Collared-lizard researcher Amy Conley snares skittish reptiles with a lasso of dental floss.
Q: You lasso lizards with dental floss. Really?
A: Really. I make a noose with the floss, tie it to the end of a fishing pole, then inch the loop over a lizard’s head. Wind blows the lasso a bit, but most lizards stay put because it’s just floss swinging around.
Q: Lassoing lizards sounds fun.
A: It’s like fishing and hunting mixed together. It’s the best part of my job.
Q: So what’s the worst part?
A: Working on a glade in the summer can be blazing hot, but ticks are the worst. I never leave home without duct tape for pulling tiny ticks off my clothes and skin.
Q: What do you do with a lizard after you catch it?
A: I measure and weigh it, take a tissue sample, and paint a number and some marks on the lizard. That way I can tell one from another at a distance.
Q: Do collared lizards bite?
A: Yes, but their teeth aren’t sharp. When an adult grabs you, it hurts, but you bruise more than bleed. I let baby lizards clamp down on my ears then wear them as living earrings. It’s a rite of passage for lizard researchers.
Q: What do you hope to learn?
A: To most people, all glades look the same. But to a collared lizard, some glades are better than others. I’m trying to nail down what habitat pieces make one glade more appealing than another.
Nichole LeClair Terrill