Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Welcome to Gabriela!

Hello, I am Gabriela Pinho, a new member of the marmot team! I started my PhD studies at UCLA in fall 2014 and am advised by Prof. Dan Blumstein and Prof. Bob Wayne. I am from Brazil, being funded by the Science Without Borders program, and will be working with marmot genomics for the coming years. At the present moment I am having the great opportunity of coming to RMBL, collecting data on yellow-bellied marmots, and have loads of new experiences!

I have never seen snow before, and I arrived at the field site in mid-April, so there was plenty! It was super hard for me to cross the 3.7 miles with soft snow using snowshoes, and it is not easy at all to do field work under snow and a (very) cold weather. Being used to live in a city where the lowest temperature during the daytime in the winter is about 75 °F, it was a difficult adaptation. But this place is so beautiful and the snow changes the landscape in such a marvelous way that it's totally worth it!

Another new experience for me was conducting field work in a temperate environment. During my undergrad and Master's studies I worked in the Atlantic and Amazon forests, and obviously the differences are striking! In tropical forests it's always a big deal to observe mammals, due to their cryptic behavior, so it's pretty hard to collect behavioral data there... but here I see marmots everyday! It's super interesting how individuals have different personalities and sometimes you can even predict some behaviors, quite fun! Also, it is a unique experience to observe the changes in landscape with the seasons: to see everything white and quiet, to listen to the first bird songs, and to watch the vegetation grow with so many colorful and beautiful flowers appearing.

During the time I've been here I've seen coyotes, foxes, deers, porcupines, snowshoe hares and a badger. This last one was super cool because it was visiting marmot burrow entrances until a marmot (named “clover”) started alarm calling. That was the first time I saw a badger, which is not a common sight here, and it is generally hard to determine the reason for marmots to start alarm calling, so for me it was pretty exciting! I was a little far away, but I could take a photo of it:

Finally, the summer brought pups! There are pups everywhere... squirrels, deers, snowshoe hare and, of course, marmots! Pups really make life happier, so I am also adding here a photo of one that Svenia and I captured. Keep posted for the next news about this field work!

Svenia (right) and Gabi (left) with a pup.

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