One of the things I love about photographing wildlife for The Outsider Photos is I learn so much about the natural world and, in turn, I genuinely enjoy sharing that learning with you. Recently, I was stumped by something remarkably unique about the appearance of a specific Yellow Bellied Marmot. I'd never seen anything like it in any of the Marmots I've observed or photographed since 2012 when I moved to Colorado!! I was super excited about what I found, but needed to know more! Where could I turn for help understanding what I was seeing?
Google? Nope, that was too general for this situation.
What about a photography buddy? The one who is, well, really into Marmots? Maybe a little obsessed, even? I call this guy the Marmot Whisperer, by the way. He's spent so much time with them, I think the whistle pigs (a.k.a. Marmots) got together and made him an honorary Marmot. But, I digress. Marmot Whisperer was immediately on the case, scouring the whole of his Marmot photography catalogue, yet he returned nothing matching, or even close to, what I showed him. So, while Marmot Whisperer was exceedingly willing to help me find an answer right away, even his special Marmot Whisperer superpowers were unable to help.
After the trip to the Marmot Whisperer's burrow, I realized I needed an even deeper subject matter expert who had scads of field time with many different Marmots. I needed SCIENCE!!!!! I needed a Marmot researcher!!! My quest led me to Daniel T. Blumstein, Professor at UCLA, but also Board President and Research Scientist at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL), home base for the RMBL Long Term Marmot Study! This study was started in 1962 (!!!!) by University of Kansas Professor Ken Armitage and is now run by Dr. Blumstein.
I emailed Dr. Blumstein late on a Friday afternoon. I had no expectation I would get a response right away, because who works that hard late on a Friday? Like the Marmot Whisperer, it turns out Dr. Blumstein is, also, really into Marmots.
Come back for my next post to learn why the heck I needed an actual scientist to help me with my question!
Until my next post, be sure to check out the RMBL Long Term Marmot Study's account on Instagram. I got deep into their insta posts, wishing I could cuddle all those adorable baby (and grown) Marmots. I easily lost a couple of hours looking at grown Marmots, Marmot pups, Marmot bellies, flat Marmots, fat Marmots, Marmot parties, Marmots earning their whistle pig nickname, Marmot hitchikers, Marmots that sit like people, Marmot researcher humor, whole danged Marmot families (!!!), and Marmot antics and that's when I realized I might be really into Marmots.
Canon 5D Mark IV + 600 mm lens
P.S., I'll show you the magical mystical Marmot in my next post, but for now, "SCIENCE!"