Monday, August 29, 2011

Marmot outreach makes news

"Marmot Week" highlighted on RMBL webpage:
(click here to see the original story)

Teaching (and Learning) More About Marmots
: RMBL's marmot project is currently in its 50th year. Because of our long track record and and because marmots are such fascinating animals, Team Marmot has many lessons to pass onto the next generation of scientists. Each year, team marmot shares its passion for understanding ecology with young and aspiring naturalists at RMBL's Kids Nature Camp.

Photo by Annie Starr: Jenn Smith quizzing students about the ecology of marmots

This season two marmoteers from the University of California Los Angeles helped students to gain key insights into the secret world of marmots. Jenn Smith (in photo above, quizzes students about marmot ecology) is an American Association of University Women Postdoctoral Fellow and Nicole Munoz is a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow.

They first demonstrated the techniques used to observe and live-trap marmots. Then, Jenn and Nicole explained how they perform manipulative experiments to understand how marmots cope with their social worlds and natural threats. For example, students learned how researchers assess whether or not marmots are capable of distinguishing among the different cues of predators.

Photo by Annie Starr: Students distinguishing between the scents of coyote and deer urine

One highlight from this training exercise occurred when students were asked to distinguish among the predators producing various vocalizations and scents (see above). Students were amazingly astute at distinguishing between coyote and deer urine. After marmot week at RMBL, these inquisitive students are now armed with new knowledge of and enthusiasm for understanding the natural world.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Little man: back by popular demand

Thanks for all of your fun inquires about little man!

Photo by Jenn Smith

For those of you wondering how he is doing in face of predation and with all of his female admirers, the outlook is indeed very good. Little man (below on right) continues to fatten-up for the winter and attract the attention of the females marmots (e.g., "F" on left below).

Photo by Jenn Smith

In fact, as some of you wondered, there are evolutionary trade-offs for fat marmots. Marmots must be fat to withstand months of hibernation, but very fat marmots with slow escape speeds are vulnerable to predation. To understand such trade-offs we continue to live trap and observe all of our marmots.

In fact, after we live trap a marmot from our population, we scurry behind him or her to record the maximum speed at which a marmot is able to run away from a potential threat.

Photo by Jenn Smith

We look a bit silly in the field chasing marmots and even the ground squirrels notice take notice of our odd behavior. As obligate hibernators, ground squirrels also seem to be getting quite chubby these days. This is great for them though because winter will be upon us soon enough!

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Little" man?

Our field season is nearing to an end which means that marmots are putting on body fat in preparation for hibernation.

Photo by Jenn Smith

Above and below are recent photos of the marmot with the mark, "little man." Judging by the size of his stomach relative to his front legs, we need have to consider renaming this marmot "pudgy little guy".

Photo by Jenn Smith

The ladies sure seem to like him though; he currently defends the largest harem of females out of all of our colony sites!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Marmot Blog: Tales of a Marmot Hunter

Check out the following story at, "Tales of a Marmot Hunter," another blog written by a marmot enthusiast also living in Colorado. Although some folks do still hunt marmots, the of this blog, , is simply out hunting for the rush of observing the adventures of marmots, so check it out!

For example, a recent post said, "As we were about to leave, I spotted a rather good looking marmot making his way around the lake, no doubt returning home from a visit with his lady friend. He came all the way around the lake to the outlet, where Icy Brook was racing along.

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He was going to cross the creek!!

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Sizing things up, he hopped from rock to rock with amazing dexterity!!

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Marmots may look like lazy fatties, but they can really move when they have to.

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As he made his way across, it became clear that he was heading straight towards us.

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He darted behind a rock, and then all of a sudden, we were standing face to face.

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We exchanged knowing glances, and then as quickly as he appeared, he was gone."

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