Salamanders at Big Cypress Tree State Park, TN

Since our university was on Thanksgiving Break (3rd week of November). I had the honour of visiting Josh Hall’s family in West Tennessee. Josh and I collaborate on a series of projects to study how invasive lizards might be adapted to urban adaptation so we’ve gone down to Miami, FL together a couple times. While we share many common interests and values, one stark difference between us is our views on big cities. I really like big cities because I grew up in one. However, Josh doesn’t share that affinity for busy streets and skyscrapers.

My trip to Josh’s hometown of Milan (pronounce “Mai-Lan” unlike the Italian city) gave me a better idea of our difference! On Thanksgiving Day, Josh showed me the whole town in 20 minutes! Then we came home to celebrate Thanksgiving with the entire family. We had plenty of delicious food and dessert while sharing all sorts of stories.

The day after Thanksgiving we went to Big Cypress Tree State Park. The park was named so because there use to be a Big Cypress tree but it unfortunately burnt down years ago. However, there is still lots of cypress tree and the swamp is great salamander habitat! Joined by Jordan (Josh’s friend) and Hazel (picture below), we went for a stomp in the woods on a cool sunny morning. According to Josh, time seems to slow down in the swamp as you’re surrounded by the serene background of cypress trees.

Without too much effort, we found three species of salamanders, the Mole salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum), a small-mouth salamander (Ambystoma texanum), and the spotted salamander (Ambystoma opacum).

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Hazel with a small-mouth salamander
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A marbled salamander next to mole salamander

We then spent a couple hours enjoying the morning before heading home!

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wonderful cypress grove
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ALAPARC Conference 2017

This past weekend, my advisor – Dan Warner – and I attended the 2017 Alabama Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation meeting at The Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center. While our lab’s research interest is not focused on conservation of reptiles and amphibians in the state of Alabama, we were there to share our work on evolution and ecology of invasive anoles in Florida. I presented a poster about how anole embryos are robust to urban incubation environments and Dan gave a talk about our labs work to investigate how natural selection varies across space and time.

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We learned a lot other important conservation projects that institutions in Alabama (and 1 from Mississippi) are actively involved such as the Indigo snake reintroduction program, the status of Flattened musk turtle (only endemic turtle in the state), and much more.

After the presentations in the morning we all went on a herping excursion in Conecuh National Forest. Led by the likes of Jimmy Stiles, Jim Godwin (AL Natural Heritage Program), and Craig Guyer (Emeritus Professor of Auburn University) and with a little luck we spotted 16 species of amphibians and reptiles in one afternoon. The highlight of the day included a Gopher tortoise, a Diamond-back rattle snake, few water dog juveniles, and an eastern glass lizard. _MG_5281.jpg

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An overall solid weekend of herping and networking with some awesome herpetologist in the region!