Pursuing Pika – a Graduate Summer Capstone Experience

Eep, eep, eep….These are the sounds I tracked this summer as a field research technician with the CRC. I chose this experience to cap my learning in the Graduate Program and to connect to this place. My days were filled with exploring the mountains, conducting science research and learning more about wildlife and the elusive, irresistible pika.The pika project was started in 2008 to “advance conservation and management of pikas in the GYE.” This collaborative project between TSS, the NPS, USFS, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and the Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund among others, was started in order to document pika distributions throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, develop habitat suitability models that outline factors affecting pika persistence in the region, and enhance scientific literacy by engaging the community in pika research efforts. The importance of this project lies in the potential for pikas to be indicators of climate change. As temperatures warm, pikas will have to adapt, and documenting how they are adapting and changing behavior may give us insights into climate change and its effects on this region and even the world. It’s incredibly important work.My job at the CRC entails gathering data in the field and entering and managing data in the office. Through conducting pika surveys throughout the southern GYE I have explored parts of the Wyoming Range, Salt River Range, and Gros Ventre Range. These are spectacular places – places humans rarely travel and places I would not have visited without pursuing pika. During my Graduate Summer Capstone experience I have not only been to some remote and beautiful corners of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, but I have gained practical work experience and a vast amount of knowledge on a very important species – both here and globally. I plan to build on this experience during my graduate studies at the University of Wyoming and continue the critical work of understanding our world and the impacts of our actions.

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