Thursday, August 14, 2014


Hi, everyone! I just finished my first year here in the PhD program at Clemson, and I’m in the middle of my first round of research. To begin this project, I needed to collect gravid female Eastern fence lizards (Sceloporus undulatus) and bring them back to our lab to rear their eggs under different experimental conditions. I spent a few weeks in April and May looking for field sites in the Long Cane Ranger district of Sumter National Forest—a large section of national forest land that stretches between Greenwood, McCormick, Edgefield, and the SC-GA border.

All that green is the Long Cane Ranger District. The red "X"
marks my field site.
This is the first picture I took of my field site. Not too far
from this spot is where I caught that first lizard.
After a month of off-trail hiking a few days a week in spots all throughout the forest, I finally found my site in the first week of May. And it’s been a great site!  On my first visit to check out the site, I found half a dozen lizards in about 30 minutes, including one gravid female. In fact, the first fence lizard I ever caught was also the first gravid female I caught for this project. I returned with my advisor, Mike Sears, and easily caught two more gravid females. We sent those three off to Arizona for a collaborative project to sequence the S undulatus genome (which is awesome!). Then I spent the rest of May, June, and July exploring my site and tracking lizards 6 to 8 hours a day, several days a week.

I had a lot of fun exploring my field site and working hard to find lizards. If off-trail hiking in the back woods of a primarily pine section of a national forest in the southern part of South Carolina in 90°-plus weather looking for elusive lizards sounds fun to you, then you can understand why I had such a good time. Even on the days when I returned empty handed (which happened more often that I would have liked), I got to see all kinds of other wildlife and enjoy time to myself in the outdoors. Also, I got tons of exercise and sweated off all the extra pounds gained from sitting around all school year reading papers and writing grant proposals.

This is that first female I caught.
One of the first males I found.

As I write this, I am on a break from measuring heart rates of the embryos I’ve been incubating all summer. Some time over the next few days, they will start to hatch and the next stage of my project will begin. Then I can post again and update you all on the growth rate, metabolic rate, and sprint speed measurements I'll be taking (I can’t wait to build and try out our sprint track and camera setup). Plus, I can share some baby lizard pictures!

Here are just a few of the many, many pictures I have taken so far:

Feeding time! have a little something
on your chin.
Learning a lesson about keeping the
terrarium closed. She jumped on me
and climbed up my arm onto my shoulder during
feeding time. So I snapped a picture
before putting her back.
Here you go, Chris. The only turtle I saw out there.
Anoles were all over the place. So were skinks, though I
haven't grabbed any pictures of those yet.
A rough green snake I found hanging out in a bush.
I almost stepped on this little guy. Thankfully, I saw him
right before I dropped off a fallen tree he was hiding near.

This guy was so well camouflaged,
I didn't see him until my face was
a few inches away (I was going after
a lizard that had climbed up the tree).
Sexual dimorphism can be funny.

And here's a video from one of the feeding days:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Better late than never

As I sit here and digitize the seemingly endless number of videos and photos collected during my field season this past March, I realized I should probably write a blog before I hypocritically antagonize the rest of you about posting all of your summer adventures. So here it is...

Rick Blob trying to scare some pretty
innocent fish
Home made squirt gun
I spent the last 3 weeks of March in Hawaii trying to scare the snot out of these little fish using a flow tank and what one could describe as a home made squirt gun (a couple of bbq skewers, a syringe and a piece of plastic tubing)... And with much assistance we got to be
pretty darn good at scarring these little buggers!
Super awesome fish that climb waterfalls...
yes these little guys are the climbers!
SEA TURTLE (Almost punched me
in the face...I kind of deserved it)
When not filming the goby version of predator... We spent time snorkeling (aka me chasing sea turtles around for hours with my camera... never has anyone from Orlando felt more like the annoying tourist that invade my home town every summer), and eating the most amazing food I have ever tasted! (When I got back Corbin asked if I did anything besides eat, because the food was really all I talked about for a week)

