Mojave Fieldwork 2017

Just got back from our annual fieldwork trip to the Mojave Desert. We were out working in the desert in California and Nevada for the last two weeks of May. We went to six different sites this year, and for the most part, things went really smoothly. We started this trip spending a couple days in the Kingston Mountains in CA, where a few of us have been hoping to come across a Gila monster for nearly a decade now. Yet again, no luck finding a monster, but it was great weather and good herping.

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After the Kingstons, we went over to our site near Pahrump, NV that we’ve been resurveying for lizards over the past couple years. This site was originally surveyed in the early 1960’s by famed herpetologist Eric Pianka as part of his doctoral dissertation research. Because of the extraordinarily thorough nature of his original surveys, they represent a valuable source of baseline biodiversity data at these sites. We are going back and looking for changes in lizard abundance and species diversity at his old sites to see if the past 50 years of environmental change has impacted the lizard communities at these sites.

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On our way to our Pahrump field site!

After Pahrump, we  went up to a new site we’d never been to near Grapevine Canyon in Nevada. This site is off the highway to Scotty’s Castle, which is unfortunately is closed right now because of damage from a huge flood that occurred in 2015, would have been neat to check it out. Fortunately for us, the road closure is just past the Pianka survey plot we were working on, so we could still access it. It was a beautiful site, with tons of blooming Creosote.

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Lining up to start a transect.

Following Grapevine, we went down to our site near Searchlight, NV which is one of our favorites due to it’s proximity to this interesting boomtown, and our campsite at Cottonwood Cove on the Colorado River where we are able to take refreshing afternoon swims after our surveys! Our last two sites were near Mojave and 29 Palms. Our only day of bad weather this year was in Mojave, where it was cold and windy one day. Although we lost one day of surveying, it did lead us to discover the existence of the California City Whiptails, an independent professional baseball team in the Pecos League. Our last night in 29 Palms, we got a big group campsite in Joshua Tree National Park, and had a fancy BBQ to celebrate the trip. It was an excellent trip: lots of fun with good friends/colleagues, successful herping, some great food (including some great taquerias, and a variety of cuts of venison cooked by Greg), and the beautiful Mojave Desert!

 

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A leopard lizard (Gambelia wislizenii)
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Reaching for a Chuckwalla in a crevice.

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