Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Parental Drama

Alex took this photo of So Happy nursing her pups while having a visit from Lambda--the male we think is likely the father of her litter. DNA will ultimately be required to sort this one out but Lambda is having a really interesting (as in 'we live in interesting times...') year. His neck is scarred from fights with his father--Dandelion--and he has vocal exchanges with both So Happy and Mrs. B. Here, they're doing just that--squealing at each other--while So Happy nurses. And, let's not forget that we RARELY see nursing after the pups emerge from the burrow (we assume that they are mostly weaned). So this fascinating photo captures two things--a squabble and nursing! Great photo Alex!!!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Zia's revenge!

Zia is one of the 'phone shed friends' who lost her mom to a fox kill when RMBL was still under a deep blanket of snow. billy saw the end--where the female fox had 'little man with a mohawk' by the neck and beat her against the snow until she was dead. Shocking.

Today, Zia got her revenge.  From Gina's notes:

At 09:41 on 15 July 2019, Zia was perched and enjoying her day on Doctor's Log when the mother fox in town approached from down the road. Zia noticed the fox and rather than retreating back into her burrow, jumped off the perch, moved towards the fox, and crouched down in the vegetation waiting.  The fox noticed her movement and began to slowly approach Zia. The fox then charged Zia and Zia charged the fox resulting in a fight. The fight was fast, lasting about 5 seconds and ended by the fox whimpering while retreating away from Zia.  Zia returned to her perch, and signaled her victory with 256 alarm calls!

Moral of story: don't FOX with marmots!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Thanks CBMBA/CC!

The other day we had help from Nick and Alex digging out our traps from the wreckage that is now Marmot Meadow. The traps were beneath timber that had to be cut away and were packed in dense snow. Nick and Alex work for the Crested Butte Mt. Bike Association and the Conservation Corps maintaining trails and while they were there we collected data for an avalanche study. This year had an epic number of huge slides and by getting 20 slices from trees that were felled by the Avery slide, we provided data to the study documenting the interval between slides (this was at least a 200 year slide). The traps were not too smashed...

Welcome Andrew!

Hi I’m Andrew Evans and I’m a third year undergraduate student at UCLA with Team Marmot. I flew off from LA immediately after finals and found myself in the middle of nowhere Colorado. Although it is immensely beautiful, being from Hawaii and going to school in LA, I’ve found myself quite out of breath. And cold. 

However, it’s a fun change of pace from intensely watching marmot videos back on campus! In these first weeks here, I’ve gotten to see cute marmots playing, I’ve watched marmots alarm call for thirty minutes at seemingly nothing, I’ve felt marmot fur, and I’ve gotten to hold a cute little marmot pup named Teef. I’ve also plopped in a freezing cold river, I’ve gone to a square dance, and I’ve gotten to sit back and watch everyone play cricket in a parking lot.

Here I’m working with Dana on social transmission in the marmots, putting out puzzle boxes and seeing which ones figure it out. Although not many have figured it out, I squeal watching them so confused. I’m excited to see into these marmots’ lives and see who they are, who they know, who they hate, and figure out what exactly they’re looking at all the time!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Ahh, dispersal season again

We've been having so much fun watching yearlings play...a very important thing for their development, but alas, this will all come to an end soon. Soon there will be new litters to catch and mark and the current crop of yearlings...most of them...will disperse.  Shannon, RMBL's GIS guru sent me this photo of the LAZY way to disperse...

Yup, that's a marmot in her Subaru...

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Things are looking up...

The road to Gothic was formally opened yesterday and the valley is transformed! Down valley Spring has arrived and we're about to resume trapping. Up valley it's still winter (the road is closed and we're skiing to sites) and we've been trying to re-mark a few unmarked individuals but marmots are STILL emerging from hibernation only to find nothing to eat. There are multiple bears up there and Gina saw a mountain lion running across a meadow the other day!

With the road open we have all sorts of visitors, including this fella that Sam and I had appear about 20-30 m in front of us while we were wondering what the marmots at River Mound were calling at.

Question answered!

The deer have just returned to Gothic. 4 does ran nervously into town and set off L this morning. Why do marmots alarm call in response to deer? I have no idea!

Meanwhile, Dandelion continues his rule of the roost. Young from two different litters (Stitches and WiFi) were foraging near each other around the Gothic Community Center and got into a vocal squabble beneath a parked car. Dandi, tail flagging away, ran over, and disciplined each of them in turn. No more squabbles! I've NEVER seen this happen before. Very cute.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Still snowy!

I'm back in the field after leaving my well-trained crew in the field for the past month and a half. Up valley is still very winter-like. Down valley is finally (and oh-so-slowly) melting out. We have a lot of animals down valley and folks have been seeing some GREAT social behavior. Up valley there are a lot of predators--at least two bears (one with triplets!) and Gina saw a Mt. lion today!!! The marmots are emerging more slowly--which is a good thing given all the snow. I expect late litters...

