Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Wake up marmots!

Blogger: Lilah Hubbard
It’s that time again! Last week, four of us early-season researchers skied 3.7 miles into our field station, the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL), to record when the marmots emerge from hibernation. Although the weather over the last few weeks was showing signs for an early spring, we arrived to Colorado just as a huge storm rolled through, dropping up to 13 inches of fresh snow in just one day. The local residents (people and wildlife) of Gothic, Colorado were getting excited about the snow melting and temperatures increasing, but it turns out that Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted correctly: winter may not be over quite yet!
As a first-time early-seasoner coming from sunny Los Angeles, I’m pretty excited that the snow is still here and we get to ski around for a while. Yesterday we went up valley to one of our field sites and, using our spotting scopes, we detected 4 yearlings and 2 adults out and about in the snow! One of the yearling marmots, referred to as “Danger” since it has a fur mark of a warning sign, seemed especially excited to run around in the snow and refused to follow her siblings back into the burrow when it started to snow again (I guess the “Danger” fur mark was appropriate)! 

But researchers aren’t the only ones keeping an eye out for marmots… there are a variety of predators in the valley too! Yesterday morning, we saw a hawk circling the field site we were observing. Then, in the afternoon, one of our team members spotted a red fox hanging out near our cabin. After exploring the area for a while, the fox suddenly darted across the road and up onto a huge snow pile. After a few seconds of digging, we realized it was uncovering a secret stash of mice! It munched out on a couple mice right in front of us, and then continued on its way. Who knew that the snow outside our cabin was also a freezer for a fox’s meal?!

 No signs of woken marmots at our other field sites yet, but stay tuned for more updates!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Socially isolated marmots call more

Holly writes:

Adriana, Dan, and I recently published a paper in Behavioral Ecology examining whether social network position influenced marmot alarm calling. We identified two social attributes, popularity and relationship strength, and determined that socially isolated marmots called more frequently during behavioral observations and when caught in traps. We suspect that these marmots are calling directly at predators to try to scare them away or to try to increase their social status within their group. Our results open a pathway for further research dealing with antipredator behaviors and social network position.

This study has recently been picked up in ScienceShots, and hopefully we'll be learning more about these misfit marmots soon!

Ken's featured in Kansas City Star article

Ken was recently featured in a Kansas City Star magazine article about, you guessed it--marmots!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dan scares people at Nerd Nite LA

Dan gave a Sound of Fear talk at Nerd Nite LA.

Nerd Nite is a global phenomenon of public science and humanities talks--TED talks with beer--is how they were described to me.  In LA they occur monthly at The Mint...a Beverly Hills area bar. Kate went to one a few months ago and suggested that I give one.  I did last night and it was fun!

Sold out crowd last night for three talks...including one by me. Pictures below!

Me speaking...

Kate & Brandon...

Kaitlin and Ana (they avoided studying for their Weds AM final!)...

Other lab folks (I see Matt and Liliah and Tiffany)...

Dan on WBEZ's EcoMyth radio show

Dan was interviewed yesterday on WBEZ Chicago's EcoMyth radio show.  You can hear the interview here.  Scroll down to the marmot photo!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Recent Team Marmot Publications!

Just accepted!

•Blumstein, D.T., Flores, G., and N.E. Munoz. 2015. Does locomotor ability influence flight initiation distance in yellow-bellied marmots? Ethology
•Fuong, H., Maldonado-Chaparro, A., and D.T. Blumstein. 2015. Are social attributes associated with alarm calling propensity? Behavioral Ecology

2014 Team Marmot Papers published...please see The Marmots of RMBL for access to them.

•Blesdoe, E.K. and D.T. Blumstein. 2014. What is the sound of fear? Behavioral responses of white-crowned sparrows Zonotrichia leucophrys to synthesized nonlinear acoustic phenomena. Current Zoology 60: 534-541. [published on-line in 2013]
•Fouqueray, T.D., Blumstein, D.T., Monclús, R., and J.G.A. Martin. 2014. Maternal effects on anogenital distance in a wild marmot population. PLoS-ONE 9(3):e92718.
•Hettena, A., Munoz, N., and D.T. Blumstein. 2014. Prey responses to predator’s sounds:  a review and empirical study. Ethology 120:427-452.
Maldonado-Chaparro, A., Martin, J.G.A., Armitage, K.B., Oli, M.K., and D.T. Blumstein. 2014. Environmentally induced phenotypic variation in wild yellow-bellied marmots. Journal of Mammalogy
•Martin, J.G.A., Petelle, M.B., and D.T. Blumstein.  2014.  Environmental, social, morphological and behavioral constraints on opportunistic multiple paternity in yellow-bellied marmots. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 68: 1531-1538.
•Monclús, R., Pang, B., and D.T. Blumstein. 2014. Yellow-bellied marmots do not compensate for a late start:  the role of maternal investment in shaping life-history trajectories. Evolutionary Ecology 28: 721-733.
•Monclús, R., von Holst, D., Blumstein, D.T. and H.G. Rödel. 2014. Long-term effects of litter sex ratio on female reproduction in two iteroparous mammals. Functional Ecology 28: 954-962.
•Petelle, M.B. and D.T. Blumstein. 2014. A critical evaluation of subjective ratings: unacquainted observers can reliably assess personality. Current Zoology [published on-line in 2013]
•Price, M.V., Strombom, H., and D.T. Blumstein. 2014. Human activity affects the perception of risk by mule deer. Current Zoology 60: 693-699.
•Wey, T.W., Lin, L., Patton, M.L., and D.T. Blumstein. 2014  Stress hormone metabolites predict overwinter survival in yellow-bellied marmots. Acta Ethologica DOI 10.1007/s10211-014-0204-6
•Williams, D.M., Samia, D.S.M., Cooper, W.E. Jr., and D.T. Blumstein. 2014. The flush early and avoid the rush hypothesis holds after accounting for spontaneous behavior. Behavioral Ecology 25: 1136-1147.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Camera trapping at RMBL

I meant to post these months ago, when the excitement from all these pictures was still fresh, but of course, since being back at UCLA, I have been very busy catching up with analyses and teaching and things...

Sometime in August, I was out scouting for new marmot colonies in the valley where we do our research and I came across this really strong animal trail that I quickly named the "big game super highway". I hadn't actually seen any animals up there, but the trail looked so good that I knew I had to put some trail cameras up.

This tree seemed like it would provide a really good angle, and what do you know? Some bear must have used it as a back-scratching post because it had bear hair all over it, so I took that as a good sign for that particular location.

In total, I got pictures of  9 species (including 2 hikers) during the 3 weeks that it was up, which I thought was pretty impressive. Here are a few of the highlights:

 An adorable elk calf and his gang (yes, a group of elk = a gang)

Adult bull elk showing off his summer rack

My wildlife detective skills were totally validated!

There appear to be 3 sets of eye shine behind this black bear, suggesting a female with 3 cubs in tow.

This bear looks pretty hefty and kind of scratched up, so I'm guessing he is a male.  Luckily, he didn't stop to scratch his back/break my camera this particular day.

2 coyotes. They are most likely a mating pair out hunting together.

There were several marmots that would sun themselves on the logs here. New colony discovered!

And the sighting that literally made me jump out of my seat...
Mountain lion! AKA puma, AKA cougar
I still can't believe that I got this shot. I had seen puma scat near this trail previously, so I knew at least one lion was using the area, but I was absolutely thrilled to catch this on my camera.

I am looking forward to putting a camera up here again next year as well as finding new jackpot sites like this.