On the Expedition
In these beautiful mountains, marmots are known for their warning whistles. Now, changes in their population may be a climate change warning. Monitor these charming mammals and learn if they're sounding a biodiversity alarm we need to hear?
Alpine areas can be severely affected by changes in the climate. Resident species, which are highly specialised to their environment, may be unable to relocate if their habitats change to the point where they are unable to survive. With Dr. Aurélie Cohas, you’ll use the iconic alpine marmots of the French Alps as a model species to investigate what characteristics influence a species’ ability to cope, or not cope, with climate change, and determine how they evolve as a result of the global phenomenon.
Against the backdrop of a stunning alpine landscape, you’ll set traps and collect dandelions as bait to capture marmot individuals. Once caught, you’ll help record the marmots’ biometric measures. You’ll carry out marmot behavioural observations and may help to record and film antagonistic behaviour. You’ll also help identify compositions of their family groups, and characterize relationships between members of different family groups. Over the Sassière valley, you might also monitor chamois and ibex densities and endemic plant species abundance and distribution. You’ll be contributing to a strong existing dataset dating back over twenty years. The results of this important, long-term research project will provide valuable information to help predict wildlife responses to climate change and support effective conservation management.
Meals and Accommodations
You‘ll stay in a beautiful alpine chalet overlooking the lake of Tignes, in Tignes-Le-Lac, one of the most famous and highest ski resorts in the Alps and a 30 minute drive from the field site. You’ll share comfortable accommodation with research staff. Rooms and bathrooms will be shared between two. Couples can be accommodated and single rooms may also be available upon request. The chalet, which has a wonderful sun-deck, also boasts hot water showers, electricity and internet access.
Cooking is an important and convivial part of French culture, so you will take turns to prepare typical French food with the help of a field assistant. A strong emphasis is placed on buying organic, with polenta, fondues, raclettes, and local cheeses amongst the locally sourced products on offer.
A full lunch will normally be eaten back at the chalet but some days you may share a picnic lunch at the field site with the researchers. Drinking water, tea, coffee and snacks will also be provided throughout the day. Most diets can be accommodated, but please speak to our expedition staff should you have any specific requirements.
About the Research Area
Your expedition will take place in a typical alpine ecosystem: a valley of rocky meadows surrounded by high mountains with year round snow and glaciers. The field site is located about 2340m above sea level, with a typical alpine climate characterized by high daily variation. The average temperature for a May/June morning being: 6°C, and by midday: 20°C. And on a July morning: 8°C, with a midday average of: 29°C
Each day, you will be driven to the research site, approximately 30 minutes from your accommodation up a steep and winding road. Once at the research site, terrain is fairly even and easily accessible.
The Grande Sassière reserve offers the most important plant biodiversity of any reserve in France. Here you are likely to see ibex, chamois, foxes, hare and voles. You may even see roe deer. The Birds in the area include bearded vultures, golden eagles, the rufous-tailed rock-thrush, black grouse, wallcreepers and many others. Butterflies include the Phoebus Apollo, a member of the swallowtail family.
Within a 30 minute drive of the accommodation, you can visit the mountain ski resort of Val D’Isère. You could also go hiking in the mountains, join guided nature walks with national park rangers, or visit the farm of l'Adroit to learn how French cheese is made. Please note that some activities may not be available at certain times.