Citizen science: Volunteers needed to study Olympic marmots inside national park, forest

Some hardy volunteers are needed to assist Olympic National Park during its Olympic Marmot monitoring program survey season.

Started in 2010, the monitoring program uses teams of volunteers to visit designated survey areas within the park and gather information about the Olympic marmot’s population presence and distribution.

The Olympic marmot (Marmota olympus) is an iconic species of the Olympic Peninsula. They are the official endemic mammal of the state of Washington, found only in the alpine meadows within the park and surrounding Olympic National Forest.

Data collected while tracking Olympic marmot populations and monitoring their changes allow wildlife managers to evaluate the population’s status on an ongoing basis. Working with the U.S. Forest Service, monitoring occurs over the species’ entire range.

More than 90 volunteers participate in the project each year.

Volunteers must be capable of hiking to and camping in remote areas, navigating off trail, and working on steep slopes. Survey trips are one to eight days long. Most survey areas are located 5-20 miles from a trailhead or road, and involve a one- or two-day hike with significant elevation gain. Survey groups camp out in or near the survey areas and search for marmots for two to four days.

A limited number of day hike assignments are available for the Hurricane Hill, Klahhane Ridge and Obstruction Point survey areas.

Volunteers will work in groups of two to six people. To ensure safety, volunteers must travel and monitor with a partner. Volunteers ages 13-17 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

All volunteers are required to participate in a one-day training that includes classroom and field instruction. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation. Camping fees will be waived at Heart O’the Hills and other front-country sites for the evening before training. Park entrance and backcountry fees will also be waived for volunteers.

The application deadline is May 1, but the window may close earlier if enough eligible volunteers have been accepted or last longer if some trips remain unfilled. After the this year’s survey season, the program will be on hiatus for several years to allow researchers to analyze the data and evaluate how frequently the program needs to be conducted to effectively track the marmot population, according to a park news release.

The marmot monitoring program is funded by donations through Washington’s National Park Fund.

To learn more and to apply, visit nps.gov/olym/naturescience/olympic-marmot-monitoring.htm.