Invasive Anole Research In Florida

small brown anoleOne of the greatest threats to ecosystems is the continued introduction and spread of invasive species, which are commonly introduced to new areas by humans. Invasive species not only threaten nature preserves, but can harm commerce (such as zebra mussels damaging ships, or lionfish devastating fishing grounds) and pose a threat to public health by spreading disease (such as introduced rodents and mosquitoes). However, despite the problems caused by invasive species, we still know surprisingly little about what makes certain species successful in new ranges.

For my dissertation research in the Martin lab at the University of South Florida, I hope to identify the mechanisms that enable these species to survive and spread following an introduction. By identifying some of these mechanisms, we will be able to focus control efforts in a more effective manner by ascertaining which species have this potential. Specifically, I study Anolis sagrei, the brown anole, which is native to Cuba and the Bahamas, but is widespread across Florida where it has displaced the native green anole. My research aims to address if A. sagrei is able to be so successful in its introduced range in Florida because it changes the way it uses dietary resources as it invades new territory. The results of my study will not only fill a gap in the knowledge that we have on a common invasive species in Florida, but will also provide a stepping stone for future research on invasive species from other taxonomic groups.

The scientific community is no exception to having cope with budget cuts. Many labs that have traditionally depended on funding from federal agencies are finding money for research (especially ecological research) harder to come by. That is where the general public comes in. Crowd funding provides an opportunity for the general public to personally contribute to research projects and allows scientists to reach out and bridge the gap between the public and scientific communities. The support I receive from funders will be used to help me travel to different locations across the introduced range of A. sagrei in Florida and for sample processing at the University of South Florida. I will be sampling from sites close to the point of original introduction (Key Largo and Miami-Dade, FL), as well as sites where brown anoles have been reported for less than 20 years.
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You can also keep up with my research by following me on Twitter @OffbeatScience and visiting my website.

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