Instructor: Denny Olson
August 21 at 7 a.m.
Glacier National Park has spectacular scenery and charismatic animals, but none more vulnerable and potentially important for gauging the effects of climate change on the world above treeline, than the pika. The little “furry potato with ears”, a denizen of alpine talus, is unmercifully cute and constantly busy cutting and stacking “hay” for the coming winter. But, recent studies show that populations of pikas are disappearing across mountain ranges in the West. Although pika populations are currently holding strong in Glacier, this course will teach us about how pikas may serve as an early warning system for the shrinking of alpine areas and the threats to alpine plant and animal specialists. We will also learn about the research and citizen science efforts of Glacier National Park to understand this creature. This course is about observing the surprisingly sophisticated behavior of pikas – at a respectful distance – and about the adaptations and vulnerabilities of pikas and other alpine species.
Meeting Place: Glacier Institute Field Camp.
Itinerary: (subject to change due to trail closures and weather) After meeting at Field Camp at 7 a.m., we will leave for Logan Pass or Siyeh Bend on Going to the Sun Road. We will hike to either Hidden Lake/Highline Trail or Piegan Pass, depending on weather and trail openings, and observe pika behavior in the selected talus slopes. While on the trail, we will observe and learn about the intricate interrelationships in subalpine and alpine areas (whitebark pine keystone, nutcrackers, climate, glaciers and the disappearing alpine – Timberline sparrows, ptarmigan, rosy finches and wolverines, plant survival strategies in the alpine). The course will end by 4 p.m. and will not be cancelled due to weather.
Food: Please bring a trail lunch, plenty of water and snacks for the day.
Park Entrance Fees: Participants are responsible for purchasing their park entry passes prior to the course. These can be purchased online at: https://www.recreation.gov/sitepass/74280.
Equipment: You will receive a Field Camp gear list once you register. Most importantly are comfortable hiking shoes, at least 1-2 liter water bottle, backpack, rain gear, hat, and sunscreen. Weather can be varied, especially at the varying elevations of Logan Pass, so please be prepared with appropriate clothing, especially warm layers for potential snow and high winds. Binoculars are very useful, but optional, as well as field guides that interest you.
Physical Requirements: Moderately Difficult. Elevation gains on hikes range from 500 to 2000 feet. Hidden Lake trail is 3 miles round trip with 500 feet of elevation gain, with the Highline trail at 7 miles round trip, with 800 feet of elevation gain. Piegan Pass is a 9 miles round trip, with 2,000 feet of elevation gain.
Academic Credit: Please see our ‘2021 Academic Credit’ link on our website to learn about OPI credits for our courses.