Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park Kicks Off Marmot Monitoring Project

August 16, 2010, 1:02 pm

PHOTO COURTESY KEN AND MARY CAMPBELLMore than 100 people have begun training as volunteer marmot monitors to study the endemic mammals' population size and distribution throughout the park.

Teams of volunteer “citizen scientists” began training last month as part of a volunteer project to monitor populations of Olympic marmots (Marmota olympus) in Olympic National Park.

Thanks to $26,300 in funding from Washington’s National Parks Fund, volunteers will have an opportunity to study population size and distribution of the Olympic marmot throughout the park. The funds were used to purchase GPS units for the volunteer marmot monitors to use while conducting their studies in the field.

More than 100 people, hailing from the Olympic Peninsula, Seattle/Tacoma area and as far away as Los Angeles, have signed on to become marmot monitors. Volunteer training began July 20 and will continue over the next several weeks.

 “The marmot is an iconic species at Olympic,” said Dr. Sue Griffin, who heads up the monitoring program for the park.  “More than 90 percent of the species lives within park boundaries, so we have a special responsibility to study and safeguard the animal.”

Existing only on (endemic to) the Olympic Peninsula, the Olympic marmot is one of the rarest species of North American marmots. Due to its geographic isolation, the species has evolved in isolation for thousands of years and differs in coloring, vocalization and genetics from the closely-related hoary and Vancouver Island marmots.

Image: Courtesy Ken and Mary Campbell