The purpose of this study is to understand how natural selection on various physiological, behavioral, and life history traits in a model organism, yellow-bellied marmots, varies over time in a rapidly changing environment. By following the fate of individually-marked marmots, this research will provide new insights on the limits of evolutionary responses to environmental change. This research will transform our views of potentially "good" and "bad" changes that are driven by the environment. These methods and results should be applicable to a variety of other species that are likely to initially do "better" but may ultimately do "worse" from earlier arrival of spring conditions.
The broader impacts of this project will include: (1) recruitment and training of graduate and undergraduate students from under-represented groups; (2) wide dissemination of research results to scientific audiences and the general public via scientific and popular articles and talks, and engagement with science journalists; (3) maintenance of Marmot Minutes (a blog), The Marmot Burrow (a website), and The Marmots of RMBL (a website); and (4) continuation of one of the world's longest-running studies that follows the fate of individually-marked mammals. This dataset has become an important window on the effects of climate change on a hibernating vertebrate, and a valuable data set that can be used to explore both population and evolutionary dynamics.