Sunday, July 19, 2015

Encounter with the albino marmot!

Hello everybody, I have exciting news! I was off last week and had the most fantastic marmot-related experience yet! My partner was visiting from Scotland and we were driving up valley to go hiking. We stopped along the way to have lunch and at some point he beckoned me to walk over quietly to where he was standing, whilst excitedly pointing down the hill. I thought he had seen a mule deer, a chipmunk or some other form of wildlife that I had come across many times before during my time here in Gothic, I certainly never expected him to point at an albino marmot, sitting on its back legs, staring at us. I quickly grabbed my camera to capture the moment, and I’m sure most people would agree that this curious animal amidst the wildflowers of Colorado offers a beautiful sight (see picture below). The marmot was spotted and photographed last year as well, however it remains a rare sighting, and of course albino marmots are a rare occurrence in nature in general. I am thrilled that this year, I was lucky enough to see this wondrous creature (we called him Alberto, though I’m not sure whether or not it is a male animal), especially because this is my last field season in the Rockies. 

Marmot-y greetings to you all! 


Friday, July 17, 2015

Nevada's marmot monument!

Check out this news piece about a marmot monument carved into a cottonwood tree stump at a golf course in Reno, NV.  Gotta love that club!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Woodchucks and marmoteers in the news

Susan and Joe Sam's woodchuck filming has been featured in a local newspaper.  Check out the article in the Tri-City Times.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

More woodchuck videos...

Ok, first and admission: I am not on Facebook.  There, now that that's done, if you like good marmot videos Sue and Joe have been creating many really interesting stories about the woodchucks that live in their backyard and have been filming the 'chucks and their behavior for a while now.  They have a Facebook page Woodchuck Wonderland that contains many of these stories.  Worth a look!  They've seen a lot of really interesting social behavior in this species that is typically considered not that social.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Marmot Matchup: “Five-dice-dots” vs. “Female-sign”

Lilah Hubbard writes:

Usually all the marmot drama happens in the early season (April-May), but last week I was lucky enough to witness a close-up marmot fight between two of the biggest males at one of our colonies!
The contestants? “Five-dice-dots” vs. “Female-sign” (I know, something isn’t quite right about putting that fur mark on a male…).

While I was walking around the area to see if any litters of pups had emerged, I came across these two rolling around and aggressively biting each other right around the area where their two territories connect. Although I was only a few meters away, they didn’t seem bothered by my presence and continued fighting for a couple minutes. The most surprising part of the fight was that, aside from some loud ‘puff’ noises, they were completely silent!

Check out the video to see if you can distinguish the marks and identify the champion!

The ultimate champion? “Five-dice-dots!”

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.

Great woodchuck observations and videos

I've been corresponding with Susan Sam who, with her husband, have been filming woodchucks in their backyard for over a decade.  They've got great videos including males and young interacting (not thought to be too common) and other social interactions.  Check them out at their YouTube channel: Chuckland!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

We have pups! (And Dandelion, the ultimate marmot dude!)

Hi everybody,

For those of you who do not know me, I am Svenja Kroeger, a PhD student from the University of Aberdeen (Scotland, UK), and this is my second field season at RMBL. I was here last summer already to help with the data collection for this amazing long-term study, and I am excited to be back again this year! It is fantastic to be close to the marmots again, especially my favourite: ‘Dandelion’. He is a handsome adult male in Gothic town (in fact he is the only adult male in town that we know of), and he has become quite a celebrity at RMBL, as he is rather comfortable with people nearby.

I had the honour of naming Dandelion aka ‘Dandy’ last year, and the reason why I chose this name is due to his fondness for dandelions (see picture – ‘Dandelion with a dandelion’). When I arrived here a little over a month ago – to my delight – he was foraging outside my cabin, it was the best welcome I could have hoped for!

Regarding the pups - I spotted this year’s first litter at our ‘River’ colony on the 24th June, which is 10 days earlier than last year’s first litter, I believe! When I caught the first pup, there was a little more excitement than I had bargained for however. I was waiting for my trapping partner Gabi to arrive, so that we could process the pup together. Unexpectedly though, the weather turned on us very quickly, and we were caught in a thunderstorm that started right after we were done with measuring and tagging the animal. It was stressful and pretty scary, luckily though the marmot pup was safely back in its burrow before the rain started, and Gabi and myself were saved by Dave, who works at RMBL and kindly gave us a lift back to the field station in his truck. It is amazing how fast the weather can change up here in the mountains and it should not be underestimated!

So far we have caught and named 7 pups at the ‘River’ colony, including ‘filled-in heart’ (which is the pup I am holding in the picture below), ‘ice-cream’, ‘crescent moon’, ‘cherries’ and ‘007’! There is at least one pup that we have not caught yet, but I am determined to capture it, hopefully next week!