Monday, July 20, 2020

Welcome Kenta!


I'm Kenta Uchida, postdoc in Blumstein lab in UCLA and supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). I am very excited about doing field work at RMBL and working with the marmoteers. I am interested in how animals adapt or adjust to anthropogenic environments such as urban areas. Particularly,I am currently focusing on the process of habituation or sensitization to humans and its fitness consequence in wildlife. In order to understand the consequence of responses to humans, long term field based data collection is essential. RMBL is a great system for these studies. Unfortunately, I had to change my initial research plan due to COVID-19-related issues and I've only been able to come out for a shorter-than-planned visit. However, I am very happy to be involved in this wonderful long-term ecological research system and working with the amazing marmots! 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Introducing Conner!

Hi! I’m Conner Philson, a 1st year Ph.D. Student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA. This is my first year of three out here at RMBL working with the marmots. I‘m studying how individuals are effected by the social group they are a part of. In other words, how do all the social interactions that occur within a group subsequently effect each individual group member’s survival and reproductive success. You could think about this in humans by asking how do the social interactions between co-workers at an office influence individual employee productivity?


I’m a field biologist at heart and love getting down and dirty to study animal behavior. I think RMBL is the place for me!

Gina's Back!!!

Hi everyone, my name is Gina and this will be my third year as a marmoteer! I am currently a first year master’s student in the Blumstein lab and study the influence of the microbiome on life history traits in marmots. Marmots need to get very fat to survive the winter, and I am specifically interested in if microbes may play a role in this rapid weight gain. 

This field season will be different than any that I have personally experienced, and that any past marmoteers have experienced. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our season was delayed about a month. Usually we ski in and sit in the snow watching for animals to emerge from hibernation, and sometimes get uncomfortably cold! However, this year we arrived and marmots are everywhere and most of the snow has retreated, so the work begins right away! Additionally, we will be working with only a 2-3 person team this year, when we usually have around 8-10. 

It is good to see that my marmot friends from last year made it through hibernation, and I look forward to a strange but successful season collecting data on these adorable animals, all while wearing a mask!

And again!

I really wasn't certain that I'd be writing this. In April I was interviewed for the science show, The Pulse ( where I was quite depressed about being locked down and not being able to get to the field to resume our study (this is the 59th year of continuous marmot study...).

Well, after tremendous uncertainty, and a long delay, we have a skeleton crew (Dan, Gina and Conner) back at the RMBL. We arrived on Weds and spent the afternoon getting set up. We're officially being quarantined and can't be in RMBL buildings for a week. But we can work outside. Which is what we did starting on Thursday.

It's really weird. In April when we typically arrive, we spend a lot of time skiing around waiting for marmots to emerge. We don't see a lot for weeks. Eventually, marmots start emerging. But now, they're all emerged and have apparently been waiting for us.

Indeed, I've solved a puzzle that has been going through my mind for the past 2 months--if a marmot emerges and nobody is there to see it, has it emerged? Well, the answer is yes! More importantly, I know that they have missed us. I know this because they're back to their normal activities that include turning perfectly in a way to prevent us from seeing their back and therefore identify them from their fur marks. Honestly, it's a good problem to have! If we wait long enough we can normally figure out who we're looking at. And, there are so many to look at!

In 2.5 days, we've identified a bit more than 40 marmots; we think there are about 50 alive. This includes 2 animals that must have dispersed into our 'Avery' group late last summer. Avery has been extinct for years! These Avery animals need to be marked--something we'll get back to next week when we are permitted in our lab. Most of the other marmots have pretty good marks thanks to a lot of work done in August and September last year ensuring that everyone was marked.

With a skeleton crew there will be few blog entries. Gina, however, is posting regularly to our Instagram page ( and Conner is joining Dana and is posting regularly to our Twitter feed ( So, if you want to know what's REALLY happening--that's where the fresh information will be.

We're very grateful to be here, see our old furry friends, look forward to meeting some new ones, and able to continue collecting data!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Parental Drama

Alex took this photo of So Happy nursing her pups while having a visit from Lambda--the male we think is likely the father of her litter. DNA will ultimately be required to sort this one out but Lambda is having a really interesting (as in 'we live in interesting times...') year. His neck is scarred from fights with his father--Dandelion--and he has vocal exchanges with both So Happy and Mrs. B. Here, they're doing just that--squealing at each other--while So Happy nurses. And, let's not forget that we RARELY see nursing after the pups emerge from the burrow (we assume that they are mostly weaned). So this fascinating photo captures two things--a squabble and nursing! Great photo Alex!!!