December 23, 2014
On November 19, 2014 something happened at work that I’ve been waiting three and half years for. Unfortunately, I wasn’t here to witness it, but thanks to citizen science I was able to celebrate the discovery, even though I was 6,187 miles away.
On that day, newly turned citizen scientist Toni Castillo documented the first lizard in the Museum’s Nature Gardens.
Photo courtesy of Toni Castillo
The lizard in question was a Western Fence Lizard, Sceleporus occidentalis, and Toni, a Museum staffer, just happened to see it as she was walking through the gardens.
“I was walking next to the Living Wall and saw something in the pathway. At first I thought it was a leaf or a stick, but then I looked closer and realized it was a lizard.”
Toni knew that this was a unique find—she’d heard from other Museum staff that no lizards had been documented in the Nature Gardens before—and realized she had to get proof.
“I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I was really excited and kept thinking, it’s a lizard here! It was like seeing a unicorn. Luckily I had my phone in my back pocket and I was able to pull it out and snap some pictures.”
Later that day word spread. Toni told a few other Museum staff and sent them pictures. Everyone was excited—we had built the Nature Gardens as a refuge for wildlife in the city, but we’d still never documented a lizard in the space. The last time anyone had documented a lizard in Exposition Park was in March of 2010, when some citizen science volunteers observed two Western Fence Lizards on the south steps of the Museum.
Dr. Greg Pauly, the Museum’s curator of herpetology was another one delighted by the observation, and has high hopes that the lizard will stick around.
“This Western Fence Lizard appears to be a male and he is a bit beaten up with a stump-tail.” But, even with these apparent injuries, Greg is still optimistic. “Let’s hope he finds a female and our Gardens become populated with young fence lizards next summer.”
This lizard sighting is important for many reasons. Not only is it a first for our Nature Gardens and possibly the beginning of a Museum lizard population, but it is also one of only a few urban L.A. records in our Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals) project. The project has been running for 18 months and has received close to 5,000 observations, but only a very small number of these records are from urban areas. Toni's observation is another small step to helping Greg better understand how lizards and other reptiles and amphibians survive in Los Angeles.
So while you’re out and about exploring urban L.A. over the holidays, take a moment to snap pictures of any lizards you see and send them into RASCals to help us make another small step (email@example.com). We really need your help!
April 27, 2012
This last Saturday we held the second annual Lizard Hunt at Malibu Creek State Park! Dr. Greg Pauly, Museum Herpetologist, and Dr. Bobby Espinoza, CSUN Herpetologist, took a group of 25 lucky people out to observe, catch, and identify local herps.
Are you looking at me?Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentatlisHere is a list of all the herps we encountered:Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalisCommon Side-blotched Lizard, Uta stansburianaTiger Whiptail, Aspidoscelis tigrisWestern Skink, Plestiodon skiltonianusSouthern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus helleriGophersnake, Pituophis cateniferStriped Racer, Masticophis lateralisPacific Treefrog, Pseudacris regilla (heard calling)American Bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana (heard calling)
Dr. Greg Pauly lets an aspiring herpetologist touch a Western Fence Lizard
Dr. Bobby Espinoza shows off a striped racer, Masticophis lateralisOne of the primary goals of this field trip is to increase participation in our Lost Lizards of Los Angeles (LLOLA) project. Currently we have about 250 submissions, but for us to be able to do anything interesting with the data, we need at least 2,000 submissions. Hopefully we were able to inspire at least 25 more people to participate at this field trip. Are you inspired? One last thing for all you ultra herp-nerds—you can now get your daily herp dose by visiting the Museum's new herpetology section facebook page. Go get 'em Tiger Whiptail!
May 13, 2011
It has been a week of lizard happenings at NHMLA! We've had a confirmed sighting of another Western Fence Lizard in Exposition Park, we're installing underground lizard tubes in the North Campus, and over the weekend we held our first Lost Lizard Spotting field trip.Lizarding at Malibu CreekThis past Saturday morning a group of NHMLA staffers, and our good friend Dr. Bobby Espinoza, from Cal State University Northridge, led the first ever Lost Lizard field trip. Malibu Creek turned out to be the perfect location for this event and the group of kids and their families had a great time catching and identifying lizards. We found a number of species including Western Fence Lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis), Side-blotched Lizards (Uta stansburiana), and Western Whiptails (Aspidoscelis tigris). Hopefully the trip inspired all the participants to become Lost Lizard Citizen Scientists. If you're interested, find out more at the Museum's Lost Lizard site.
Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis
Bobby showing proper lizard handling techniqueThe Lizard UndergroundMeanwhile, in the North Campus, we are getting ready to install an Underground system. Unlike London's tube system, this system of tubes is designed for lizards and not humans. They are being installed in the Living Wall, in the hopes that when lizards move into the North Campus, they'll have lots of good spots for hiding, nesting, and escaping from predators like Raccoons.
Model lizard tubes at the San Diego ZooWhy Did the Lizard Cross Exposition Boulevard?To get to the North Campus, or at least this is what we hope will happen in the future. Last week our fearless Bug Guy, Brent Karner, was walking back from a lunch outing, and saw a lizard on the curb! As he got closer he identified the lizard as a Western Fence, Sceloporus occidentalis. This is the third lizard record for Exposition Park in the recent past, the first two occurring over a year ago at our Exposition Park Herp Survey. Stay tuned for photographic documentation as Brent sends me the picture he took with his not-so-smartphone.