Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Predation is real...there is a truth out there.

I just had an OpEd published in Project Syndicate on Surviving in a Post-Truth World.  Anyone that studies animals in the field realizes the clear and present danger that surrounds them and their efforts to properly assess risk.  Something to ponder when a politician talks about alternative facts...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lamp lives!

A great thing about working at RMBL is that other people tell us where our marmots are...OK this isn't always so good--like when a marmot breaks into a car and causes damage (OUR marmots would NEVER do this)--but often it is.

A group studying pika just emailed us a photo of a pup, Lamp, who was born this year in town and was just photographed 3 miles away up in Virginia Basin. Unlike other marmots, this one walked there.

Pups NEVER disperse.

This is an extraordinary discovery, and there's a backstory.

Lamp came from the first litter to emerge in the RMBL Townsite. Her mother is Mohawk. Tragically, all of her 5 siblings were killed by the fox family soon after emergence, but she persisted! Her mom bolted after 4 of her offspring were killed and has not been seen much around her litter (she did this last year too!).  When Lamp was the last marmot alive from the litter, she started exploring town. She was found hypothermic outside a cabin about 2 weeks ago and we warmed her up and put her back into her natal burrow. She hung around for a few days and hasn't been seen since.

Now we know where she's been.  She's an alpinist. A survivor. And a very curious marmot.

Good luck Lamp in your new higher alpine home.

Photo: Evelyn Moran

Monday, July 24, 2017

Facebook for marmots

An article in Quartz about long-term research featured our marmot work. Check out the article on-line.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

groundhog and rabbit...

I love how marmots interact with other species. Susan Carol Sam shared this great photo with me of a cottontail leaping over a foraging woodchuck in her backyard!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Back here again...

Hello (again)! 

This is my second summer in RMBL as a marmoteer. I was previously here in 2013 working on whether spontaneous behaviors are mistaken for flight initiation distances (they weren't!). After working here, I got to travel and work on some pretty cool projects, like training Burrowing Bettongs to avoid cats at Arid Recovery in South Australia and hanging out with the Meerkats of Meerkat Manor in South Africa. This year, I’m excited to be able to return to RMBL as a graduate student!

I’m studying innovation and social learning in the marmots. An innovation is either a completely new behavior that an individual is able to use or an old behavior that an animal is able to use in a new way. To test how innovative marmots can be, we are using a puzzle box, which has two solutions for the marmots to attempt to solve in order to get their beloved horse food. So far, we’ve had four innovating individuals(!) and several more individuals who are more interested in eating the plywood platforms or the cameras than solving the box. Marmots will be marmots! However, we’ve got a lot of great videos that we hope to be sharing! 

It has been a great season so far and we’re looking forwards to more! 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Introducing Sarah...

Hello ! My name is Sarah. I’m a rising senior at Keene State College located in Keene, NH. I’m a biology major with a psychology minor. I’m really interested in animal physiology, neurobiology, and behavior.  

I’m so excited to be joining the 2017 Marmoteers. I’ve always loved animals, particularly rodents. I always had hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs growing up. The second I laid eyes on a yellow-bellied marmot, I fell in love. Just the species name makes you smile…

I’m having an absolutely fantastic time here with the ladies of our lab. The days might be long, and field work can be tough, but I love being outside all day and observing the marmots play, interact, and explore their world. The mountains here are breathtaking ! It is incredibly beautiful.

Handling the marmots is one of my favorite things that we do. We take a variety of measurements – left hind foot, AG distance, assessing repro status, scoring docility behaviors - and we take blood, hair, and fecal samples. Despite their fat round bellies, the marmots are surprisingly strong!

I like to think the marmots are pretty similar to us. They hang out with their family, eat, and sun themselves on rocks most of the day. Seems like a pretty good life !

I’m so happy that I get to apply some skills I’ve learned recently in my Animal Behavior class, such as recording focals and scoring animal behaviors using an ethogram. I was hoping for a field research experience, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one !

Excited to see what else the summer brings…