top of page

RESEARCH

IMG_9256_edited.jpg

RESEARCH INTERESTS

I am broadly interested in the ecology, evolution, and behavior of reptiles and amphibians - lizards in particular! I study how spatial and temporal changes in ecology and environment influence lizard behavior, morphology, physiology, genetic variation, and biological diversity across biological scales, from genes to species. The lab is especially interested in the effects of urbanization and climate change on phenotypic evolution.

What are the effects of urbanization on lizard thermoregulatory and anti-predator behavior? How will reptiles adapt to rapid human landscape modification and global climate change? Are certain lizard phenotypes primed for life in the big city?

 

Research in the lab is integrative and focuses on how urbanization and global change affect herptile ecology and evolution. To understand the effects of these human-mediated processes, we use a combination of large-scale field studies, laboratory experiments, and phylogenetic comparative analyses on individuals, populations, and species of reptiles (Podarcis wall lizards in particular). Our work largely takes place in Greece, Italy, and Southern California.

 

907d376b-1521-4454-9f42-8c10e52c6642.jpg

Measuring Podarcis erhardii color morphs from Naxos, Greece

CURRENT RESEARCH

CITY SICULUS: ITALIAN WALL LIZARDS IN THE USA 

Taormina.JPG
IMG_7972.HEIC

Several species of Podarcis lizards have repeatedly established thriving populations from introductions of a few individuals all over North American cities from Boston to San Diego, often displacing native species. In San Diego and Los Angeles, introduced Italian wall lizards (Podarcis siculus) have established expanding populations that actively exclude native Western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis). How do a couple of lizards from Italy explode into huge populations that push out native species that have been evolving in these places for millennia? Does Podarcis' long evolutionary history with humans give them a leg up for co-existing in cities with us? Having an understanding of the genetic, environmental, behavioral, and ecological properties of successful species invasions in cities provides insights into urban evolution and how species deal with sudden environmental change. 

Our goal is to unravel the genomic and phenotypic pathways to repeated success in novel urban environments by comparing the genetics, morphology, and performance of introduced wallies across North America.

This work is in collaboration with Dr. Greg Pauly at the LA County Museum of Natural History, Anusha Bishop at UC Berkeley, Dr. Bree Putman at Cal State San Bernardino, Dr. Eric Gangloff at Ohio Wesleyan University, and Dr. Peter Bednekoff at Eastern Michigan University.

TRAIT DIFFERENCES AMONG COLOR MORPHS IN WALLIES

Color polymorphisms offer a great opportunity to study how phenotypic variation is generated, maintained, and lost in natural populations. Check out some of our published work on color morph trait differences in Aegean wall lizards (Podarcis erhardii) and introduced Common wall lizards (P. muralis). Our findings suggest that morph colors are related to differences in traits that are crucial for social interactions and competitive ability, illustrating the need to look beyond color when studying polymorphism evolution.​

Read our paper on morph color, size, bite force, and chemical signal profiles in PeerJ

Read our paper on differential body temperature preferences between P. erhardii color morphs on bioRxiv

Read our paper on morph differences in habitat use and ectoparasite loads in Amphibia-Reptilia

More soon on color morph and island differences in cloacal microbiomes! 

Chapter1.jpg

CONVERGENT ADAPTATION TO CITIES

gecko_edited.jpg

Geckos from the Mediterranean region have repeatedly established thriving populations from a few introduced individuals in cities around the world. Do these geckos have similar morphological and behavioral syndromes in cities where they are native? And what about in cities where they have been introduced, such as Los Angeles and San Diego? We are interested in how cities shape gecko traits in different cities around the world. Our goal is to understand genomic and phenotypic factors that influence their success in densely populated human-dominated environments.

This research is in collaboration with Dr. Panayiotis Pafilis (University of Athens, Greece) and Dr. Yuval Itescu (Haifa University, Israel)

COLOR MORPH-CORRELATED BEHAVIOR IN WALLIES

male morphs.JPG

Color polymorphic animals sometimes exhibit morph-correlated aggressive behaviors that can drive further morph differences in space use and reproductive success. We are interested in morph-correlated behavior in polymorphic wallies, especially morph differences in social and sexual behavior that might play a role in the long-term maintenance of color morphs.

Read our paper on morph-correlated social behaviors and contest abilities in Animal Behaviour !

Read our paper on differences in color morph escape behavior in Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology

IMG_1906.JPG
IMG_2493.JPG
IMG_3527.jpeg

RESEARCH FUNDING

Herpin' ain't easy, but it's necessary. Collecting genetic, phenotypic, and environmental data from the field is critical to advance our understanding of nature and conserving reptiles (and all biodiversity!) in a rapidly changing world. Thanks very much to the organizations that have funded TeamSavres research over the years.

NatGeo.png
NSF_Logo.PNG
AmPhilSoc.png
Unknown.png
Unknown.jpeg
Unknown-1.png
Unknown-1.jpeg
bottom of page