I've been meaning to update for some time now, but after a bit of a hiatus, it's hard to get back into it again. Yesterday I presented some of the Pinta work at the Cornell Department of Natural Resources grad student symposium. It was the first time that I had presented my work to a non-ESF scientific audience, and I was quite nervous, but it was good practice for me. Now maybe I can begin thinking about taking things to a larger audience. Everyone seemed quite excited about it, but how could you not be? There's everything in this project: charismatic megafauna, cutting edge conservation science in action, and interesting results. A little bit about those interesting results... It's difficult to tell from that animation I posted a while back because there are no contour elevation lines, but many of the dome tortoises move straight up the elevation gradient while the saddlebacks stay in the mid and lower elevations. You can see the pattern better in this picture (domes are purple and saddles are yellow):
This is pretty much what we would expect - domes typically inhabit higher elevations on other islands, and saddlebacks are in the mid to lower elevations. But, I've been doing some habitat selection analysis in the area around the introduction point where we mapped all the cactus, and it seems that the domes and saddles are both selecting for the same habitat features (low slope and high cactus density areas) when they are forced to be in that mid-elevation area (because we put them there!). The plot will likely thicken even more when we get the next 9 months of movement data from the tortoises this summer. I can't wait to see those data!
I'm starting to ramp up for the upcoming field season - making plans for what data we're going to collect and searching for new field assistants. I put out a posting on a popular job board for people who do this kind of work, and I've had quite the response. It will be difficult to choose between a lot of very qualified and enthusiastic people.