All About Anoles

The second general meeting of the FIU Ecology club GLADES featured a reptilian guest-the Anole. This week graduate student James Stroud of the Feeley lab was generous enough to host an interactive workshop with GLADES members on anoles. It began with a short presentation on the species found at our university that make up our unique anole community. James explained how to identify these anoles based on their most obvious physical characteristics and on their most common habitat preferences.

GLADES members learning about common South Florida anole species.

GLADES members learning about common South Florida anole species.

After the presentation, the fun began! Our group headed outside armed with lizard “nooses” to look for any anoles around campus. With our newly acquired knowledge of anole ecology and identification we all had a sharp eye ready for any small movement along a tree, post, wall, or on the ground. The day had a slight case of rain, which meant the anoles were hiding from us while we walked around campus getting rained on. As budding ecologists, this didn’t stop us.

On the search for anoles.

On the search for anoles.

With some careful eyes, we spotted one anole in a young slash pine tree in the Nature Preserve and used a lizard noose to catch it. This was a great opportunity for GLADES members to try their hand at lizard catching and identification. Later on in the workshop every member had a chance to catch an anole on their own. Anoles are tough little critters, so they didn’t mind being held in order for members to get a better look at their unique features.

The brown anole (Anolis sagrei).

Anoles really are prevalent here in south Florida. They can be found all over campus, in your backyard, and even in your boots (this happened to me once!) Having grown up in Miami, I recall as a child catching these little lizards left and right and would anger them just enough to get them to bite my fingers (and sometimes my earlobes to wear them as earrings….according to James this seems to be a Miami-only phenomenon).

GLADES members had a unique experience at this workshop, and from it took more nuggets of information which they can utilize to enhance their continuing education in ecology.

An Afternoon with Tropical Plants

The student members of Florida International University’s ecology club GLADES enjoyed an afternoon learning how to identify common woody plant families of the Neotropics earlier this month. We were pleased to have Dr. Scott Zona of the Department of Biological Sciences and Curator of the Wertheim Conservatory here at FIU leading the workshop. GLADES members met at the north entrance of the FIU Nature Preserve where Dr. Zona began with a short introduction on tropical plant families.

GLADES members with Dr. Scott Zona

GLADES members with Dr. Scott Zona

Dr. Zona provided for each student a packet that listed each of the 10 plant families students were going to encounter during the workshop and included information such as the number of genera and species in each family, special identification features, leaf type, flower type, fruit type, and a familiar species example. The plant family list included: Arecaceae, Annonaceae, Bignoniaceae, Euphorbeaceae, Fabaceae,Lauraceae,  Moraceae, Myrtaceae,Sapotaceae, and Rubiaceae.

GLADES members during the identification workshop.

GLADES members during the identification workshop.

This workshop was the first of the semester for GLADES. As the founding president of this truly unique student organization, I was moved by both the presence and engagement of the members during the workshop. What students took home from this experience was a new-found skill in plant identification with a complementary botanical vocabulary, and an appreciation for the diversity of plant life found at our university. At one point during the workshop, Dr. Zona quizzed our group on identifying a woody plant to its family. With our new skills and a trusty hand lens, we easily identified it was in the Rubiaceae (opposite leaves and interpetiolary stipules!). All of the amazing photos were taken by our GLADES Webmaster, Ashley Lambert. I look forward with excitement for what the rest of the semester has in store for GLADES. 

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NPR on the effects of climate change on tropical forests

NPR is playing a new story about the effects of climate change on tropical forests featuring the work of KJ Feeley and his colleagues in the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group.

Listen or read here: http://wunc.org/post/how-climate-change-affecting-tropical-forests