During the early surge of undergraduate research and transformative learning at UCO, we conducted a study of Mediterranean Geckos for which the data were collected by undergraduate students as part of a class project. For six consecutive Spring Semesters (2012-2017) students in General Biology for Majors – Principles (BIO 1204) conducted nightly censuses of Howell Hall, recording the presence of geckos on the walls of the building. Students were responsible for scheduling and conducting censuses, making and printing datasheets, entering and analyzing census data, collecting temperature data, and writing a report every year summarizing the data.
The original goal of the study was to document the date of spring emergence from hibernation. We assumed geckos hibernated during winter, because every other lizard species in Oklahoma hibernates. However, students made an interesting discovery during our study – geckos at UCO are active all winter. Geckos were active on the outside walls of Howell Hall on 343 of 391 censuses (88%), including 13 of 31 censuses (42%) when ambient temperatures were 0oC (freezing) or lower. It seems clear that this activity could not be sustained unless geckos were moving in and out of the building, using heat produced by humans to avoid the metabolic challenges of hibernation.
We recently published a manuscript about the study:
Stone, P. A., H. M. Marinoni, S. Laverty, and A. M. Fenwick. 2021. Winter activity in a northern population of Mediterranean Geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus). Herpetological Conservation and Biology 16:405-411.
Students were enthusiastic about the project, especially censusing geckos. A total of 193 students participated, and eventually, one determined student, Hillary Marinoni, spearheaded the effort to publish.