Gita R. Kolluru
This grant supported research on the effect of western blacklegged ticks on their western fence lizard host’s behavior. Juvenile western blacklegged ticks, the vector of Lyme disease in California, commonly parasitize western fence lizards. Dozens of ticks may parasitize a single lizard, but what effect these ticks may exert on their host’s behavior has remained largely unexplored. This grant was applied towards this exploration, beginning with the construction of outdoor pens for housing captive lizards in suitable conditions prior to experimentation. Lizards needed to be held for several weeks to allow them to acclimate to a captive environment. Additionally, lizards needed to be isolated before behavioral trials. These requirements precluded the use of off-the-shelf outdoor containment structures. Funds were also spent on feeding captive lizards. Once acclimated, lizards were taken to a purpose-built arena, where they competed over a resource (usually a basking perch). Surveillance footage of the interaction was analyzed to determine which lizard was dominant.
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