Volunteer Opportunity: Cascade Pika Watch
Cascades Pika Watch has been monitoring the distribution and abundance of pikas throughout the Columbia River Gorge for four years, based on local research results dating back to 2011. Citizen scientists have been hiking to talus slopes and reporting on presence/absence of pikas, giving us a baseline understanding of where pikas live in the Gorge. Because of the severity of the Eagle Creek fire last summer, it is more important than ever to get an accurate picture of how pikas are doing in the continentally unique context of the Columbia River Gorge. Thanks in part to a grant from the Forest Service, they are planning to extend our depth of data collection in the Gorge and conduct more-detailed abundance surveys over the next two summers. Data to be collected include counting numbers of pika individuals present, identifying the five dominant plant species and their approximate percent cover in a transect, and estimating percentage of fire damage to the talus. The protocol involves carefully walking transects across the talus patch, thus requiring volunteers who are physically capable of doing so safely.
Due to the more-technical nature of these surveys, they are looking for a more-experienced group of volunteers to help us collect these data. All volunteers for this project would need to attend one, four-hour field training with Dr. Johanna Varner during June 22-25 inclusive, though they may consider a Plan B, if these dates are absolutely out of the question for you. Each more-experienced volunteer would then be assigned a small handful of sites to complete in their own time (during the summer season).
Why abundance, and not just are pikas present Y/N?: 1) going from 10 pikas to 1 pika is a 90% reduction, but the patch would still be considered “occupied” and totally unchanged — i.e., abundance is a much more-sensitive measure that is more likely to detect changes from before the fire, given how much time has elapsed since the fire, at this point; and 2) this is probably a once-in-several-decades event (we hope !!), so it’s better to get a more-complete understanding of what happened, because that will better help us understand why. For 2), having abundance data means that we can answer any question more powerfully, without having to visit as many sites (because Poisson models are more powerful than logistic models, for a given sample size).