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Pika Research is Serious Business.

Hey guys! My name is Hilary Rinsland and I'm a rising senior from the University of Richmond in Virginia (elevation 150 ft). I’m a pre-veterinary student, but I’m known as one of the “Flea Girls” on #teamPika17. Mosey (the other flea girl) and I have independent projects focused on pika fleas. My project will really begin after the field work, when I take fleas from trapped pikas back to the lab in Virginia to look for evidence of plague. That work can help us to understand threats to pikas in Colorado.

Me freeing a tagged pika after collecting 23 fleas!

But for now, I’m in the field and it is awesome! This week we are doing survival observations on a new study site. It is in the Niwot Ridge Biosphere Reserve (#NiwotRidge) on the West Knoll. Every morning we meet at the Mountain Research Station at 7:30, pile into a 4-wheel-drive shuttle and ride 30 minutes up a steep and bumpy road. When the road ends, we get out and hike all our gear up the ridge for about an hour to the Tundra Lab. AND THEN we hike across a snow field and up onto the rocky West Knoll. Then we begin the real work, leap-frogging across the knoll, doing survival observations and setting camera traps.

Ominous weather on the West Knoll.

This job is very physical in the early morning, but the payoff is incredible. The views are spectacular, the alpine wildflowers are lovely, the pikas are adorable, the marmots are mischievous and the human company ain’t bad either. On the grueling hike up, we reassure one another of how in shape we will be by the end of the summer. And then, at the end of every day, on the hike down…. We do some serious teambuilding.

What's better than sledding home from work?

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