Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Marmot abuse in verse

RMBL has been doing a lot of art-science fusion recently and this year there's a semi-regular poetry slam.  The other week Drew Freed threw down a lovely (but, a'hem, mis-guided) poem about the golden-mantled ground squirrels that live here and are also the subject of study.  To set the record straight, squirrels LOVE marmots--they listen to and respond to their alarm calls and they don't eat the same foods so that there's no love lost between them.

Here's Drew's poem.

Thoughts from a Ground Squirrel
By Drew Freed

Psh, you humans, where is the love?
We all know that RMBL’s marmot biased enough
Maybe the perception that you get from above
Makes you forget the little guys and it’s tough
Marmot posters here, marmot t-shirts there
But mention ground squirrels, nobody even cares
The lesser known Sciuridae
Is takin’ the spotlight today
This dis will make the marmots pay
It’s a full on war I say!
Let’s start:
You’re a fat, ugly, lazy squirrel
Just a squeakin’ yellow-bellied terrified little girl
And this next one might send marmoteers into shocks
But you can’t even protect your pups from one mangy fox!?
Oooh, did I hit a soft spot, too soon?
Well it wouldn’t be a problem if you weren’t a buffoon
And I get it, when people see you, they all say aww
But everything I do is cute, and I don’t take a day off
You like to get a rock and lay around
Or spend time sleeping underground
But my day is spent collecting nuts
And berries, insects, avoiding hawks
We stuff our cheeks before our guts
Run on all fours while you sit on your butts
You like to eat our dandelions, steal our food!?
No wonder the marmots put me in a bad mood
And for all that belly, what you got to show?
Your alarm call is weak, that chirp everybody knows
But enough about the marmots, that contest I put to rest
When it comes to glorified groundhogs, RMBL is obsessed
Sorry if I offended, got that off my furry chest

But if you’re talkin’ squirrels, better believe I’m the best.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Pups on the move!

We are fully engaged in pup season and not only are we trying to catch litters emerging up and down the valley, we're also being foiled by the mothers--who sometimes move litters before we can catch them.  It's pretty funny when we see this happening but we don't see it a lot.

In town the other day the squirrel folks stumbled on Stitches moving her litter of 4 across the road and were able to get photos of the process. Apparently, Stitches looked both ways before crossing the road...and, as the photo below shows, she was able to GALLOP across the road!  Who knew?

Thanks to Jackie Aliperti for the photo!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tagged marmots on the move?

A Crested Butte resident just posted a facebook post on the RMBL webpage with a video of a tagged marmot in its car.  One of ours for sure, but who?  The marmot, after taking a trip to Gunnison and back and around town, scurried away when he set a trap. All of our animals agree to participate in what we do; this one apparently left to avoid being trapped and look what happened--he encountered a trap in CB!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

And the fox takes its toll!

This year is rapidly turning into an exceptionally weird year.  We have our second litter up now. It might have emerged yesterday, but we learned about it when someone saw a fox carrying a marmot pup away from the RMBL Library. In town there's been a nesting fox pair for over a decade and the foxes feed their kits on marmot pups (yes, foxes have to eat too).

The litter of at least 4 surviving pups has emerged from a burrow beneath the Library porch. Two litters this early in June is extremely rare in the past 54 years. I thought that this was the earliest, but Ken just checked his early records and found evidence of one litter emerging on the 13th, 14th, 15th, 18th,  and 19th of June.

Regardless of the precedence, our 'pup season' has begun early--too early--and we're now madly trying to spend more time in the field looking for pup emergence (they usually emerge later in the AM). Meanwhile, it's HOT--very hot--and we've ceased trapping adults later in the day.  Oh well...live and learn and there's always something to learn here.  Marmoteering is, after all, a 'full-employment scheme'!


Monday, June 20, 2016

Litters are up!

It's not even the first day of summer and we just had a litter emerge above ground!  The pup season has begun...now we have to scramble to catch pups in the day or so after first emergence so as to mark them before they get eaten by foxes, raptors, or coyotes. It's a race.

Ana saw 5 pups in marmot meadow playing around 'south pyramid rock'.  We set some traps to catch them and their mother immediately began moving them to another burrow.  Mothers these days...

This is one of the earliest litters ever recorded over the past 54 years of marmot study!  Most of our litters start emerging around the 4th of July (yes, marmots can be patriotic, or perhaps they're interested in the Crested Butte July 4th parade!), and we normally have only 1 or 2 emerge annually much before the 4th.

It was a cold and snowy spring here; based on spring sightings at Marmot Meadow, copulation probably occurred in the ground before the females emerged from hibernation.

