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.

 

Update from the field: part three, radios don’t work between canyons, vehicles sometimes don’t start and falling into wild rose and sagebrush hurts.

the spring had a little water and a few birds but not a single lizard was to be found, sagebrush lizards were everywhere but at the spring. Thinking that getting a little further in would help I scaled the soft wall following a game trail and dropped into the middle where I found a sun bleached backbone lacking any other bits.

That’s when the flies found me.. And they never left. They didn’t bite or do anything obnoxious except for fight with each other and annoyingly buzz constantly. Why didn’t flies evolve quieter wings?

Again no lizards but attempting to reverse my tracks resulted in me falling sideways into a huge wild rose plant (ow) smacking myself in the face with a big pine branch that knocked me backward into a second rose bush (ow again) and then sliding down the hill getting my leg stuck in a dead sagebrush plant which stopped me from face planting into a third rose bush (ow ow ow). Eventually detangled from the vegetation and started the oh so long climb back up to the car.

Alas, the car was dead. The battery was dead and I found the radio not connecting with dispatch… So onto the busy road I would go. Packed up my gear, hit my spot need-assistance button, and started to ascend further towards the rapidly building thunderstorms in the hopes of picking up a signal and not getting run over by a speeding RV on a blind curve.

Two miles later and no close calls (though no one stopped to see if I was okay wandering up the busy road) I picked up a scratchy signal from the dispatch relay in the Sierras… No idea why I couldn’t pick up a signal for the one ten miles away. Eventually I managed to get enough info to dispatch and received word that help was on the way right as the ominous cloud passed overhead and started to rain.

I retreated back and an hour later a BLM and a USFS fire pickup truck turned the curve and pulled in behind me. Seconds later a third truck joined the group coming from the other direction… Apparently dispatch got concerned when they couldn’t raise me on the radio and sent people out looking.

The car being all battery dependent couldn’t be moved out of park into neutral (?!) so one of the trucks had to do some crazy brush breaking maneuvers to get in place to jump start my Chevy Tahoe. With a working car we all headed back to town and the fire fighters rushed off to a fire.

Long day… But I didn’t fall down a mine shaft, didn’t break my leg falling down the side of a wash, didn’t get run over on the dirt road or the main road and didn’t get hit my lightning… So it worked out in the end.

Update from the field: part two- a nice descent and a dream almost come true.

The hike down was nice, scenic with the occasional bird or scurrying sagebrush lizard and absolutely gorgeous rock formations everywhere.

Eventually I made it to the spring (first picture) to find it fenced off with old rotten boards and downed rusty barbed wire, I approached with caution lured by the idea of alligator lizards and the calls of hidden birds. Then I saw the pile of rusted metal and paused, I would have to walk right past it or over it to continue to the willows… But something seemed off so I looked closer and saw the rotten wooden square frame and a pitch black gap under the rusted metal sheet- it was a hole. How deep I’ll never know but if I hadn’t have been paying attention I might have gotten too close and had the thing collapse as I approached. The dream oddly seemed as though it almost came true.

I backed up quickly and retreated to the road to look for another access point and found the nearby terrain littered with pieces of the past including what looked like an abandoned well and a better marked metal sheet covered entrance to a hole in the ground (oddly this was a flat area, not like the hole in the canyon wall abandoned mines I’ve seen elsewhere in the mountains).

I eventually made it down to the bottom of the spring and was ready to find lizards.

Update from the field: when it rains it pours… aka the day where just about everything went wrong but somehow I made it out alive. (Part 1)

I had this weird dream where I was surveying a site and fell through the ground into a mine shaft that went under the seep… before the end of the dream I was startled awake.

Woke up to Bishops odd way of alerting volunteer firefighters to a call- a town wide broadcast of an emergency siren ( aka the thing I associate with tornadoes), but I quickly reoriented myself that a tornado wasn’t about to eat me and inquired about the siren with my host for the season who explained it then went back to bed (it was 530am).

