Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Introductions: Jahaziel Guiterrez

The 5 W’s of Jaz (who, what, when, where, and why)

My name is Jahaziel Gutierrez, but people seem to like calling me Jaz for simplicity. I am an undergraduate transfer student at UCLA going into my third year. I truly began to like science when I started community college and now it has become an essential part in my life, specifically biology and physiology. I have been interested in animal behavior for a good while now. It was an area I knew so little of but wanted to learn so much about. A spark was initiated when I presented my first literature paper of my choice in my biology classroom. I chose to present a paper on how metabolic rate and body size are linked with perception of temporal information by Kevin Healy. After this experience, my curiosity expanded and that’s when I became good friends with search engines. As I got older and a little wiser, I began to understand the intentions of research and the value behind it. I wanted to be a part of it one day so my bio professor Dr. Jimmy Lee suggested that I apply to RMBL and get some research experience there, so I did.

My first year at RMBL I was an REU student with my own individual project. My initial plan was to work with animals but instead was introduced to work with plants while taking a methods in field of ecology course. I knew very little about ecology so the course really helped me get a sense of different processes. My project focused on below and aboveground functional traits of dominant and sub dominant plant species along an elevation gradient. It was my first project out in the field with its own official lab. My mentor, Quentin Read taught me some tips, tricks and techniques you wont find in the books. Although plants are very interesting, my heart kept beating for animals. Nevertheless, I had such a positive and life changing experience out there that I decided to apply again this summer.

This summer at RMBL I got to work with one of my favorite mammals, yellow-bellied marmots. I am a research assistant for Dan Blumstein and a member of the marmot team. Things don’t come easy and although long hours can be spent in the sizzling sun collecting data from observations, trapping, etc., I enjoy every moment out in the field (except for the mosquitos and flies). I’ll be scanning with my scope or binos for marmots and expect to see something different each time. There are times where I am able to predict an individuals behavior based on how well I know the animal’s personality traits. Marmot interactions are the most adorable when the yearlings are play wrestling and boxing. It seems like some prefer to forage together in small groups for better awareness of predators. And other individuals like to be by themselves and sun bathe on a rock until it gets cool enough to forage. But regardless of the marmot, they usually alarm call if they sense a posing threat, which is one of the reasons I think it is a great factor of their fitness ability. I am gradually learning about the lives that marmots have to go through and appreciate all the knowledge that Dan and the rest of the marmot team get to share with me. The experiences and stories I have here at RMBL are tremendous and I am grateful to have been introduced to such a beautiful place with such great people. I cannot wait to hold my first pup and name it, which should be coming up really soon One thing that I am glad I got to experience the past week was Gabriela’s first bike ride in the rocky road to picnic. She did so good that the road has to watch out for her now instead. Cheers to another great summer!!

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