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A Report on the Lizards of Your District


A Report on the Lizards of Your District

    Eastern Spiny-Tailed Gecko

    Photo by Peter Robertson © Museum Victoria

  1. What lizards have been recorded in your district?
  2. Name and Classification
  3. Conservation Status
  4. Distribution Maps
  5. Monthly Observation Data
  6. Observation Data Over Decades
  7. Images
  8. Viewing Specimens of Your Lizard
  9. Your Report
  10. How Unique are the Lizards of Your District?

Use the information in the Victorian Lizards data base to prepare a report on the lizards that live in your district at present, and the lizards that have lived in your district in the past. You should obtain quite good results even if you live in a very urbanised area - the database allows the selection of quite large 'districts' and includes sightings recorded over the last 100 years.

The Report on the Lizards of Your District could be an individual student project, but is probably best done as a class project, with each student in the class researching one lizard. Individual reports on each lizard could be presented as a poster or a talk to the class, while the final class report on the lizards of the district could be assembled and written up as an article for the school magazine, or a feature in the local newspaper. Whatever the format chosen, the report will be a useful addition to the environmental knowledge and awareness of the students and the school community.

1. What lizards have been recorded in your district?

This part of the database will provide you with a list of the lizards that have been recorded in the district in which you live. Locate your district on a map of Victoria, which is divided into 30 minute x 30 minute grid squares (approximately 45 km x 55 km).

If you live in the Greater Melbourne Area, you also have the option of locating your suburb or district on a map which is divided into 10 minute x 10 minute grid squares (approximately 15 km x 18 km).

By selecting one of the grid squares, you should obtain a lengthy list of lizard sightings. Note the names of the lizards and provide one species for each class member to research. If you don't obtain enough species from your first selection, select again adding an adjoining grid square to obtain a longer list. From this point, each student does their own research on their lizard - either working alone, or with teacher guidance as appropriate.

2. Name and Classification

(a) Note the common and scientific names of your lizard. This information can be obtained from your initial listing (Step 1 above).

(b) How do scientists classify the lizard you are researching? Note and discuss the 'Parental Lineage' or 'Family Tree' for the lizard you are researching.

(c) Does the lizard you are researching have any close relatives? Note the Genus and Family it belongs to from the 'Family Tree' above. Now click on the link below and scroll down until you find the menu entitled 'Family and Generic Names'. Choose the generic name of your lizard to obtain a list of Victorian lizards that are closely related to the one you are researching.

(d) You may wish to see if your lizard has any more distant relatives in Victoria, particularly if you have discovered in (c) above that there are no other lizards in its Genus in Victoria. Using the same menu, enter the name of the Family to which your lizard belongs and note the names of the lizards in the list you obtain.

3. Conservation Status

A number of Victoria's lizards are endangered. What is the conservation status in Victoria of the lizard you are researching? Click on the link below, scroll down to the Genus & Species menu and enter the name of your lizard. What is its conservation status?

Teachers: When producing the combined report on the lizards of your district, you may wish to note whether there have been any local recordings of lizards that are now endangered in Victoria. There could be just one or two sightings recorded, and so they may not be included among the lizards that your students are researching. Click on the link below, select your district and check for endangered species:

4. Distribution Maps

Where does your lizard occur in Victoria? Enter its name via the link below to obtain a map showing its distribution in Victoria. Select and study additional maps showing the lizard's distribution according to vegetation types, rainfall, rivers, altitude and zoogeographic zones. After studying each map, try to describe what you have learned about the type of habitat favoured by your lizard. Locate your district on the maps. Is the favoured habitat of your lizard common in your district?

5. Monthly Observation Data

In which month has your lizard been seen most frequently/least frequently across Victoria? Enter the name of your lizard using the link below and find out.

Can you explain the monthly observation pattern? Does your lizard wander about more frequently at certain times of the year? (Or have the scientists carried out more field trips at certain times of the year?)

6. Observation Data Over Decades

(a) During which decades has your lizard been seen most frequently/least frequently across Victoria? Is there a pattern of increasing/decreasing sightings? Enter the name of your lizard via the link below to find out.

Can you explain the pattern of observations? Has the population of your lizard in Victoria increased or decreased over the decades? (Or have scientists carried out more field trips during certain decades?)

(b) Has the distribution of your lizard across Victoria changed over the decades? Enter the name of your lizard via the link below to find out. (Leave the menus specifying months and years blank).

This link will give you a summary table setting out the details of your lizard. Click on the common name of your lizard in the summary table to obtain a map of Victoria, showing sightings of your lizard for 1890-1939, 1940-1969 and 1970-1999. Click on the map to obtain regional maps. What changes in sightings do you notice? Are these actual changes in distribution of the lizard, or could changes in the frequency and location of field trips be partly responsible?

7. Images

To obtain one or several images of your chosen lizard, enter the name of the lizard via the link below. Click on the single thumbnail image that is returned to gain access to all available images. These images can then be enlarged by clicking on them.

Look closely at the images of your lizard and try to relate its physiology to its diet and habitat.

8. Viewing Specimens of Your Lizard

It is a good idea to try to view some actual specimens of the lizard you are researching. You may be able to join a field trip at one of Victoria's parks, which could enable you to see your animal in the wild. You may also be able to see live specimens at Melbourne Zoo or at a wildlife park, such as the one at Healesville. In addition, preserved specimens may be on display at Melbourne Museum.

9. Your Report

You may decide to supplement the data you have obtained with information from other Internet sites or from reference books in your library. When you feel you have enough material, you are ready to write a report on your lizard. This could be presented as a printed document, a poster or a PowerPoint presentation.

Once the individual reports on each lizard are ready, they can be combined into a comprehensive report on the lizards of your district. This can be presented in a variety of ways, including

  • a series of posters
  • a talk to your class or to other classes
  • a presentation on the local radio station
  • an article for the school magazine or local paper

You will probably find that the information is of interest to many people in your local area, so the project could be a good opportunity to publicise the school as well as making both students and the local community more environmentally aware.

10. How Unique are the Lizards of Your District?

As a concluding exercise, compare the list of lizards for your district with a similar list for another part of Victoria. For the second district, choose somewhere in Victoria that is very different from your own district (coastal cf. inland, high rainfall cf. low rainfall, plains cf. alpine, urban cf. rural). Click on the link below and select your district and one other district to obtain two different lists of lizards.

If you live in the Greater Melbourne Area, you are also able to compare the list of lizards observed in your suburb with a similar list for another suburb. For the second suburb, choose a part of Melbourne that is very different from your own (eg. coastal cf. basalt plains, western suburbs cf. Dandenongs).

Which lizards are common to both of the districts/suburbs you are comparing? Which lizards are found in one district/suburb but not in the other? Which district/suburb has the greater lizard diversity? From what you know of the characteristics of the two districts/suburbs, can you suggest some hypotheses to account for the variation?

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