Overall it was a pretty successful field season and a trip I will remember forever!

o.k. guys now it's your turn... don't forget to post all of your progress/ summer adventures on here when you get a chance!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Relay for Life 2014

As many of you are aware, several BSGSA members came together this spring to form a Relay for Life team.  Beginning in February, we started fundraising individually, as well as planning group fundraising events.  We set an initial fundraising goal of $1,000, which seemed rather ambitious at the time.  As the semester and our fundraising plans progressed, we started to build momentum and really raise some money.  All 3 of our fundraisers, a chili cook off, dye-it for cancer, and a bake sale, were incredibly successful.  With unflagging support from the department and the Clemson community, Team BSGSA managed to not only meet its $1,000 goal, but to exceed it, raising a grand total of $2,650.52!  With this total, Team BSGSA ranked as the 3rd highest fundraising team participating in Clemson's Relay for Life (out of 43).  Our efforts would not have been such a great success without the enthusiastic support of the faculty, staff, and students of the Biological Sciences Department.  Thank you all for helping us make a difference in the lives of those fighting cancer!  I sincerely hope that BSGSA can continue to participate in Relay for Life and I look forward to the opportunity to be involved in future years.

Monday, March 24, 2014

CBASS 2014 a Great Success!

Finally a fresh blog entry!  The below note is from BSGSA VP Jason, who chaired the committee that made CBASS 2014 such a great success this year! 

Clemson Biological Annual Student Symposium is an annual event hosted by the Biological Sciences Graduate Student Association showcasing the research that the Biological Science, Environmental Toxicology and Microbiology graduate students are involved in.  Over the course of the day, a poster session and a talk session were viewed and evaluated by faculty and peers.  The morning talk sessions were very well received, following a change in format from normal 15 minute sessions to 5 minute quick talk sessions, designed to concisely present one’s research to a lay audience, delivering the main points and goal of the research without getting mucked up in methodology. 

All the talks (21 in all) were very well done, with awards going to Christie Sampson (Habitat Use and Critical Threats to Asian Elephant Conservation), Christopher Mayerl (The functional significance of the fused pelvis to the plastron in Pleurodire Turtles) and Caitlin Rinz (Congenital Myasthenic Syndrome in a Labrador Retriever Family).

The poster session was also very well done, with excellent posters from both the graduate and undergraduate entrants.  Of the 35 posters presented, 3 graduate and 3 undergrad posters were voted on, by their peers, as the best on show.  Graduate awards went to Tyler Collins (Assessing the Role of Melanocortin 4 Receptors in Diversification of Poeciliid Fishes), Evan Apanovitch (Rising Stress: Investigating Plethodon Stressors Across Elevation Changes), and Snehal Mahtre (Water for Electricity in the Upper Savannah Basin: Impacts on Freshwater Bivalves). Undergraduate winners were Sarah Hoffman (It’s Not Easy Being a Reef: The Impacts of Corralivory and Competition on Live Coral Cover), Grant Davidson (The Effect of Social Environment on the Development of Sailfin Mollies (P.latipinna), and Rachael Weber (Fecal Source Tracking in Little Eastatoe Creek).

Many thanks to GSG for sponsoring the event, all the faculty that judged, the sponsors of the raffle prizes: Brioso’s Fresh Pasta, Moe’s Southwestern Grill, Firehouse Subs, BGR: The Burger Joint, Judge Keller’s Store, Jimmie John’s, and Christie Sampson.  Great job to all the participants, we look forward to seeing your research advance next year!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Busy Winter for BSGSA!

