Thursday, April 19, 2012

and again...

Well, it's that's time of the year; marmots have started to emerge! Team Marmot has arrived at RMBL and billy barr saw his first marmot in Gothic on April 16th.

However, Team Marmot DROVE IN. This is absolutely unprecedented. Typically the road opens in mid-May.  In light snow years, the road opens in early May and has to be plowed.  This year it just melted out...kinda reminds me of Frost saying that the world will end in a whimper...

This will become an important year because we will get a better idea of the plasticity of marmot emergence from hibernation.  This is an important thing to sort out because it will give us an idea of what happens when climate change causes the snow to melt even earlier.  How flexible are the marmots?

The team (I'm stuck in LA) saw a few marmots down valley yesterday.  They were up valley today (TEAM MARMOT: if you're reading this you should post some pictures and reports!).  My guess (and we'll see if I'm right) is that marmots will emerge on an early schedule but there will still be some small groups which continue hibernating even after most/all of their snow is gone around them. If so, this will show that there is some interplay between an individual's 'schedule' and external environmental conditions.  By contrast, the mule deer always make it up to RMBL the last days of May and the first days of June, an observation that suggests, to me, that they're following some photoperiodic clock.

Despite years of study, we've still not got a really good idea of what cues they use to emerge from hibernation.  Here is a case where we really could use some financial support to properly instrument both the marmots and their burrow and we would get a much better idea of what was going above ground when they had their last bout of deep torpor.

Strange year.  Hope the marmot population rebounds!

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