Pikas are the most adorable critters ever. If you’re having trouble imagining them, think of dog squeak toys but extremely soft and a thousand times cuter. My name is Katara, and I am a freshman at CU Boulder! Unlike my fellow team members, #teamPika16, I was unable to pursue a personal pika project this summer because I had pneumonia during the first couple of weeks of fieldwork. Instead, I’ll talk more about the action behind-the-scenes of what you do after you’ve been observing a pika.
To all of the volunteers that observe pikas as part of the Front Range Pika Project, my thanks go out to you! Observing pikas is one of my favorite things. It’s peaceful, quiet, and if you’re really lucky you’ll get a curious one.
Once we trap a pika, the little guy, or gal, gets put into an anesthesia chamber. From there we take tons of measurements, ranging from foot size to sex to molting fur. Sometimes the pika has to go back into the chamber as it starts to regain consciousness; this mostly happens with juveniles. We sample blood, too (to study disease), and if we get enough we’ll use a centrifuge on site to separate the plasma from the red blood cells. The battery for the centrifuge is surprisingly heavy, and we have to haul it, along with other equipment, up to the field site every day. All of the physical samples promptly get labeled and placed in a freezer for later use.