Researchers traveled to Costa Rica to understand how ecotourists impact native wildlife.

By Kelly Vaughan
January 23, 2020

If you're planning a trip to a natural area, consider what color your clothing is. Lindsey Swierk, assistant research professor of biological sciences at Binghamton University, conducted a study to understand the effect that color has on wildlife in their native areas. Swierk, along with Breanna J. Putman, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at California State University at San Bernardino, and Andrea Fondren, undergraduate researcher in the Iowa State University Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, traveled to Costa Rica to study water anoles, a variety of the anole lizard. They wanted to see how water anoles reacted to different colors, according to ScienceDaily.

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"One reason water anoles were chosen is because they are restricted to a fairly small range and we could be pretty sure that these particular populations hadn't seen many humans in their lifetimes. So we had a lot of confidence that these populations were not biased by previous human interactions," Swierk told ScienceDaily.

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Researchers chose three colors—orange, which has sexual signals for water anoles; blue as a contrast because the water anole's body does not have any blue; and green to match the tropical forest environment of the testing site in Costa Rica. Researchers found that when the color orange was worn, they saw more water anoles per hour. "We (both researchers and ecotourists) need to recognize that animals perceive the world differently than we do as humans," said Swierk. "They have their own 'lenses' based on their unique evolutionary histories. What we imagine is frightening for an animal might not be; conversely, what we imagine is non-threatening could be terrifying in reality."

Swierk and her team hope that their research will be understood by the ecotourism community and reduce the risk of harm for wildlife. She also hopes to conduct further studies to understand how this impacts animals with less-sophisticated abilities of color perception, such as mammals.

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