Howdy! My name is Vanessa Alejandro and I am from Houston, Texas! I attend the University of Houston and just completed my freshman year. The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory is my first research experience and I must say that it’s an absolute pleasure to wake up in the beautiful mountains of Colorado and be able to embark in the wonderful adventures of marmoteering.
I was lucky enough to be able to conduct an amazing project involving pups. Initially, I studied the personality trait of boldness in marmot pups. However, the project took a complete turn once the results were analyzed. Now, my project involves the development of boldness and aggression in marmots. I studied boldness through flight initiation tests, which basically means I walked towards the pups at a constant pace until the pup chose to flee. The closer I got to the pup the bolder the pup was and vice versa.
Doing marmot research here at RMBL has been an amazing experience and thankfully is not over yet! I have seen more animals here than I have my entire life. I have seen three foxes, two weasels, a vole, several mice, a coyote, several fawns, several deers, and numerous birds! Hopefully, I will be able to see either a bear or mountain lion before I leave! Just the other day, I was slowly but surely making my way up the steep slope of a marmot colony named Picnic when I heard a bizarre sound. It sounded like combination of a whine but cry. The noise stopped and I continued on my trek when I heard it again! I quickly scanned the surrounding area looking for some sign of life. Then I saw a cute fawn running up the slope as a coyote chased it.
(The awesome Cody McCoy and I on the peak of another mountain called Galena)
Marmoteering has not been the only source of my adventures. During my time off I have explored the mountains around Gothic. A few weeks ago Cody (fellow marmoteer and amazing friend) hiked up to the peak of Gothic. We started out at hiking in beautiful weather. The sun shined its warmth upon us and the wind provided a wonderful cool breeze, creating a perfect balance of cool and hot. We reached what seemed to be the peak but encountered a false summit. Unfortunately, this occurred another two times. Finally, on the third false summit we could see the actual peak of Gothic Mtn, but in order to reach this summit we had to walk across a thin ridge line. Before you knew it, we were walking across that ridge without a trace of fear on our faces and a knot in our stomachs. We reached the edge of the peak and climbed it quickly. We felt a moment of triumph as we stood on one of the highest peaks in the valley. Just as our hearts swelled with victory and awe we were attacked by hundreds of flies. As we climbed down the mountain, a storm cut across the sky and sent hail down our way. The hail quickly went from pin sized to marble sized and sent us running to the trees. Unfortunately, in our rush to safety we lost the trail and spent four hours trying to find a passable route to the road. It was definitely a great adventure.
This experience has allowed to do absolutely amazing things, like sleep under the stars, summit mountains, camp alongside lakes, mountain bike, trap cute marmot pups, and make great friends like Cody, Matt, Ellen, Alex, and many others. I am so glad I have two more weeks left of some of the most amazing times of my life.