Huge submission congratulations to (very nearly Dr.) Caroline Dong! Caroline’s thesis on speciation and secondary contact in the tawny dragon came together in a lovely cohesive story. With one of her chapters already published and the others submitted or in preparation, keep an eye out for her brilliant research. Caroline also has her own website, and is very active on twitter. We’ve no doubt she’ll excel in her career!
Massive congratulations to Po Peng, who, having only just given his final seminar, and is pending thesis submission, has earned a postdoc position in his home country, Taiwan! Even more impressively, Po contributed to writing the successful grant application, so is able to work on precisely his passion. We wish him nothing but success and enjoyment in his new position!
The 13th of December was a big day for the Stuart-Fox Lab! Both Caroline and Po gave their final PhD seminars. Both contributed enormously to bonding, entertaining and educating their fellow lab members over the last three and a half years, and will be missed immensely. Each of them incorporated their subtle personalities into their talks, with custom sashes, glittering tiaras, confetti filled balloons, and temporary tattoos of their respective study species for the audience. We wish them the best of luck finalising their theses for submission in the coming weeks!
Mid-October 2019 saw us head off on the Stuart-Fox Lab’s inaugural Writing Retreat, meticulously organised by Caroline! One PI, one postdoc, one RA, six students and an honorary lab member made for a ridiculously productive, supportive and entertaining few days in the Otways. The students followed a schedule of the “Pomodoro method” from 9am-6pm, with a one-hour break for lunch and a half-hour break in the morning and afternoon (which they often worked through!). Commitment was high, with the students’ diligence intimidating the postdoc and RA, who spent most of the time alternating between working and luring in the resident parrots. Significant headway was made on draft manuscripts, a review paper, and thesis chapters among other tasks. Possibly an annual event??
Colour experts, Laura, Caroline and Amanda took to Melbourne Museum‘s July Nocturnal event to showcase some incredible examples of animal coloration. The ladies had a great time presenting on the function, production, and perception of structural and pigment-based coloration. Check out their posts here and here!
The lab that throws axes together stays together? Such a lot of fun, and definitely an immersive experience for the newest members of the lab – we promise we’re not always so.. aggressive! But always good to learn who to keep an eye out for!
Capitalising on lab experience, technical skills, cameras, new specs and many and diverse unregistered eggs, newest MPhil student, Wen-Yun Liao has set up camp in one of Melbourne Museum‘s collections. She will be exploring relationships between eggs’ reflectance, climate and nest type.
Lab postdoc Claire McLean was invited to present the story of the discovery and her describing the barrier range dragon, Ctenophorus mirrityana, at the recent Native Australian Animals Trust event. Most considerate of her to clarify lizard vs giant fire-breathing dragon.
Undergraduate student Hannah turned her volunteering with us and our tawny empire into a special project for third year. Hannah developed skills in performing hormone assays to investigate how stress (via implantation of corticosterone) impacts tawny dragon colouration.
Colour measurement has never been so techy or thorough! We have upgraded our dual spectrometer (now has lasers and mirrors!) and the student has become the master: Laura Ospina Rozo instructs the lab ladies on the use of the integrating sphere with the spec for diffuse colour measurements – ideal for small, curved, shiny beetles!
In a mammoth effort, Caroline determinedly re-homed every one of her juvenile tawny dragons! We, along with our favourite field assistant, Adam Elliott, delivered some directly to Halls Gap Zoo. Check them out, if you’re in the area! And send us pics if you do!
PhD student Laura Ospina Rozo hit the ground running by visiting the Australian National Insect Collection in Canberra with Katrina, Devi and physics collaborator. Slightly overwhelming diversity of beetles available for photographing, colour measuring and admiring. Hugely productive week was had, and Laura may be spending the rest of her life analysing the data! Hugely exciting though!
As promised – Caroline’s fabulous segment on Scope! Starting at 16:45 here, Caroline explains a little about her research into the tawnies, and shows some of the impressive behavioural displays the males put on.
Tawny breeder extraordinaire, Caroline Dong spent the day branching into the world of television, when the team from popular kid’s science show Scope dropped by. Caroline explained about her research into the speciation of the colourful tawny dragon. We’ll be sure to post a link to the show as soon as it’s available!
We have very nearly run out of Masters students in the Lab! This month, Leslie Ng and Richard Bartle handed in their theses on bee cognition and tawny dragon behavioural interactions, respectively. This follows Elizabeth Newton and Tess Mclaren submitting their theses only a few months ago. Elizabeth carried out a comparative study on the relationship between near-infrared reflectance and thermal environment in birds (see her blog post!). Tess also performed a comparative study, though her’s was on the evolutionary drivers of colour change in agamid lizards throughout Asia. Massive efforts, congratulations to each of you! All are working towards publishing their works, and we are very proud of them!
We are well into tawny dragon breeding season! Caroline Dong managed to film almost all of this lady’s epic half-hour lay of a record 8 eggs! This individual had been larger than all the other females which have laid, so we were initially concerned she could be eggbound. An x-ray and ultrasound later, it was revealed she was not, and she laid without intervention the very next day. For updates on breeding season, and other things sciencey, follow Caroline on twitter: @colorfulagamids.