The National Wildlife Federation has partnered with Erik Beever, a biologist at USGS, to help support important research and conservation initiatives for the North American pika.
The project is a multifaceted approach to understanding the distribution and abundance of these small mountain-dwelling animals. The research began in 1994, and has occurred in 9 of the 10 states in which the North American pika can be found. Erik and his colleagues are looking into whether or not the distribution and abundance of populations are changing meaningfully over time, as well as the factors that are governing their distribution and any changes that may be occurring with the aim of species management and overall conservation of the pika and the ecosystems in which they live.
These little guys are small, rock dwelling mammals that live in the mountains of western North America. They can be found in rocky terrain at elevations of 8,000 feet to 13,000 feet in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and California. They are in the lagomorph order, closely related to rabbits, but are much smaller, measuring about 162 mm to 216 mm. Their short, stout little bodies are accompanied by a large set of round ears. And although they appear to be tailless, they actually have "buried" tails.
Despite their adorable appearance, pikas are one of the toughest mammals in North America, given the fact they are one of the few species that have spent the entirety of their lives on the Alpine terrain. Having said that, pika populations are in danger, so for one of the toughest species to be in decline, they are shedding a light onto many topics of conversation.
Sadly, the cheerful chirping of the pika may soon disappear from the high country as the effects of climate change have already reduced their numbers. Rising temperatures have diminished the small islands of habitat for these cold-loving pikas (who can perish from overheating) and if temperatures continue to increase, even the highest elevations may no longer provide a home for the animal, and the species may be threatened to the point of extinction.
Dr. Erik Beever received his BS in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Davis in 1993 and his PhD in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno in December 1999. He has published more than 70 articles in diverse scientific journals and in numerous sub-disciplines of biology. He has performed field research on plants, soils, amphibians, birds, reptiles, fishes, and insects, as well as small, medium, and large mammals. His work has spanned salt-scrub, sagebrush-steppe, alpine, sub-alpine, subarctic, riparian, primary and secondary temperate and tropical forest, and coastal ecosystems of the western hemisphere. In addition to seeking to understand mechanisms of biotic responses to climate change, he has also focused on disturbance ecology and monitoring in conservation reserves, all at community to landscape scales, as well as other topics of conservation ecology, wildlife biology, and landscape ecology. He is a member of the IUCN Protected Areas Specialist Group, the IUCN Lagomorph Specialist Group, as well as The Wildlife Society, Society for Conservation Biology, American Society of Mammalogists, Sigma Xi, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
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