As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be heading to the NANPA Summit this March. The scholarship application for NANPA required two series of images. First, they asked applicants to submit 15 images that best represented the diversity of their work (I submitted these images in my last post). In addition to these 15 images, each applicant was required to submit a collection of five nature-oriented images that expressed their interpretation of a single theme or concept of their choosing. These five images were to be accompanied by a short 100-250 word thematic introduction. I thought it would be nice to share what I submitted, so here it is:
What is a species?
People who think deeply about this question don’t really know the answer, because nature is so good at breaking the rules of our definitions. Sometimes it’s simple to clump organisms together, but often, species boundaries are blurred. The Ibiza wall lizard (Podarcis pityusensis) is one of those “species” that may not be. This lizard is endemic to Ibiza, Formentera and about 40 surrounding islets in Spain’s Mediterranean. Across its geographic range, this lizard exhibits striking color diversity, perhaps more than any other lizard species in the world. Some islands have blue lizards, others green, brown, yellow, orange or even jet-black.
The IUCN list this species as threatened, but not endangered. The problem is that no one knows just how different lizards are from one island to another – what if some tiny island populations merit their own species designation? Tiny islets less than 100m2 may host populations that have evolved independently for more than 10,000 years. Tourism is high, and naïve boaters frequently damage vulnerable small-island ecosystems. Unique lizard populations may be at risk if they aren’t properly identified and protected, and time is running out. Luckily, a team of scientists led by Dr. Valentin Perez-Mellado, aims to quantify just how unique different populations are. With luck, the information we gather may help identify populations that deserve heightened protective status.