Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2014

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Chris Ray

Second Advisor

Rob Guralnick

Third Advisor

Dale Miller


The American pika is uniquely constrained to habitats of blocky debris. In this habitat, the availability of temperate sub-surface microclimates allows this temperature-sensitive species to survive the variable conditions of surface climate. The effect to which surface heterogeneity can influence the temperature regimes of the talus sub-surface has yet to be fully understood and previous studies have relied solely upon metrics of surface climate to estimate suitable habitat and future pika range. Here, I characterized sub-surface temperatures relative to elevation, aspect, near-surface temperature and microhabitat features such as talus depth and canopy cover to begin understanding the extent to which different surface features can affect pika habitat. Talus temperatures were found to be significantly affected by elevation, aspect, depth of sub-surface habitat, and a temperature sensor’s placement overwinter, which was between talus, the talus interface, and the adjacent area of meadow or canopy cover.