3-D printed lizards, monitored from high above by drones

Anole Annals tells of current research work—involving aerial drones and non-aerial 3-D printed lizards—by Emma Higgins of the University of Nottingham:

Anoles and Drones, a Dispatch from Island Biology 2019

… Emma’s work involves collecting data both at anole-level as well as above the canopy. She uses a DJI Phantom 4 drone platform fitted with a near-infrared camera to estimate a normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI, a measure of “greenness”) of the forest canopy across habitats, and found that just NDVI explains 28% of the spatial heterogeneity of lizard operative temperatures (in a mixed-model framework). This suggests that her drone can identify suitable thermal environments for lizards from above the canopy. I should mention that her resolution here is 4cm/pixel! She plans to zoom out to space and test whether similar imagery from the Sentinel 2 satellite will also be useful.  Below the canopy, Emma is using LIDAR to simultaneously conduct forest shade modeling (for super fine-scale temporal variation in thermal microhabitat). LIDAR also detects perch availability, as it detects tree trunks very well. Emma also uses 3D printing to produce hundreds of anole models, each fitted with an iButton® temperature recorder and placed on perches in the forest. Each lizard print takes 52 minutes, so Emma ended up taking the printer to her flat to print 24/7 in preparation for her field season!