Since April 1st, I have been living on the island of Formentera, the southernmost island of the Pityuses isles (which includes Ibiza, Formentera and about 40 small surrounding islets) in the Mediterranean (and belongs to the Balearic Islands autonomous community, Spain).
This small and irregularly shaped island is only about 84 square km an its longest distance from one side to the other is less than 19 km. From Ibiza’s most southern point, Formentera lies 6 km south.
The only person on this island who owns enough land to build an airport, refuses to do so. As such, the only way onto the island is by boat from Ibiza. The island itself has only about 8,000 legal residents (only about 5000 of which are here year round), but between the months of May and August the island get a lot of tourists (most of whom are vacationing in Ibiza and only visit for the day).
Formentera is known for its many pristine beaches (and for the fact that these beaches are full of nudists). The coastline here is absolutely stunning and is made up of breathtaking beaches, coastal cliffs, and sand dunes.
The interior also merits a visit. The inhabitants of this island have been cultivating its soils for more than five thousand years. Neolithic burial grounds and cave paintings are some of the more popular things to visit. I’ve also spent a descent amount of time biking around Formentera’s dirt roads through zigzags of rock walls, flower covered agricultural fields, and twisted juniper forests. Everything on the island reminds you that you are in the Mediterranean, particularly the smells. Moose, our dog, has started to smell strongly of Pine, Rosemary and salt.
Sara and Moose got here on April 13th. We have been living in a nice house in the Town of Es Pujols, one of the more popular towns (once tourists get here). The beach right off Es Pujols is spectacular and is just a minute walk from our doorstep.
At the end of the month we’ll be moving into a 200 year-old country home in an area called Ca Mari (refer to Map). The house is rustic to say the least, and is powered by solar panels. We have a huge yard, which has been left to grow wild for the past couple of decades, making it a perfect place for me to build some large enclosures, which I’ll use for some of my lizard experiments. It’s also great for our dog. The house is pretty big. It has four bedrooms two bathrooms and one outdoor shower. So, if you havn’t already thought about visiting, know that you’ll have a place to stay with us when you actually come!
Additionally, the Ca Mari house is just a five minute walk from Formentera’s longest beach (Platja des Migjorn). This 7km long beach has some of the coolest bars I’ve ever been to. One of my favorites being Piratabus (until a few years ago, the bar was actually a big broken-down bus on the beach, hence Pirata BUS).
The aptmosphere here is “relaxed.” The island has a long hippy history and a respectable population to match that history. There are “hippy flea markets” every Saturday in the towns of El Pilar and San Francisco.
One of the things that strikes me about the island is its strong sense of identity, despite the millions of tourists that come every year and fuel Formentera’s economy. All the people here know their islands history and, with the exception of the summer season, seem to live a life that is unique and authentic to this particular island. And they are friendly. Locals seem content with the idea of letting us into their community—not something you find in most places of the world. Sara and I have already made a lot of friends, are invited to all the local gatherings and social events, and are starting to get a grip on the transition from Miami.
Moose is in dog heaven.
Formentera is a dog-friendly place and he can go virtually everywhere with use. Last weekend we went to a wine tasting at a fine-dinning restaurant. When we asked the owner if we could bring Moose in with us he said, “as long as he isn’t a problem drinker.”
I bought a car when I first got here. Even though Sara and I take our bikes most places, its nice to be able to lug things around, or travel long distance quickly. And, if any of you visit, you’ll have transportation around the island.
I’ve been busy the last few weeks getting logistics in order, making terrariums for my lizards, catching lizards (and catching their food- which is a lot harder. Formentera has no pet shops so I cant buy crickets for them and I actually have to catch live invertebrates for my lizards to eat. What a pain.).
I’m here to conduct my dissertation research studying color evolution and sexual coevolution in a lizard species that is endemic to this group of islands. The reason I’m here, and not somewhere else studying lizards is because the lizards in this group of islands have a set of characteristics that make them unique for studying the evolutionary processes that I am interested in. Particularly, each island houses a unique subspecies of lizard that has a different color from any of the other islands. With around 42 island of lizards, that’s a lot of color variation (below is a a few pics of representative color morphs from several islands).
Not only does color vary among populations and among the islands, but it also varies dramatically between the sexes. On some islands females resemble males with respect to color (pic 1) and on others the sexes look totally different (pic 2).
All this diversity in the same trait lets me ask a lot of interesting questions about how traits like color coevolve in males and females.
As my research gets off the ground Ill do my best to keep you updated.