Forest Service seeks volunteers for pika monitoring
Award-winning citizen science project helping scientists track long-term trends
People who hike in the White River National Forest this summer can be part of an award-winning citizen science effort that helps scientists understand the potential impacts of climate change on the American pika and its Alpine habitat.
Entering its fourth summer, the Front Range Pika Project on the White River National Forest has been hugely successful. Rocky Mountain Wild, the nonprofit group organizing the work, was awarded the Forest Service’s National 2020 Volunteers and Service Award for Citizen Stewardship and Partnerships in April.
“We couldn’t make this monitoring program effective on a large scale without the help of this team of dedicated volunteers organized and trained by Rocky Mountain Wild and the Denver Zoo,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Wildlife Biologist Jennifer Prusse. “Last year Rocky Mountain Wild and the Denver Zoo coordinated the work of more than 100 volunteers who contributed 3,700 hours and conducted 142 pika occupancy surveys.”
American pikas are small mammals iconic to the alpine scree fields of Colorado and the West. They are most closely related to rabbits and hares. Recent disappearances of pika populations from parts of the Western U.S. have been linked to changes in temperature, snowpack and vegetation.
“Pikas face an uncertain future, and we need volunteers to help us keep track of how pika habitat is changing,” said Megan Mueller, Conservation Biologist with Rocky Mountain Wild.
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Evidence from the surveys so far suggests that pika are widespread and trends are stable across the White River National Forest.
“Monitoring pika populations across the forest over the long-term will be critical in helping us identify trends as well as give us a deeper understanding of the health of alpine ecosystem,” Prusse said. “We are encouraging hikers who are interested in the future of the pika to be part of this citizen science effort.”
Rocky Mountain Wild and the Denver Zoo are hosting trainings for people interested in volunteering. Volunteers will learn how to document pika occurrence and look for pika sign, as well as record important environmental variables that influence pika habitat selection.
Volunteer trainings are available at:
– Loveland Pass on June 26
– Rocky Mountain National Park at Trail Ridge Road on June 27
– Grand Lake on July 18
– Independence Pass on July 17
– Meeker/The Flat Tops on July 25
– Vail Pass (co-hosted by Walking Mountains Science Center) July 10, 25 and Aug. 9
For more information about the Front Range Pika Project and to sign up to volunteer, please visit PikaPartners.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.