Jul 31, 2016 - Colorado    No Comments

Calling All Pikas!

Hi there! My name is Angela DeLuca and I am an incoming senior at CU-Boulder. I have spent this summer working with #teamPika16 in Colorado. Working as a field research assistant has been one of the most inspiring and eye-opening experiences I have had as a university student. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday the team and I gear up (bright and early) to observe and/or trap pikas in various sites with breath-taking views.
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Each of us has been working on an individual project – mine is focused on identifying vegetation growing near pika habitats. These cute furry animals collect flowers and grasses during the late summer and store them to keep themselves fueled for long, snowy winters. To carry out this study I first try to find a “historical” pika hay pile (meaning a hay pile that pikas have been using for multiple years) by hiking up and down the talus slope. Then I find the most upslope path from the haypile and measure every half-meter. At every half-meter I stick a pin flag in the ground and try to identify all of the species of plants that are touching the flag. At first I had almost no idea what any of the names of alpine wildflowers and species were, but now I’m starting to get the hang of it! I continue to do this for 25 meters. After that’s done, I then do the same for the downslope, and to the left and right side of the haypile. One hay pile vegetation analysis can take me around two hours if I am working alone, but luckily I have the mountain views and wonderful teammates to help me! It really amazes me how different the species of vegetation are at the various sites – my personal favorite flowers are Alpine Avens (which pikas adore).
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As much as I love getting up close and personal with flowers and trees for hours, the highlight of this experience has been to really learn about the habitat and behavior of pikas and how sensitive they are to their surroundings. Getting to help trap and release them in the name of science is so wonderful!

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