Lizards get play on Nature of Things website

(Edmonton) A chance encounter with a film crew from CBC’s Nature of Things television program is giving an environmental and conservation sciences master’s students a few minutes of fame.

Krista Fink was doing field work, looking for greater short-horned lizards in Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan, when she met the crew, who was filming an episode for the popular science documentary series about the re-introduction of black-footed ferrets, an endangered species, on the Canadian prairies.

During the filming for the episode, the crew was also looking for other projects being conducted on other species at risk. Fink’s project fit the bill.

The second-year master’s student, who is supervised by renewable resources professor Scott Nielsen and adjunct professor Shelley Pruss, is examining the impact temperature has on greater short-horned lizard’s choice of habitat.

In Saskatchewan, the northern edge of the lizards’ habitat range seems to be the northern limit of Grasslands Provincial Park, located in the southern part of the province. Fink spent considerable time exploring a pasture 30 kilometres north of the park along the same river system and didn’t find any lizards.

“The northern limit of their habitat seems quite well defined,” she says, “and I’m trying to figure out if it has to do with temperature. If the lizard is in one place and not another, is there something different between the thermal characteristics (the heat and how it is arranged) in the two spots? If one spot has constant temperature and the other spot is patchy, do they prefer to be in one space or another?”

Fink says the lizards shuffle between hot and cold spots and because of their small size, their habitat seems to need to have a variance in temperature in small areas.

Fink hopes her project will be able to help determine with greater accuracy the temperature needs of the lizards and help their habitat to be better managed.

In the meantime, she’s quite pleased having her work profiled on The Nature of Things’ website along with other videos dealing with species at risk in the same park.

“I think any time we can get our research out there in a more accessible format than your standard scientific journals, it’s pretty valuable.”

To view the video, click here 

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