Aimee Heffernan - May 2018

I currently call Bozeman, Montana home but I was born and raised in Bloomington, Minnesota, I am majoring in Fish & Wildlife Management and have just finished my third year at Montana State University. I moved West for school but I stayed for the amazing people I found here and all of the activities the mountains offer. This summer I will be working with the Earth Sciences department under Dr. Dave McWethy and Dr. Erik Beever from the USGS. I will also be alongside Peter Billman, a graduate student, and Lyman Dudley, a fellow IoE recipient.

My research will focus on the American pika (Ochontona princeps) which are small, alpine mammals that are highly sensitive to temperature change. As a team we will be traveling to multiple mountain ranges in Southwest Montana including the Blacktail mountains, Highland Mountains, Beaverhead Mountains, and Tobacco Root Mountains to survey talus patches that make up pika habitat. At each site I will be collecting fecal pellets and conducting occupancy surveys. The pellets will later be brought to the lab and tested for stress hormone levels. These surveys and tests will help me understand the dynamics between stress hormones, occupancy, and climatic variables.

This will be the first time I have had the opportunity to conduct my own research and I am filled with a mix of nerves and excitement. There is so much work and fun to be had and so little time to do it. This internship will bring me to unique locations all summer and I am incredibly excited to explore more of Montana and utilize our beautiful public lands for this research. While much of the work will be off trail and physically taxing, I will gain irreplaceable experiences along the way. I look forward to hanging out with the pikas on a daily basis while taking in everything the mountains have to offer.

Being away from Bozeman will be particularly difficult for me, the summer brings so much life to the town and the activities to do are endless. The summer time is made for trail running, mountain biking, climbing, the occasional float, and maybe even a skiing. I suffer greatly from FOMO and giving these things up is pretty tough but we will try to visit Bozeman every couple of weeks to relax, see friends, sleep in a real bed, and eat food not made on a camp stove. But the pikas are calling (literally) and I must go!


MSU IoE Office

Montana State University
605 Leon Johnson Hall
Bozeman, MT 59717
(406) 994-2374
MSU Director: Bruce Maxwell

UM IoE Office

The Universityi of Montana

The University of Montana
Davidson Honors College
Missoula, MT 59812
(406) 243-6058
UM Director: Maury Valett


Montana University System

Montana University System

Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education
2500 Broadway Street
Helena, MT 59620