This is going to be one-hellofa wildflower year. Since I hope we're beyond late season freezes and the flower have not really started blooming there will be no early season killing frosts. So once the growing season starts in a big way, it's going to be a big flower year.  Book your tickets now to the Colorado high country.

We're waiting with baited breath for the road to open next week; I walked in today. Much to do... More as we have more to share!

Welcome Austin!

Hi everyone, I am Austin Nash and this summer is my first at RMBL. It was still quite snowy when I arrived here on May 20th and I cannot wait to watch spring unfold around me.
I love being outdoors and whether I am fly fishing, trail running, or wildlife watching I am quite content. Observing the marmots of the East River Valley has been a treat and I am excited to continue my work in the field.
            As snowstorms have come and gone I have seen the landscape and the marmots themselves change quite a bit. Some days at the beginning or end of a storm, with snow lightly falling, the marmots will do no more than stand next to their burrows before retreating back inside. However, on warm sunny days I have seen rambunctious yearlings play boxing and wrestling! I have especially enjoyed seeing my neighbors Stitches, Campfire, and Kite sitting on the porches of the cabins next to mine as I do the same.
 I am originally from Los Angeles, about three minutes from the beach, but the mountains have always been a part of my life. I started downhill skiing at 4 years old in the Sierras. In college I have enjoyed much closer access to the mountains and the wonderful ecological gradients they hold. I just finished my first year at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where I study Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and have begun getting to know the Rocky Mountains and its wonderful wildlife. In high school, I conducted field research on the impacts of stormwater runoff on Giant Kelp and the effect of recreation on wildlife activity and diversity. I have also worked hands on with Nurse Sharks as a research assistant in Belize. With the marmots, I am looking at how parasites and stress affect the probability of a marmot alarm calling. Working with the Blumstein Lab is a precious opportunity and I can’t wait to learn from all of my amazing labmates.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Welcome Karen!

Karen Tran
Apr 29th, 2019
I am a pre-medical student who just finished my Biology B.S. at UCLA in Winter 19. Usually at this point, I will start packing for my annual medical mission trip oversea with my surgical team. And since I don’t have to attend school for awhile, I anticipated to stay overseas for a few months at least. But I took EEB100 class in my last quarter and it changed my mind. Half of this course covers introduction to animal behavior. I’ve always been a fan of Biology, but studying about animals doing their things in nature took the “fun” to a whole new level. Long story short, I fell in love with Dan’s 2009 paper about his marmots (“A test of the multi-predator hypothesis: yellow-bellied marmots respond fearfully to the sight of novel and extinct predators”- highly recommended for those who haven’t seen it, super fun to read!) and got in touch with him to get a “free ride” to Crested Butte, Colorado to see these adorable creatures for myself!
The day we hiked in was sunny. I eagerly took out my ski and boots, put on my super heavy bag packed with clothes, food, and necessities (that could last me a week at a time at least)…And I couldn’t get my body up. Skiing is fun when you know how to not trip yourself in it (or sliding down the hill involuntarily and break your neck running into the trees below, I guess). I ended up walking for the most part. That day, it took me 4 hours to get to RMBL on foot. I was dead tired from all the walk and the cold…I was extremely hungry and my head hurts trying to acclimate to the elevation. I was, by no means, an athletic person. The most active I’ve ever been was doing cardio exercise for 15 minutes every day when I was at UCLA. Imagine the shock and the muscle soreness and the fatigue I faced that day (and many days after)…I honestly am not sure if I can someday recall that as a fond memory.
It has been almost two weeks since then, I’ve gotten better at skiing and it took less and less time for me to get to the marmot sites every day. I suspect that I’ve become healthier as well since I’ve been outside way too much. The mornings usually weren’t very cold (about 50F-60F), even though it could still snow a lot. It was usually around this time that the snow started melting away and the marmots started to emerge from their hibernacula. Marmots are cute, you have to see them in real life to fully grasp that idea. Dandelion, a male adult marmot for example, was a particularly chubby guy with adorably white-patched face.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Welcome Megan!

Hello! My name is Megan Edic. I am a first time marmoteer here at RMBL and am excited to see what the marmots and weather have in store for us!

I attended Northern Michigan University on a cross country skiing and running scholarship – so feel right at home zipping around RMBL this snowy spring season! I have worked as an environmental consultant, first monitoring Oregon spotted frog populations in Sun River, Oregon and then analyzing soil contamination in Fairbanks, Alaska. My interests have recently turned to ecology and animal behavior and I have thoroughly enjoyed joining the Blumstein lab to gain research experience and contribute to this long term study! I am currently working on a project studying the genetic factors that influence the hibernation emergence date in our furry friends.

This year has seen record snow fall in Gothic, CO, but surprisingly the past week here has been full of sunshine, hot temperatures, and fast melting snow. So far quite a few marmots have emerged up and down valley including the Gothic Townsite where King Dandelion has been roaming around the cabins collecting dried plants and checking on his numerous lady friends. His main, Stitches and their four adorable yearlings make the time recording social observations fly by! I am excited to be here and look forward to trapping the marmots later this spring!