Backcountry Skiers and Snowshoers Needed to Search for Pine Martens


Are you looking for an opportunity to join Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation as a member of their community of citizen scientists? Have you been itching to get into the mountains for some backcountry camping this winter? Do you want to make a difference and do your part for conservation while learning a thing or two about tracking? If you’ll be anywhere near the Olympic Mountains in Washington this winter, this is the opportunity for you.

Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) has announced a partnership with the Olympic National Forest to monitor and collect information on the distribution of pine martens on the eastern side of the Olympics. Pine martens (a small species of weasel) have been known to occupy the Olympic Peninsula, but sightings have been scarce and unconfirmed in recent years, leading some to believe that their habitat is now primarily in higher alpine regions. It is
uncertain whether or not pine martens remain in this area at all, and alpine areas in winter pose significant access problems for scientists attempting large scale studies.

Betsy Howell, a Forest Service Biologist, is trying to gather information on pine martens and their presence in the Olympics. To do so, she needs the help of fit, motivated, and experienced ASC volunteers. Participants will be asked to set up and check cameras as well as collect DNA in the form of hair and scat samples. By organizing people who have the skills and affinity for backcountry camping and skiing, instructing them on basic techniques for data collection, and
sending them out independently as trained citizen scientists, ASC can collect large amounts of data to be used in this study. By better understanding pine marten habits and movements in the area, the Forest Service will be able to refine management policy for this elusive creature. “If martens are documented, then further survey efforts could ensue in specific areas to better understand the resident populations,” says Howell. “If martens are not documented, the results
would be helpful in efforts to potentially list coastal martens as a regionally sensitive species.”

Founder and Executive Director Gregg Treinish and Research Director Brendan Weiner are extremely excited about this project. Gregg, Brendan, and two other guides from ASC are heading out to the Olympics to provide field training for participants. Volunteers will be required to attend two training sessions with the ASC staff before heading out on a minimum of two occasions on their own. “(This project) can potentially have a really big impact on conservation,” says Brendan. “It provides a great opportunity to connect the needs of scientists and the desire of the outdoor community to be involved.” Not only is this a mutually beneficial partnership between science and recreation, it’s also a great chance for people to learn about tracking, develop relationships with others in the outdoors, and become stewards of conservation in a beautiful place.

If you’d like to sign up, visit the project’s guided outing page at From there you can also contact ASC for more information on the study and what would be expected of you as a citizen scientist. ASC asks that those with backcountry camping skills and the desire to ski, snowshoe, and/or hike long distances apply, but other aspects of training are simply a bonus. Trained guides will instruct you on collection techniques, camera operation, and basic tracking. Only sixteen spots are left – don’t miss out on this opportunity to explore an incredible area and make a difference for conservation in the Olympic Peninsula.

-Liam Dillaway