12 June 2012

Camping, Dark Soils, White Sands Symposium

Well, I've certainly let the time and events build up since I last wrote. I'll therefore be brief and let the photographs speak the stories!
Insect and spider hunting with the whole team.

Last week our advisor, Erica Rosenblum, visited with her new post-doc, Christine Parent so we took it upon ourselves to spend the night under the faint stars and bright full moon. We also did a little entomological collecting and stalked spiders and camel crickets (and an occasional wind scorpion).

The night brings out the very small...
"Wind Scorpion" consuming a less-interesting dipterid

... and the very large full moon.

"Dark" melanic conspecific of the same species of
little striped whiptail (Aspidoscelis inornata) also
found in White Sands.

On our way to the first ever White Sands Symposium in Las Cruces, we stopped by our "dark soils" site at the Jornada Long Term Ecological Research Station. I've collected melanic (dark pigmented) lizards from this site in years past, which are conspecific (depending on who you ask) with the blanched species found within White Sands. This year, we glimpsed some long-nosed leopard lizards, many dark little striped whiptails, one dark lesser earless lizard, and several side blotched lizards.

Requisite jumping-with-noose-poles photo at Jornada.
We stayed in Las Cruces for two nights during the premier White Sands Symposium. Our advisor helped organise the event and we all enjoyed the various talks about dune dynamics, entomology, mammals, and of course, lizards of White Sands.

White Sands Symposium at Las Cruces, NM
I will probably post again tomorrow as we've spotted some exciting animals at our sites recently. We also have an outreach program for local kids on Thursday and Friday. Hopefully the natural selection game I made up last year will 'work' again!

Take care followers! And goodnight creatures of the dark!
-S. Des Roches


  1. gypsum dunes- how unique is that?? Are there even any other gypsum dunes in the entire world? Does the softness of the gypsum effect the lizards differently than quartz sands?

  2. Hi Llyn! There are some gypsum dunes in Quatro Cienegas in Mexico... basically south of White Sands.
    White Sands IS the largest gypsum dune field in the world, however. Certainly it effects the lizards. For one, gypsum does not heat up as quickly as regular quartz sand so lizards, as ectotherms (=cold blooded), are likely largely influenced by this in terms of their behaviour. Surely other aspects of their biology are also influenced... the lesser earless lizard burrows, for example. And another thing! Gypsum dissolves in water!