t know the exact specifics as to why these species were selected, here’s some likely reasons:
  • Established invasive snakes (Boa constrictor (Aruba, elsewhere), Burmese python (Florida), Brown tree snake (Guam) near impossible to monitor/eradicate and shown to be absolutely devastating to native wildlife.
  • Reported sightings of some of these species including gravid, healthy individuals
  • Suitable habitat present for each species within the US/US territories
  • High probability of release or escape
  • Similarity between species in both ecology and appearance
  • Lack of scientific research on some species (Python natalensis for example has only a handful of scientific publications; the Beni anaconda has even less)- in situations like this its safest to list a species if closely related species are high-risk
5) Is the Lacey Act effective?
YES!
At its core, the Lacey Act allows for federal prosecution of poachers and other wildlife law violators who break a state, federal, tribal or international law but then flee to another state to avoid prosecution.
The Lacey Act isn’t just the injurious species list. Even if it was, the injurious species list is important. Arguably one of the reasons why we don’t see many of these listed species roaming around the ecosystem is because they’re on the list… the ones that are present were simply listed too late. 
6) Where can I read more about this? 
Be aware that using USARK as the only source of information is going to be problematic-  its going to be biased towards never listing a herp as an injurious species. For more information about the Act, refer to the USFWS and the Act itself. This information can be found here:

Recent examples of the Lacey Act in action (along with other wildlife laws):

18004206969:

Yes. I’d like some bird seeds, thank you. and how long does it usually take for the birds to grow.

f-eel-s:

Every river in the United States. (via Kotke.org)

So this isn’t exactly accurate (and the creator does address this on the main data distribution page but as is often the case that info got lost somewhere along the way). Its every potential major waterway based on the terrain (here’s the zoomable map)

Case in point- Southeast CA, specifically the White Mountains above Death Valley.  There aren’t many flowing rivers/streams there anymore… but there used to be many thousands of years ago. Looking just at the terrain there should be water there… but in reality its very very dry and except for the exceptionally rare catastrophic flood events, many of the “waterways” haven’t had water for thousands of years. Similarly, the spring-fed streams of the area don’t show up as they haven’t had geologic time to alter the terrain enough to be picked up by terrain based maps. 

Its really important if you do habitat modeling to make sure that your data (ie water layers) is accurate by actually visiting the site… otherwise you have the potential to make yourself look really stupid, and do really bad science such as that time when USGS scientists created a really, really, REALLY bad model that said Burmese pythons can totally survive and maintain a viable population in the heart of Texas… or the entirety of the Mojave desert, including Death Valley (it really makes one wonder if the person who hit the button and ran the model actually looked at the output before publishing):

Arguably one of the worst species distribution models ever published...

As part of my thesis I used one of these water layers, knowing it just didn’t look right but curious to see what the output would be… end result I spent a week wandering around in centuries old washes looking for non-existent riparian vegetation and water which was supposed to be there but hadn’t been there for centuries. Zooming in on the river map, the big giant former river/stream of the past is now an incredibly dry wash I wandered around in, but the spring-fed seasonal streams I’ll be visiting next week don’t show up on the map. 

tl;dr Be wary of big giant datasets… they might not actually be all that accurate and if you blindly trust them, especially for science, things will likely go very bad.

wesleylock:

Beautiful young cornsnake (Pantherophis guttatus) found herping a shell road. 

She was in perfect shape, not a scale out of place. 

lotsofbirds:

Crested Bobwhite (Colinus cristatus)
This colorful quail is found across several countries in southern Central America and northern South America. It is considered to be of least concern by the IUCN.
Learn more:
Life history Information via Inaturalist
Listen to songs and calls via Xeno-Canto
View distribution maps and recent observations via ebird
(Photo by Alejandro Bayer on Flickr)

lotsofbirds:

Crested Bobwhite (Colinus cristatus)

This colorful quail is found across several countries in southern Central America and northern South America. It is considered to be of least concern by the IUCN.

Learn more:

Life history Information via Inaturalist

Listen to songs and calls via Xeno-Canto

View distribution maps and recent observations via ebird

(Photo by Alejandro Bayer on Flickr)

SACRAMENTO – Wildlife Care Association (WCA) is a non-profit association in Sacramento that cares for sick, orphaned and injured animals. Sadly, after more than three decades, the facility will be forced to close its doors in August without badly needed funding, and thousands of animals will be turned away, with nowhere to go.

We already have many mouths to feed so feed costs have added to the increase in operating expenses. Currently, our budget shortfall for 2014 is upwards of $60,000.

We are still in jeopardy of closing our doors mid-season. This means at least half of the animals brought to WCA for help would have to go to animal control to be euthanized. As expected, the current drought condition is affecting local wildlife. WCA is currently taking in 25-40 animals per day, many of which are severely dehydrated. This is more than double the normal intake numbers for this time of year.

—————————————————————-

This is a really important rehab facility for the Sacramento region- they rehabilitate a lot of wildlife and are really good at what they do. They’re short a lot of money and while they really need monetary donations to keep open, any donation (time, items, etc) would be super helpful:

To learn more & donate: http://www.wildlifecareassociation.com/help/

albertoguerra:

Bird´s Catalogue of the north coast of Yucatan

Illustrated and designed by Alberto Guerra

© UNAM Unidad Académica Sisal  -  2014