Got a hankering for monitoring marmots? Call Olympic National Park.
The park is now accepting volunteer applications for the fourth season of marmot monitoring. You can find an application and more details at this page.
The Olympic marmot (Marmota olympus) is an iconic species: in addition to being the official endemic mammal of the state of Washington, the world-wide distribution of this species is restricted to the alpine meadows within the park and surrounding national forest.
Each year small groups of volunteers visit designated survey areas to gather timely and vital information about population presence and distribution. Tracking and monitoring these changes allow wildlife managers to evaluate the population’s status on an ongoing basis.
Last year the U.S. Forest Service coordinated with the park to monitor the surrounding national forest, expanding monitoring efforts to the species’ entire range.
More than 90 volunteers participate in the project each year, hailing from the Olympic Peninsula, Seattle/Tacoma area and as far away as Portland, Oregon, and British Columbia.
“Over the last three years, the outstanding work and dedication of our marmot monitoring volunteers has provided important information for continued protection of the Olympic marmot,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “Citizen Science programs provide valuable data and unique opportunities for volunteers to take part in in research that influences the management of their park.”
Volunteers must be capable of hiking to and camping in remote areas, be comfortable navigating off-trail and be able to work on steep slopes. Most survey trips involve a 5-20 mile hike (one or two days) with a significant elevation gain to the survey area. Volunteers then camp out in or near the survey areas and search for marmots two to four days.
A limited number of day-hike assignments are also available for the Hurricane Hill, Klahhane Ridge and Obstruction Point survey area trips. To ensure safety, volunteers must travel and monitor with a partner. Up to six individuals may travel in the same group, breaking into smaller groups to visit individual survey areas. Volunteers ages 13-17 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
Training for volunteers will consist of one training day, featuring both classroom and field training. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation. Camping fees will be waived at Heart O’ the Hills and other front-country sites for the evening before training. Park entrance and backcountry fees will also be waived for volunteers.
The 2013 application deadline is May 1, but may close earlier if enough eligible volunteers have been accepted, or last longer if some trips remain unfilled.
More information about the program is available at the park’s website.