About This Project
This study aims to better understand reptile ecotoxicology by testing the impacts of heavy metal contamination on reproduction parameters of two anole species: the native green anole and the invasive brown anole across an urbanization gradient in the Florida scrub ecosystem. As urbanization continues to increase worldwide, it's imperative to understand how species are affected by these pollutants to implement successful conservation strategies.
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What is the context of this research?
Environmental contamination is accumulating rapidly worldwide due to increasing urbanization rates. Heavy metals are known to be particularly toxic to organisms, are known to accumulate in biological systems, and tend to be found in higher concentrations in animals when they are located in areas of high human activity. Heavy metals are endocrine disrupters, capable of affecting the endocrine system across various vertebrate taxa and may lead to population declines. Most studies on the impacts of environmental contaminants on vertebrates focus on birds and mammals, leaving our understanding of reptile ecotoxicology comparatively unknown, despite reptiles being ideal bio-monitor species. I am looking to fill in the current knowledge gaps of reptile ecotoxicology.
What is the significance of this project?
Reptile populations are declining globally, making their conservation vital to preserving the earth's biodiversity. Reptiles provide invaluable services to their ecosystems as mesopredators, both controlling prey species' populations and providing food sources for their predators. Most reptiles are also excellent bio-monitor species, as they are particularly sensitive to environmental contaminates. However, they are the most understudied vertebrate group in ecotoxicology, and our knowledge of how pollutants and the effects of increasing human activity are impacting them is limited. As urbanization continues to increase worldwide, it's imperative to understand how reptiles are affected by these pollutants to implement successful conservation strategies.
What are the goals of the project?
The goal of this project is to better understand terrestrial reptile ecotoxicology by testing the impacts of heavy metal contamination (mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium) on reproduction parameters (hatchling survivorship and growth, body condition) of two anole species in the Florida scrub ecosystem. This will be done by taking blood and tissue samples of green and brown anoles from nine different field sites of varying urbanization levels, and analyzing the samples for heavy metal contamination. I will also breed brown anoles to test for any impacts that these heavy metals may have on the lizards' reproduction and hatchling health, and to see how these impacts may change across varying degrees of contamination.
This is a very involved research project that requires extensive field and laboratory work. However, I am very excited about the results that will be gathered at its completion, and the important data we will gather for the field of conservation biology. I need to run several blood and tissue sample analyses for heavy metal contamination, which can be quite expensive, and laboratory equipment to ensure the captive lizards are well taken care of for the duration of this project. This type of project studying the impacts of varying levels of heavy metal contamination on the reproduction of American lizard species has never been done before, so the data derived from these tissue analyses and laboratory experiments will be novel, and likely will provide new insight on how to implement conservation strategies to protect American wildlife and their ecosystems.
The field work component of this project will commence in June, 2021 and will carry into the Fall. Sampling of wild lizards will continue until an adequately large study sample has been obtained. The laboratory component will also begin in the Summer of 2021, and carry into the fall. The final project paper will be completed in the Spring of 2022.
Jun 29, 2021
Jun 30, 2021
Begin sampling green and brown anoles from chosen study sites
Aug 10, 2021
Collect 4 breeding pairs of brown anoles form each of the 9 study sites, and house them in the laboratory
Sep 01, 2021
Send in all blood and tissue samples for analysis
Oct 29, 2021
Begin collecting data on juveniles hatched in the laboratory
Meet the Team
I am a graduate student enrolled in the University of South Florida's Conservation Biology program. I previously earned by undergraduate degree in Zoology and Ecology from James Cook University, focusing my studies on tropical ecosystems.
While this study focuses on reptiles and how they are impacted by heavy metal contamination, it is important to note that impacts via bioaccumulation affect other vertebrates such as birds and mammals; thus, the results from this study will have implications much broader than simply reptile ecotoxicology
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