Stay tuned for more details...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Marmots on the move

It's that time of year again; marmots are on the move!  This morning, while holding a banana and looking outside my cabin window at the scenery, I saw a marmot!  Marmots don't typically live on the hillside where our cabin is located and I think we were both equally surprised--his tail hair was piloerect and he reared up and looked at me while I stood motionless looking for ear tags. After a long look at each other, I peeled my banana and he ran under the porch. A few minutes later I saw the same marmot exploring the area outside my kitchen window while I was washing up my breakfast dishes. But it was when he was outside my bedroom window, fossicking around our wood pile that I snapped this picture.  No ear tags, beautiful pelage, glorious tail!  Marmots are on the move again, looking for places to settle in.  I suspect it's a he (shape of head), and he's a 2 or 3-year old male looking for a colony to invade.  Remarkably, about 5-10 min later, we spotted him 500 m down valley, coursing through two different marmot colonies, exploring burrows and moving on quickly.  We lost him as he moved towards an occupied burrow, but soon after heard alarm calls coming from that area. If he sticks around, he'll get ear tags and a mark so we can identify him from afar.  I hope he does!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Welcome Xochitl

Hey everyone!

I am Xochitl, the newest addition to the Marmot Team. I am a rising junior at College of the Atlantic, ME. Getting here was a heck of a trip, but it was totally worth it. This is only my third day here, yet I have already learned so much! I am becoming familiar with individual marmots and their (sometimes quirky) personalities and am learning all the dos and don'ts of trapping marmots. I even handled my first marmot out of a trap! Ana and Gabi have been great teachers and everyone has made me feel part of the team. I'm excited for all the new adventures this summer will bring, especially with pups coming out soon!

Yesterday was also an exciting day as we finally trapped and marked the clever little marmot that is living under the library. We had been trying for days, but she would simply sit by the traps with no intention of going in. It was particularly important for us to trap her because she was unmarked. A new animal! Her name is now sunshine, as demonstrated by the beautiful new mark on her back ;) 

Time to do more observations!


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Kwasi returns!

There's something about studying these fluffy rodents in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country that draws you back for more. My name is Kwasi Wrensford, a rising senior from the University of Connecticut by way of Albany, Georgia, and this will be my second summer as a Marmoteer! Along with the regular Marmot Team duties of trapping and observation, I will also be working on a project that looks to quantify and model escape behavior in marmots. So along with catching and watching marmots, I'll be chasing them as well (for science of course). It's an honor to work with Dr. Blumstein and the rest of the Marmoteers for another season, and I can't wait to see what the next few months have in store! 

Welcome Andy!

Hi, I'm Andy. I'm from Indianapolis, IN and I'm a sophomore at Indiana University. I just started working here at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, CO a week and a half ago. Ana and Gabi have been teaching me everything there is to know about observing and trapping marmots. The mountains are amazing and the field work is always exciting. I'm getting a real taste of what it is like to be a wildlife biologist. Here's Colorado's second newest marmoteer signing off. Peace.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Welcome Rachel

Hey there, my name is Rachael and I from good ol' Maryland, home of Old Bay. I am absolutely thrilled to have the chance to study marmots here at RMBL. Not only do I get to work with such an adorable study species, but I have the opportunity to learn so much from Dr. Blumstein and the other researchers in the lab. This will definitely be a summer to remember!! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Marmots Galore

Ana writes:

"After a couple weeks of anxiously waiting, we saw our first set of yearlings down valley! They are so small that they look just like they did when they first emerged last year. The snow is practically all melted down valley and we’re really excited to start trapping and get an ID on the individuals who somehow managed to escape our great marmot trapping effort at the end of last summer. We are also excited that we have our first set of undergrads coming in this week!  We have some returners and some people that are brand new to field work.  Soon they’ll meet Gothic’s favorite residents, Dandelion and Stitches, which have been hanging out by Maroon and we have one more mystery marmot in town. This marmot found entertainment in hiding behind the snow so we couldn’t see her mark."

Friday, April 29, 2016

Geoffroy introduction!

Hello I'm Geoffroy Saint-Aimé, a French student and temporary member of the marmots team!
I am at RMBL during this spring to develop one of the requisites of my Master program.
It's a great opportunity to work at RMBL, and observing the marmots emerging from hibernation and interacting. I am being advised by the Professor Daniel Blumstein to look into the socials effects of emergence on marmots, relations between emergence and dominance among socials animals.

Coming from France, it was a great adventure to live in the US, and going in a snow-mountain was a kid's dream. Acclimatization to the new conditions of altitude and temperature was really rough, but I'm enjoying the snow. I really appreciate the life here and the landscape, it's a new horizon for me. I will not be here for long, but I had already a great experience by meeting foxes, deers, and of course marmots. This experience is a great personal achievement and is improving my scientific skills. I am with Gabi and Ana, two exceptional members of the marmots team, and thanks to them I was able to learn several interesting things about marmots and some good stories about RMBL.