Left: Female squirrel guarding her peanut butter (credit: Simon Tardif); Right: Carrying 20kg of peanut butter through the boreal forest (credit: Andrea Wishart).

Left: Female squirrel guarding her peanut butter (credit: Simon Tardif); Right: Carrying 20kg of peanut butter through the boreal forest (credit: Andrea Wishart).

I started this semester as an MSc student in the McAdam lab working on red squirrels, but I was just up in Kluane for six months this year working as a technician on the core data collection for the long term Kluane Red Squirrel Project. Designing your own thesis and collecting your own data is really rewarding, but it's also super cool to be part of a long term collaborative project like this.

One of the longest running experiments in KRSP is a food addition experiment where we supplement one of the grids with peanut butter in buckets we hang from trees to see how the squirrel population changes. Over winter we refill the PB in all the buckets around the grid every six weeks (as I am doing in the photo above), which also gives us a chance to see what else the squirrels are doing with the buckets. Some of them, like this female, build nests next to the PB-filled yogurt containers, or cache other stuff in the buckets – like snowshoe hare feet. It’s always a surprise of what you might find when you open the lid of a squirrel bucket!