Spring Break 2018: Anolis Symposium, Day II

Anolis Symposium VII;
Miami-Dade county, Florida (18 March 2018).
Series: Spring Break 2018.

Growing up in Volusia county, Florida, anoles, those funky little lizards, were a daily happening in my childhood. When I think back to my early years in Florida, I remember four things above all else (people excluded): anything and everything Devo, my beloved Atari 2600 game console, my collection of well-used and weathered Star Wars action figures, and, of course, tons and tons of Carolina green anoles (Anolis carolinensis). Sometimes the anoles would even serve as confused participants in my Star Wars action figure role-playing scenes in the backyard, but they were always there on the house — on our walls and on our screens. Good god, how I adored them.

I remember building a wood-framed screen terrarium with my father, complete with a swinging hatch, to keep anoles in. When we finished building it, I ran around the house and collected as many anoles as I could and threw them in the terrarium. Maybe a little over a dozen or so? That’s when I started to figure out that the males didn’t always play so well together. That’s when I started noticing their stress patterns. These weren’t just “things” that hung out on our home like little emerald ornaments; these were living organisms that responded directly and sometimes dramatically to the world around them — much like myself.

That’s about the time my passive curiosity of reptiles and my fondness of wearing anoles (biting my earlobes) as jewelry became something… more. I started paying more attention to how they acted around one another, to how they behaved in different locations, to how they responded to different environmental factors. Yeah, that’s about the time a “lizard” ceased being a mere thing I’d find outside. Instead, I started seeing each individual as a living creature driven by its own instincts and motivations, trying desperately to scratch out a living in an otherwise harsh and difficult world. Once these lizards stopped being things and once I began to see them as organisms with agency, my fascination with them exploded.

Though I was ultimately drawn into the world Humanities, Rhetoric, and Communication, I’ve continued to carry with me an intense curiosity and fascination of the natural world around us — of ecology, of evolution, of biodiversity. I can safely and honestly put the lizards of Genus Anolis square center in the grid of factors that continues to drive my intellectual curiosity forward through the years. You’d be hard pressed to find another vertebrate taxon more impressive than the anoles when it comes to adaptation and diversity. As they were when I was a child, the anoles that surround me today, along with our native Nerodia watersnakes, feed my imagination with questions and wonder. They make me want to ask questions and, even better, find answers. Curiosity is truly one of the most beautiful aspects of being alive, and I’m extremely grateful to have such engagement with these fascinating lizards.

Thus, with that in mind, here’s the long-overdue slideshow of photographs from the second day of the 2018 Anolis Symposium held at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida — an event I’d long looked forward to attending and one I hope to again attend next time it swings around. It’s truly something special to be surrounded by such focused curiosity — all these human souls bound together by the Genus Anolis — a mix of youthful enthusiasm balanced with the discipline and rigor of scientific methodology. The best of the best, balanced.

As always, if you’d like to learn more about anoles, be sure to check out Anole Annals!


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