Resource managers from eight western national parks and three universities are collaborating on a research project to document American pika (Ochotona princeps) occurrence, predict distribution patterns, measure gene flow and connectivity of populations, and assess vulnerability of pika to climate change (fig. 1, above). This joint research is made possible through funding from the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program.
Parks included in this project encompass a wide variety of habitat and elevation ranges from talus slopes in alpine areas in the Rocky Mountains to lower-elevation lava flows in the Columbia Basin and Cascades. Pika researchers are collecting data for this project in Crater Lake National Park (Oregon), Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (Idaho), Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming), Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado), Lassen Volcanic National Park (California), Lava Beds National Monument (California), Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado), and Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho) (fig. 2). Researchers from the University of Colorado–Boulder and University of Idaho, along with park biologists and seasonal technicians, conducted occupancy surveys and collected fecal DNA in 2010 and 2011. Researchers from Oregon State University are analyzing the DNA samples to assess gene flow patterns in pika populations.