I am usually found in the beautiful Baylor Sciences Building working in Dr. Stephen Trumble’s Lab of Ecological and Adaptational Physiology (LEAP) as an undergrad assistant. I have been helping his graduate student, Rebel Sanders, with her Master’s thesis - assaying baby salmon for effects of certain hatchery chemicals. It’s pretty neat research. I’ll get to continue that work this semester as well as help an ecology Master’s student with his field studies – bring on the herptiles! Now, I’m thrilled to have my own research project!
I am asking the question of whether the mule deer found in this area respond to marmot alarm calls. A fascinating part of animal behavior research is fear responses and how those are developed. Here in the valley, coyotes and foxes prey upon yellow-bellied marmots. Coyotes, especially, can be a nuisance for the young deer and fawn, too.
Adult female, Photo by Jenn Smith
It would be interesting to see if the mule deer have a separate response to marmot alarm calls versus the control, the crowned sparrow song. Furthermore, if there is a response in the deer community, I am also curious to know if there could possibly be a greater one from females that have fawn nearby.
A new fawn, Photo by Jenn Smith
Deer are cute creatures, but they have a very early wake up time. I can usually be found heading out to the “deer highways,” commonly used deer trails, at about five in the morning. I spend a majority of the time on the “hunt” looking for these camouflaged characters. Once I find one, I do all I can to get a behavioral observation before the deer bolts! Let’s just say some days are more successful than others.
On the bright side, being up so early means I get a head start on the day, hear many of the morning birds, and greet the sun as it crests over the mountains.
When I can make it back in time, I am fortunate enough to get to help the marmot team trap adults, and even my first pups the other day! The Marmoteers are great, extremely smart and hard-working people. I am looking forward to learning more with them in addition to my own “deering.”