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Pikas In The Gorge Help Scientists Study Climate Change

OPB | July 18, 2014 12:50 p.m.

 

 

Mallory Lambert / University of Utah

The pika might be the cutest indicator species in the Pacific Northwest. These small, furry “croissant-sized rabbit cousins” make their presence known with a distinct “eep” sound.

Pikas typically live at higher elevation, around 7500 feet, but the pikas in the Columbia River Gorge are thriving at the lowest elevation for pikas anywhere in the country. This makes them particularly interesting for scientists studying climate change. Erik Beever is a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He says studying a species at the edge of its habitat range helps us understand the factors (like temperature and vegetation) that allow the animals to live where they live, and how those factors could be shifting.

And the animal’s cuteness is an asset for researchers like Beever. He’s enlisted the help of Columbia Gorge hikers in spotting pikas as part of a comprehensive study to determine their distribution in the gorge.

GUEST:

  • Erik Beever: Research ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

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