Thursday, February 17, 2011

Meet Team Marmot: Rachel Stafford-Lewis

Hello! My name is Rachel Stafford-Lewis and I am currently a sophomore undergraduate student majoring in Biology here at UCLA. As exemplified by the picture above of me with a horse, I am a huge animal person. Because of this and because of my interest in pursuing research, I was ecstatic when asked to join “team marmot” to assist with their research this quarter.

I had actually never heard of a marmot before this opportunity and I have come to realize that they are adorable creatures with intricate social networks that interact much like you and me.

My job will be to decipher these various social interactions and, more specifically, to analyze the maternal effects on these social networks. For now, I am doing computer-based analyses (see below), which includes creating dendrograms from the past year’s data collection in the field and assigning individual marmots to specific groups. Once I am acquainted with the each marmot’s social behaviors, I will investigate the factors shaping variation in the social interactions among individual marmots.

In the future I hope to travel with my fellow RMBL researchers to the Rocky Mountains so I can aid in the study of these magnificent creatures. The study of these particular marmots has been multi-generational and has been the basis of our research for many years, so I am thrilled to get hands-on experience, and learn from the best!

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