Climate change threats to the American pika

UC Santa CruzBiologyEcology
DOI: 10.18258/0796
$2,000
Raised
100%
Funded on 8/30/13
Successfully Funded
  • $2,000
    pledged
  • 100%
    funded
  • Funded
    on 8/30/13

About This Project

This project will collect critical data for assessing how climate change will impact the American pika.

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What is the context of this research?

The American pika, a rabbit-relative that lives in the mountains of western North America, has been widely referred to as a "canary in the coal mine" for climate change. Adaptations that allow the pika to survive cold, snowy winters make them poorly suited to warmer temperatures and climate change has already caused some low elevation populations to go extinct. Models predict that, over the next century, climate change could cause pikas to lose as much as 90% of their range. But there is a large amount of uncertainty in exactly how threatened pikas are by climate change and more data is needed to untangle the the interacting factors that control pika distribution and abundance.

My goals for this project are:
(1) to collect biogeographic and behavioral data that will help create a more precise picture of how pikas will fare in the future, and
(2) Working with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, I will teach a group of high school students about pikas and working as a conservation biologist durring a backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevadas.

What is the significance of this project?

The American pika particularly threatened by climate change, but it is by no means the only species that that will fare poorly on a warming planet. I will work to make sure that studying the effects of climate change on pikas will help inform conservation of other species. I will also work to make my research available to media outlets, thereby contributing to the public discourse about the consequences of climate change. You can find a public radio story featuring my research here. The pika was recently denied Endangered Species Act protection because of uncertainty in how much range it will loose to climate change. My goal, over the next five years, is to substantially advance our understanding of how climate change has affected pikas and to reduce uncertainty about future projections.

What are the goals of the project?

The budget will be used to collect data at field sites. Working with volunteers I will collect two types of data:

(1) Behavioral data coupled with temperature data will help establish the thresholds that prevent pikas from acquiring food.

(2) Geographically extensive surveys will deploy weather sensors. This information will be useful in untangling how temperature, hydrology and other factors influence pika site persistence and distribution.

Budget

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The budget will be used to collect data at field sites. Working with volunteers I will collect two types of data:

(1) Behavioral data coupled with temperature data will help establish the thresholds that prevent pikas from acquiring food.
(2) Geographically extensive surveys will deploy weather sensors. This information will be useful in untangling how temperature, hydrology and other factors influence pika site persistence and distribution.

Meet the Team

Joseph Stewart
Joseph Stewart
PhD Student

Affiliates

2013- Doctor of Philosophy Student, Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California at Santa Cruz
2011-2013 Masters of Science, Program in Biology, University of Nevada at Reno, Dissertation Title: "Resurvey of Historical Pika Locations in California"
2002-2008 Bachelors of Science, Program in Environmental Biology and Management, University of California at Davis
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Team Bio

I grew up spending a few weeks every summer backpacking in the Sierra Nevada with my Dad. I recently finished my Masters degree at the University of Nevada Reno, where I studied the effects of climate change on pikas over the past century. In the fall I will begin a PhD at UC Santa Cruz where I will study climate change effects on several species. You can find my website here.

Joseph Stewart

I grew up spending a few weeks every summer backpacking in the Sierra Nevada with my Dad. I recently finished my Masters degree at the University of Nevada Reno, where I studied the effects of climate change on pikas over the past century. In the fall I will begin a PhD at UC Santa Cruz where I will study climate change effects on several species. You can find my website here.


Project Backers

  • 15Backers
  • 100%Funded
  • $2,000Total Donations
  • $133.33Average Donation
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