Dr. Hagey and student work on lizards in the lab.

At the start of December 2023, just as final exams were ending, Dept of Sciences and Mathematics faculty Dr. Brian Burnes and Dr. Travis Hagey had the chance to visit Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS.

Measuring toe length of a preserved lizard specimen.

Their visit was part of a research project looking at biogeography of Sceloporus lizards, in connection with Dr. Burnes’ bioinformatics course, with support from MS-INBRE, a research consortium run out of the University of Southern Mississippi.

Removing a tissue sample from a preserved lizard.

Dr. Burnes and Dr. Hagey collected data and tissues from a handful of Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences preserved specimens and took them to the University of Mississippi Medical Center for sequencing. Dr. Burnes and Dr. Hagey described both the museum staff and sequencing core staff as “amazing!” The two departmental researchers are excited about the possibility of sequencing formalin preserved specimens!

Some of the DNA sequences will be analyzed by students in Dr. Burnes’ Spring 2024 BSB 485 Microbial Genomics class to determine the species’ ranges of Sceloporus consobrinus (Prairie Lizard) and Sceloporus undulatus (Eastern Fence Lizard). Dr. Burnes expects his students will present their analyses at an upcoming Mississippi Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting, and submit them for publication to a scientific journal. 

Eastern Prairie Lizard
Image of Eastern Prairie Lizard, from Wikimedia commons, CC BY 2.0.
Eastern Fence Lizard
Image of Eastern Fence Lizard, from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0.