2012 Marmot Monitoring Results
Photo by Ude-Gardner Team
Program Overview and Results of the 2012 Field Season
The summer of 2012 was the third full year of the Olympic Marmot Monitoring Program. New to the program this year was the addition of sites in Olympic National Forest; with the addition of those areas the program now encompasses the entire range of the species (!).
In 2012 we had 92 volunteers in 32 groups participate in the program; a total of 4024 volunteer hours were donated. Following training, surveyors spent from 1-8 days in a variety of areas of the Park and Forest, traversing high-elevation meadows and rock-fields looking for and documenting sign of marmots and marmot burrows.
Although the late season snowpack was above average, it fortunately was not as high as it was in 2011. In 2012 volunteers were able to survey for marmots at 63 habitat clusters throughout the park and forest. Snow precluded surveys in some of the survey units, especially early in the year or in areas in the western Olympics where snowfields persisted longer. However, of the 351 survey units assigned to be surveyed in 2012, surveyors were able to completely survey 279 units, partially survey 32 and unable to survey 40 others (Figure 2).
Of the units that were completely surveyed in the core clusters in 2012 (areas that we try to survey every year), 52% were found to be occupied by marmots, where volunteer surveyors either saw marmots or fresh marmot sign. 18% of the survey units were abandoned (surveyors saw past but not recent sign of marmot use), and 30% had no sign of marmots (Figure 3). The rate of occupancy has varied between 53 and 48 % during the three years of the survey (Figure 3).
In the winter of 2012, we started the process of adding USFS lands to the marmot monitoring program.In that effort we adapted the parks marmot habitat model and extrapolated it to similar habitats outside the park on USFS lands.Unlike the survey units in the park, the USFS survey units were not ground-truthed prior to the 2012 survey season.Consequently, the surveyors who signed up for these not only gathered baseline information on where marmots are and are not found, but also provided feedback on which units should be dropped from the surveys, modified, or added.Of the 46 survey units identified on USFS lands, volunteers were able to completely survey 28, partially survey 5, and unable to survey 13.The reasons for the incomplete or lack of survey varied, ranging from unsuitable habitat, too steep, or not enough time to get to all the units in the allotted time frame. Of the 28 units that were surveyed, only 25% were occupied by marmots in 2012.
Conclusions and plans for 2013
This was thethird year of the full program implementation, and all in all, things went pretty smoothly.Although it is too early to do any statistical analyses, there is enough data to eyeball some trends.Based on three years of surveying in the clusters that make up the program core, the occupancy rate of the population appears to have been stable.There are, however, distinct regional patterns, and whether the trend is the same in all areas of the park is unknown.We have had 3 years in a row of above average late season snow pack, which may have been a contributing factor
We plan to continue the program in 2013 (with some modifications listed below) and 2014.Following the completions of 5 years of data, we will seek additional resources to support statistical analyses of the data set.
Recommended modifications for 2013
1) We need to improve our process of sharing pictures; we will explore ways to increase the use of the Facebook site.
2) Revisit and refine the survey units on USFS lands.
3) Revisit and refine NPS units.There are several clusters and units within clusters that people have not been able to get to for 3 years.Look at these on a case by case basis and either drop, redraw, or add to the occasional panel.
Acknowledgements: In 2012 this project was supported by a continuing grant from Washington's National Park Fund and funding from the U.S.F.S, Olympic National Forest. Training space was provided by Huxley School of the Environment and Peninsula College. This whole endeavor would not have been possible without the hard work of the volunteer citizen scientists!