Johanna Varner’s trip to Oregon in October was a shot in the dark. But she hadn’t planned it that way. In fact, she’d planned her trip months in advance. Varner was returning to the same sites in the Columbia River Gorge that she’s visited every year since 2010. She left temperature sensors there for her research on pikas, a small rabbit-like animal typically found at higher elevations. The pikas in the Gorge are special. They live at the lowest elevation for pikas anywhere in the country. Her temperature sensors were keeping track of the unique microclimates the pikas were inhabiting in the Gorge. Then the Eagle Creek Fire set more than 48,000 acres of the Gorge ablaze. At just 50 percent containment as of Oct. 21, the fire has made it dangerous for scientists and even the firefighters to get into certain areas of the Gorge. “That shifted my priorities for the week a little bit,” said Varner.