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Field Research on American Pika, an Indicator Species for Alpine Ecosystem Integrity

The American Pika is a charismatic mammal that is sensitive to climate-driven variation in temperature, snowpack, and vegetation composition. Extirpation of pika populations has been linked to climate change in the Great Basin, Southern Utah and California. The species may be more resilient to climate change in high-elevation habitat in Colorado. However, recent research predicts that pikas may be extirpated from Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) by 2100 under some climate change scenarios. There is a pressing need to assess the species' vulnerability to climate change across Colorado. The White River National Forest (WRNF) and the Front Range Pika Project (FRPP) are engaging citizen scientists in field surveys to determine the status of pika populations as an indicator of alpine ecosystem integrity. They are collecting data to determine pika distribution, improve understanding of environmental variables that limit pika distribution, and predict and track the species' response to climate change.

Project URL:

Geographic Scope: Glenwood Springs, CO, White River National Forest

Project Status: Active - recruiting volunteers

Participation Tasks: Data entry, Finding entities, Geolocation, Identification, Learning, Measurement, Observation, Photography, Problem solving, Specimen/sample collection,

Start Date: 05/01/2018

Project Contact:

Federal Government Sponsor:

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Other Federal Government Sponsor:

Fields of Science: Animals, Biology, Climate and weather, Ecology and environment, Nature and outdoors

Intended Outcomes: Project Goals include: A protocol and app will allow WRNF and statewide volunteers to collect pika observations opportunistically. The WRNF will be provided with: 1) baseline data and a long-term monitoring protocol suitable for modeling, trends in pika occupancy linked to environmental variables; 2) a report summarizing pika status, environmental variables that limit distribution, recommendations for future research, and potential management actions to maintain alpine ecosystem integrity; and 3) fecal samples for studies of population structure and stress. Data will inform landscape-scale assessment of pika vulnerability to environmental change.