The American Pika
With the growing story around Pikas, climate change and the masses of people fighting for their survival (and growing popularity of Pikas), I believe this would be a compelling magazine story for National Geographic.
This potato sized mammal lives in some of the harshest high altitude mountain environments, regularly at 14,000 feet and above. As temperatures change, they head further up the mountains, but at some point, they can't climb any higher. They have become an important indicator species for climate change and hundreds of people head up the mountains to protect them.
Here is some recent news since the 2021 article.
Pikas are going viral! My last pika videos on Instagram have had almost 6 million plays and over 123,000 shares.
Pikas are popping up everywhere. From children's books to airplanes, you can see pikas all over the place.
Researchers are gathering pika scat in order to measure stress hormones. They have been able to link Pikas with higher stress hormones to s shorter life span and a lower reproduction rate. They have also correlated stress hormones to lower habitat quality. This information can help a species before it disappears.
Information on this has been published: Stress-associated metabolites vary with both season and habitat across populations of a climate sentinel species.
In 2022, the Pika Patrol trained 143 volunteers and had 240 volunteers actively go on pika patrol. Estimated 2,026 miles hiked, 234 surveys conducted, 139 locations visited. They expect to have an analysis from the pika data later this year.
Founders of the pika patrol are working to do a deep dive on sites with high probability of Pika disappearance, even trying to find a way to budget for trained dogs to sniff out animal signs.
The pika patrol is also looking at scat for answers, specifically for its genetic material to determine if climate change has decreased their ability to move from place to place and if their population size is decreasing. 339 samples of pika scat from all over Colorado have been collected to date.
Researchers are finding upslope range contraction in pikas, meaning that pika populations may have been lost at lower elevations; this is a new, ongoing and unpublished finding. That work combined with the Pika Patrol’s surveys can show that the community scientists have seen pikas at low elevation sites that now have no signs of live Pikas.
The Pika Patrol has developed a smartphone app for conservation of the American Pika. It allows anyone and everyone to become a community scientist and the information gathered can help protect pikas and their habitat. They are working on a plan with Rocky Mountain National Park to encourage the summer 2023 visitors to get involved with community science by using this app.
My team and I have been collecting video as well. In 2022 my all female video crew filmed every pika survey, pikas running around all survey sites, and even a museum reading Pika’s books to children. We hope to make a short film in 2023 with all the footage.
Last, but not least, isn’t it beautiful that we live in a world with Pikas!!
Let’s help tell their amazing story!