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for the long hiatus from the BSGSA blog!  It has been a busy couple of months for all of us.  Here’s a recap of what we’ve been up to since November, in case you missed any of it:

The holiday community outreach begins!  Kristine Moody organized a department-wide food drive to benefit Clemson Community Care (CCC), a local non-profit organization that helps support low-income families in the Clemson Area.  In the end, BSGSA and the Biological Sciences department raised enough money to donate 27 Thanksgiving turkeys and collected nearly 500 lbs of food!  What a great success!  Cheers to Kristine for putting this event together, as well as to all those to contributed by donating non-perishable goods, turkey money, and time to help deliver everything to CCC.
Loading up at Clemson.
Almost 500 pounds of food donated!
Delivering goods to CCC. 

December is always a busy time around the department as the fall semester winds down.  Amidst the chaos of finalizing grades, wrapping up research projects, graduations, and preparing for mid-winter conferences, BSGSA carried out its annual Salvation Army Stocking Stuffing Project.  This year, BSGSA members filled stockings with gifts and goodies for 24 local children in need so they could have a merry Christmas. 
Christopher is excited about his stocking!
Stocking Delivery Day!

In addition, December saw the graduation of a handful of BioSci Grad Students, including BSGSA members Christie Sampson and Gautam Ginjupalli­­­­.  Congratulations to all and we wish you great success in your future endeavors!

Texas State Capital Building in Austin, TX. 
Happy New Year, Everyone!  We are just a couple of weeks into 2014 and already so much has happened.  First, several BSGSA members kicked off the new year by attending the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) annual conference, held this year in Austin, TX.  In addition to attending the conference, all participated by presenting talks and posters throughout the week:

Christopher Mayerl:  Thermal ecology of Podarcis tiliguerta (Lacertidae) across an altitudinal gradient
Eric Riddell:  High and dry: responses of evaporative water loss along an elevational gradient for two species of lungless salamanders
Kelly Diamond:  Individual variation in locomotor performance and behavior on northern curly-tailed lizards (Leiocephalus carinatus)
Sam Crickenberger:  Lower thermal tolerance of larvae and adults of the introduced barnacle Megabalanus coccopoma: implications for range limits
Sandy Kawano:  Intraspecific variation in patterns of morphological selection in the waterfall climbing goby fish, Sicyopterus stimpsoni
Vanessa Young:  In vivo femoral strains in swimming turtles: influence of locomotor medium on limb bone loading

The Blob Lab visting Kelly's poster at SICB 2014.

Congrats to all on jobs well done!  As an added bonus, two of our members were recognized at the SICB business meeting:  Sandy Kawano received a SICB Travel Fellowship to help fund her remaining research trips to the Chicago Field Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian; and Eric Riddell received one of SICB's Grants-In-Aid-Of-Research Awards to fund his ongoing field work in which he collects Appalachian salamanders for experiments to determine their capacity to acclimate to climate change.  Congratulations!!

The Clemson Rhino! (Photo credit S. Kawano)
As if the SICB excitement wasn’t enough, the BioSci department welcomed the arrival of its new rhino on January 9th!  Throughout the fall, Dr. Richard Blob and Stanlee Miller, the Clemson University Natural History Museum curator, have received several specimens of African mammals from the Museum of York County (near Rock Hill, SC), which is deaccessioning portions of its collection that are not on display.  One of these specimens is a 15 foot long white rhinoceros, which has historic ties to Clemson.  This specimen was mounted and on display at a former Burger King in Clemson for several years, before entering the collections at the Museum of York County roughly 20 years ago.  Now it has returned to Clemson, and plans are in place for it to be displayed on the first floor of Long Hall in the near future as part of our biodiversity exhibits.  In the mean time, a big thank you goes out to Dr. Steve Klaine for housing the rhino in his lab until the display case is built!  And another big thank you to Rick and Stanlee for bringing these specimens to Clemson University!

Looking Ahead:
As we look ahead, BSGSA has an exciting spring planned.  Officers will be meeting later this week to discuss plans for Graduate Student Recruitment Weekend, CBASS, and a spring retreat.  We’ll also be planning spring service opportunities, such as Darwin Week activities, BioBowl, Relay for Life, and others.  Stay tuned for more information!