Sunday, November 28, 2010

Meet Team Marmot: Raquel Monclús

My name is Raquel Monclús (the one under the hat) and I am a post-doctoral fellow. I did my doctoral thesis in Spain studying European rabbits. I looked at how the rabbits respond to their predators. I got my doctor title in 2007 and then I got a Fulbright post-doctoral fellowship to come to study marmots, and in particular to study the indirect effects of predators.

Marmots, and most animals, have strategies to avoid (or at least try) being eaten. For instance, they regularly scan the environment to detect the presence of risky situations, and as they are alert they can act fast whenever their risk increases. However, being alert makes that some animals might have to reduce the time that they are feeding, so they cannot gain as much weight as those with fewer predators. And for marmots weight is essential if they have to spend 7 months under a huge cover of snow.

But why did I come all of the way from Spain to study marmots in Colorado? Because they are a great study system. Marmots live in groups; therefore, many individuals live in the same spot. They are diurnal, so one can easily observe many of them at the same time and they have different predators so not all of them face the same threats.

There are marmots in many places, including Spain, but these marmots, the ones we are studying, are special: they have been studied for nearly 50 years. So we have a deep knowledge of many aspects of their biology and ecology and it is just now when we can start answering interesting ecological questions about patterns, trends and dynamics. However, we will need another 50 years or so to know everything about marmots… We will try.

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