Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Early season at RMBL 2014

Although this is only my second year coming to RMBL, this spring sure feels different. The big dust storm that blew in a few weeks ago left this crazy red layer all over the valley. 
It looks kinda cool because it contours the hills in nice patterns but it is not cool for skiing in to the research station! Skiing over it essentially feels like you hit the emergency brake, so here we are actively avoiding it on the road in to RMBL.

We're still waiting to see how the long winter, dirt layer and now warm, rainy days (!) affect our marmot population. So far, a few animals are out and about, but it seems like most are still hunkered down in burrows. Where we don't see marmots, we have seen a few open burrows like the picture below. Since there are no tracks around these holes, it appears that a marmot popped out, had a look around, and decided to go back into torpor. Although it doesn't look like much, these are the kinds of things that us marmoteers get excited about in the early season.
So for now, we are keeping busy catching up on data analysis, shoveling snow to get into cabins, and re-learning how to ski. More updates will come as the marmots start showing their faces, errr...their backs, since all we really care about are their marks.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Good news...and a LOT of snow!

The good news:  Team Marmot PhD student Tiffany Armenta just passed her PhD oral qualifying exams today. Way to go Tiffany.

Other personnel news includes:

PhD student Matt Petelle is working on his last dissertation chapter and plans to graduate in the spring.
PhD student Nicole Munoz is making great progress on a remarkably difficult mathematical model that needs to be written before she writes up her empirical marmot results.
PhD student Adrianna Maldonado is making progress on her population biology models.
And, it looks like we'll be having a new PhD student join the lab to work on marmots...stay tuned for details.

The 'interesting' news:  There's a LOT of snow at RMBL (like over 2m!) and Nicole and Tiffany will be skiing in on the 17th and Line will follow them on the 18th to start our newest year of marmoteering.  David Inouye wrote the other day that based on his calculations, the road will open on 27 May.  billy quickly agreed that it's likely to be a long winter.  The one piece of hope--there was a big dust storm that deposited a layer of red dust on the snow.  When the sun hits the dust-covered snow, the snow can melt VERY quickly.

So, is a long winter good or bad for the marmots?

Well, the big die off of 2011 happened after an exceptionally long winter...and the recovery has taken a while.  We have a lot resting on this year...insofaras we have planned experiments that require marmots.   I expect that if the snow continues and doesn't melt very quickly that we'll have a lot of spring mortality--where the marmots emerge from hibernation through a large snowpack and then starve to death (because there is no food available) or are killed by waiting coyotes (and possibly foxes).

Stay tuned.  I'd love to be out there (UCLA responsibilities call)...the valley is magical in a snowy spring!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

squirrels of chicago!

I'm not on Facebook, but this is brilliant!  

Here's what those campus squirrels REALLY think about...

Marmots of RMBL anyone?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Happy Groundhog Day 2014!

A belated happy groundhog day where I'm hosting Moorea's first-ever groundhog day party in a few hours (I'm down here teaching a field biology course!).

Phil saw his shadow:  6 more weeks of winter.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Marmots (and billy barr!) in Men's Journal

Men's Journal has a feature article about the end of snow in Aspen, in which RMBL research -- including marmot research -- is featured prominently. Have a look!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

CUTE comic of marmots preparing for winter

If anyone can find the original source of this lovely comic, please send me an email!