PhD student Scott Travers just reported back from the Solomon Islands, where he is in the midst of a National Geographic funded expedition. As you can see from the image above, Scott has already seen one of earth's most amazing lizards - the prehensile tailed skink (Corucia zebrata). Because it is so unusual, Corucia is one of those species that just about every herpetologist knows about. They have amazing tails capable of movement in nearly any dimension, a topic that was the focus of one of my first scientific papers. To the right of Scott, you can see Rafe trying to recreate Scott's moment using a plastic lizard.
The word of the month for March was exhausting! I spent 26 days traveling through several islands in the central Philippines. I have created a little digital map to summarize the trip. We went from Manila to Cebu Island, then traveled to southern Negros Island, northern Negros Island, Bohol Island, Lapinig Island, and finally back to Luzon. It was such a ridiculous trip of traveling that I actually took the time to calculate just how much time we actually spent on a boat, bus, or jeepney. The total came to 102 hours! Now, assuming we slept for at least 8 hours a night, that means that there were roughly 16 hours per day for expedition related activities. If you do the math you realize this is the equivalent of 6.38 entire days were spent just traveling (I rounded to the nearest hundredths place for those of you interested). By the third long bus ride I had already finished reading the first Twilight book and had designed a new line of chic clothing for field biologists.
Regardless of how much time was wasted in transition, the trip was a complete success. We were able to secure new permits for several protected parks and we collected specimens of several species of burrowing lizards that are incredibly rare in museum collections. Since we are in the middle of the dry season, the weather our entire trip was hot, humid, and hot. We had two tiny bouts of rain that lasted less than 10 minutes each. We returned safely to Manila and have spent the last week catching up on sleep and preparing reports for the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). On April 3rd we head back out for a brief expedition to Tablas and Carabao Islands, just off the southern coast of central Luzon Island.