I was a bit shaken and debated changing my plans (due to the ominous sensation that today’s survey wasn’t going to end well) but carried on and headed up into the Whites to this road whose 2.2 miles I would hike to survey a spring where many a lizard has been found.

I parked in a convenient pullout right off the main road, checked the lights and doors and headed out into an eerily silent forest ready to descend what looked like 400 feet on the map but turned out to be almost a thousand feet to my target spring.

Update from the field: when it rains it pours… aka the day where just about everything went wrong but somehow I made it out alive. (Part 1)

I had this weird dream where I was surveying a site and fell through the ground into a mine shaft that went under the seep… before the end of the dream I was startled awake.

Woke up to Bishops odd way of alerting volunteer firefighters to a call- a town wide broadcast of an emergency siren ( aka the thing I associate with tornadoes), but I quickly reoriented myself that a tornado wasn’t about to eat me and inquired about the siren with my host for the season who explained it then went back to bed (it was 530am).

I was a bit shaken and debated changing my plans (due to the ominous sensation that today’s survey wasn’t going to end well) but carried on and headed up into the Whites to this road whose 2.2 miles I would hike to survey a spring where many a lizard has been found.

I parked in a convenient pullout right off the main road, checked the lights and doors and headed out into an eerily silent forest ready to descend what looked like 400 feet on the map but turned out to be almost a thousand feet to my target spring.

This dog thinks he’s a cat and perched on top of the couch. He’s now sleeping up there. He’s not a small dog either…

This dog thinks he’s a cat and perched on top of the couch. He’s now sleeping up there. He’s not a small dog either…

sabletsnakes:

Illustration of difference between parietal scales on P. breitensteini (left) and P. curtus (right)

Most fail proof way to tell between a Borneo and an orange head sstp.  Granted the coloration and patterning is also pretty telling, but this is definitive.

sabletsnakes:

Illustration of difference between parietal scales on P. breitensteini (left) and P. curtus (right)

Most fail proof way to tell between a Borneo and an orange head sstp. Granted the coloration and patterning is also pretty telling, but this is definitive.

(Source: bloodpythons.com)

Giant anteaters kill two hunters in Brazil

sapiens-sapiens:

rhamphotheca:

Dawn of the Anteaters…

So it begins.

Update from the field: Marble Canyon, Inyo National Forest.

No Panamints, but I’m sure they’re in the jungle of dense, dense willows up this canyon. The hike up to the riparian was one of the most spectacular hikes I’ve ever done. Alas the sun was in my eyes most of the hike up the dry stream bed… But that just made the hike down with the sun behind me all the more stunning, these pictures do the canyon no justice whatsoever, the walls easily towered over a hundred feet (if not much more, it sure seemed like a lot more) on each side.

I’d class it as a moderate hike, as it is all uphill with some scrabbling up large marble boulders which are likely spectacular waterfalls in spring, but for being trail-less it was a very pleasant hike following the dry streambed.

As with yesterday, as soon as the birds increased in numbers I knew water was coming up. Amazing views of a mixed flock of canyon and rock wrens ~10 birds total as they followed me around in the riparian, scolding either me or the fledglings in the group whenever they flew too close (at one point I could’ve touched a rock wren, and of course they were too close for my camera). Black throated sparrows were everywhere, and again there was a pair of bickering says phoebes (perhaps the same birds as yesterday?)

A pair of curious fledgeling chukar flew in a few feet overhead (their wings are loud!) and joined the wrens in watching me struggle to wade through willows while searching for lizards (I turned up a few Scelops, including a hatchling of less than an inch total length).

It’s really fascinating how this canyon and the neighboring Black Canyon which I hiked yesterday can be so different in geology and riparian vegetation.

The three constants so far among known locations- summer water, a few tall cottonwoods, and insanely dense vegetation that’s perfect for a lizard to navigate, but impossible for anything bigger.

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!