Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Do you want to connect your classroom to the wider world of science? Your class can become a partner classroom with the National Geographic supported lizard project.

This spring the National Geographic supported Lizard Project will be back in the field and we are looking for partner classrooms who want to share in that experience. This project will give students a unique window into evolutionary biology in action. Last year we began an ambitious experiment with the brown anole lizard (Anolis sagrei) to study the effect of a skewed sex ratio on natural selection in a wild setting. We introduced small populations on nine small living laboratory islands within Florida’s Intra Coastal Waterway.  Four of those islands have female biased populations and the remaining five are male biased.  We will be going back to capture all of the lizards again, measure and mark the new hatchlings and check the population survival and growth rates.  We would like to share this process with you and interact with your class.  As we prepare for the field work, your students can get familiar with our work through blog posts and assignments that reinforce the concepts of ecology and evolution that we study.  Later, as we head out into the field, your class can watch our work and ask questions through a live Skype session and through the blog.

If you are interested in having your class partner with The Lizard Project or just want to hear more, drop us a line at

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

WideWorldScience is going to TED2012!

I am thrilled to announce that I have been invited to speak at TED2012.  This year at TED there will be a new session called The Classroom that will feature ten talks that teach.  My talk on fascinating experiments in modern evolutionary ecology will be part of that session on the final day of TED2012. The talks from The Classroom may be used in part to launch TED-ED (, TED’s new education based website that will feature talks that teach as well as "a platform where visionary educators, students, and creative professionals can identify, submit & create content for the TED-ED initiative."

I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak at TED, to promote the teaching of evolutionary biology as well as to talk with the TED community about the exciting work Dan Warner and I are doing to bring real science to the classroom with the National Geographic and Waitt Foundation supported Lizard Project. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thank you National Geographic and the Waitt Foundation.

Here at WideWorldScience we are proud to announce that the field component of the lizard project is now being supported by a National Geographic Society Waitt Grant.  The generous support from this grant will allow Dr. Dan Warner, me, and our collaborator Alexis Harrison to step up our work in central Florida and reach an even wider audience of students through innovative educational outreach and partnerships with classrooms around the country.  This grant will allow us to:

1) Learn more about evolution by natural selection in the wild.

As the high school students who followed our work in real time last spring already know, we have an ambitious experiment currently underway.  We are attempting to answer the question of “What effect does the sex ratio of a population have on natural selection in that population?”  An animal’s sex (whether it is male or female) is one of its most significant traits that can determine its ability to survive in a particular setting.  For vertebrate animals (like our lizards) in the wild little is known about how the proportion of males to females affects the survival of both sexes.  What does it take to survive in a male dominated world? Is that different in a female dominated world?

To work to answer these questions, we are closely studying small populations on nine living laboratory islands.  Four of the islands have majority female populations and five of the islands have majority male populations.  Each of the founding lizards on these islands has been carefully measured and marked.  We also have taken DNA samples from the founding lizard population on each island and plan to track parentage in each successive generation. We will be looking closely at the sex ratios in each generation, survival rates for individuals and which sets of traits give an animal the best chance of survival in the available environments. In short, this work will give us the chance to answer interesting questions about evolution and sexual selection that have never been answered before.

2) Bring the experience of field work in evolutionary ecology into the classroom.   

At WideWorldScience, we believe that there is too much distance between the science students usually learn in school and cutting edge of research in the field.  With the field component of the Lizard Project, we are trying to bring exciting field work into the classroom.  Students and teachers from partner classrooms will follow our work through this blog as we prepare to go into the field.  This will allow for an inside look into the process of science.  Students will become familiar with our study questions, hypotheses and development of our methods.  Then as we head out to the islands to check on our lizards along Florida’s Intra Coastal Waterway, students will stay engaged through daily Skype chats from the field and frequent blog updates.  This will give students the chance to ask questions live and in real time as they get a window into the process of science as it happens.

If you are a teacher or a student who would like to be a part of the National Geographic supported Lizard Project this spring, please drop us a line at 

Thanks again to the National Geographic Society and the Waitt Foundation for supporting science and our efforts to bring science to the classroom!