Monday, April 24, 2017

Marmot amour

Our Spring work (which often gets snowed out...which is why I'm writing now) is about trying to figure out when marmots emerge (most are still in deep torpor), who survived hibernation, and, if we're really lucky, who is mating with whom.  While introducing Jazmine to the River areas and looking for marmots there, we witnessed a very amorous morning between two survivors. 

A (the male) and I (the female) repeatedly mated on a tiny ledge that was hardly bigger than both of them on a shaley cliff...which was the entrance to their burrow.  Had this not been so compatible, someone would have ended up in the river.  And not all marmot pairings are compatible; just Saturday I watched a male (bowtie) try to mate with two females at a snow-covered Picnic colony and each attempt ended with snarls and bowtie jumping back.  A and I, by contrast, were quite gentle and the matings were outside the burrow and didn't have a lot of obvious foreplay (just greetings and a lot of sitting together). 

Fun stuff! Which will have to tide us over for a few days since a big spring storm has just arrived.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

March for Science -- Gothic Style

This morning we had a brief March for Science in town before I skied up valley searching for marmots and the rest of Team Marmot headed down to Gunnison to get supplies... We were in spirit, if not soma, with our colleagues around the world celebrating the great things that come from supporting scientific discovery.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The season has begun!

We (Gabi, Dana, Gina, Jazmine, and Dan) skied/snowshoed into RMBL on the 17th to start the 2017 field season. It was a beautiful day to come in and the very heavy winter snow has been melting at a furious pace. Nevertheless, the entire road was covered and we made good time coming in.

On the 17th, we looked throughout town and down valley for signs of marmots and found none. Typically marmots first emerge down valley before up-valley. But, because males in multi-male colony sites have to engage in reproductive competition, we might expect earlier emergence this year up-valley...which is what in fact we found.

On the 18th we found that individuals in several up-valley colonies had either just (Marmot Meadow) or had already (Picnic) emerged. Gabi, Gina and Jazmine also found two coyotes lounging around burrows at Picnic waiting for marmots to come out and we know that coyotes are always a good judge of marmot activity.

Yesterday, the 18th, was also HOT. According to billy's records, there were new record high temperatures on the 12th, 13th, 17th and 18th. Dana and I certainly felt the heat while we were hauling in a load of supplies from the trailhead.

Today, the 19th is a snow day. But unlike previous years, it's a wet sleet. Combined with the hot temperatures, this is a really weird spring. April and May always have bouts of storms, but April has been very clear recently and wet snow/sleet in mid-April is, ahem, a sign of the new times I fear.

Nothing is accumulating but nothing seems to be melting either. I think we'll be socked in for the next few days.  In our experience marmots don't really emerge on snowy days...but it would be good to get out during some breaks and continue to look for activity in town and down valley...we'll see. Good time to catch up and clean up a blister...

Essay in Science about doing science on Earth Day

Dan wrote a Working Life piece in Science about why he won't be attending the March for Science--he'll be in Gothic studying marmots.