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My Pika Summer

Hello there! I’m Emily, a soon-to-be senior at CU Boulder, and lucky enough to be a part of the 2017 pika team (#teamPika17). I have always loved mountains and animals, and could not think of a better way to combine the two. Every field day I get to drive up into the mountains, go for a hike, marvel at the natural beauty around me, and see some adorable little critters, all while doing some pretty sweet science at the same time.

Colorado blue columbine on Niwot Ridge

Some of my favorite days so far have been when we get to see pikas up close and personal. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching these little guys do their thing, even if it does mean staring at rocks for a good portion of the day. I also love trapping days, when pikas are trapped and handled. We give them ear tags to identify them, make a couple measurements, and take samples to be used by other researchers. The best part of those days is when the pikas are released. At that point we know we’ve done our job well with that animal, and get to see it go to its home.

Emily releasing a freshly tagged and sampled pika

In addition to helping with all things pika-team, I am working on my own independent project that uses temperature sensors. Temperature is one of the many things important to pikas, as it can affect how stressed they are and even how well they survive. They need to have cool areas under the rock to escape the heat of the day. These cool places are refuges, and can vary from one patch to another, even on the same mountain. This summer I am looking at temperatures in sites where pikas currently live, site where they used to live (but don't anymore), and sites where they live only in some years but not others. I put a number of temperature sensors deep into the talus field at each type of site, with another set near the surface, to understand what temperatures pika experience in each place. I’m going to compare these temperature measurements to other data like survival, behavior, and characteristics of that part of the mountain. This kind of research will give us more clues as to the small differences between parts of a habitat that make specific places better or worse for pikas.

Emily placing a temperature sensor in a place that used to be occupied by pikas

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