I remember the first time I encountered a wild pika. It was atop Piegan Pass in Glacier National Park, MT during the summer of 2006 and in that moment I remember with clarity promising to the pikas that I would return. A physical return to Glacier National Park is in the future hopefully, but my return to their rocky alpine habitat this summer has been far more rewarding than I could have hoped. Just look at Niwot Ridge where I work! Being an active part of the #teamPika16 has been, and continues to be a great way to give back to these amazing and emblematic animals of the fragile alpine environment.
As a graduating environmental studies student, I can’t think of a better, and at the same time worse, way to end my studies. It’s the best because who can complain about working with a great crew in a beautiful environment with quite possibly the cutest animals on the planet? But it’s the worst because I now am faced with leaving for the real world knowing that had I been more vigilant like some of the younger team members, I could have lent myself to the cause longer and more thoroughly. Of course I can continue in the field, but who knows where life will take each of us. Still, I am filled with hope that everyone on the team, new or experienced, can help contribute to the science behind these alpine denizens.
I’m studying the pika’s microclimate by burying temperature sensors in the rocky taluses where each pika lives. The sensors take data while I take a break…and while I learn to use computer programs to analyze all those data!
There are so many different projects being undertaken by #teamPika16 right now, from vegetation plotting, to microclimate studies, to pika behavior monitoring, and more! All of this being done mostly by us amateur-student scientists, just showing how much there is to learn still about the species and its challenging mountain environment. We have fun and do serious work at the same time, leaving us all with few complaints. We’ve been grounded for a few days, awaiting a new shipment of plague vaccine (that’s right, we vaccinate the pikas against bubonic plague, just in case). But when the vaccine comes in, we’ll be back in the alpine where we belong!