RMBL’s Staff 2017
Ian Billick, PhD
Ian started his love affair with RMBL as a summer student in 1988. After receiving his PhD from the Univ. of California-San Diego for field work done at RMBL, he worked as a research scientist at the Univ. of Houston and was a visiting faculty member at Truman State University (Missouri). He's been Executive Director of RMBL since 2000 and lives full-time in the Crested Butte area where he is raising two sons, Cormac and Giles, with his wife Jennie.
Amy Ellwein, PhD
Director of Science Communications and Engagement
Amy first came to the Elk Mountains as a geologist in 1994. While working towards her PhD (Geomorphology) at the University of New Mexico, Amy co-founded a nonprofit K-12 teacher professional development organization, SEIS. In 8 years, SEIS worked with over 500 teachers in a variety of biology/geology field courses, summer professional development, and year-round district-wide projects. SEIS’s motto was "learn science by doing it!" In 2010, Amy left a faculty position at UNM to join RMBL as Ian Billick's post-doc on an NSF-funded science education project. Since 2012, she has been thrilled to use her dual passions in science and education as RMBL’s Director of Science Communications and Engagement. In the summer, you might find her roaming the mountains looking at rocks and dirt (plants too!) with her big furry dogs, Olli and Bella.
Steve has just recently joined RMBL, coming on board as the Facilities Director in May, 2017. Steve grew up in Colorado and has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He spent over 25 years working in heavy civil construction, primarily building municipal water and wastewater treatment plants along Colorado's Front Range. After several years attempting to live part-time in the valley, Steve and his wife Alice moved the family to Crested Butte in 2013. In his free time Steve enjoys skiing, mountain biking and chasing after daughter Siri, son Tor and puppy Kelso.
Director of Finance and Operations
Gesa Michel has been the Director of Finance and Operations with RMBL since 2011. She has an MBA from the University of Nuremberg in Germany and a postgraduate degree in international Environmental Management from the Erasmus University, The Netherlands. Gesa has worked for several non-profits in the Gunnison Valley, of those 6 years with the Office for Resource Efficiency. Gesa has lived in Crested Butte for 17 years with her husband Glenn and two sons, Vincent and Yvon. Gesa grew up in Hamburg, Germany, and originally came to the US on a field hockey scholarship at the University of Iowa, where they were Division I NCAA Champions. Today she enjoys summer rides on her horse in our spectacular mountains, and playing on several local ice-hockey teams in the winter.
Sarah Oktay, PhD
Director of Institutional Advancement
Sarah Oktay arrived at RMBL in January of 2016 to become the new Director of Institutional Advancement after spending 25 years at sea level conducting research, teaching, fundraising, and communicating with the public. She has a B.S. in Marine Science and a Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography from Texas A&M University in Galveston. The past twelve years she has been the Executive Director of the UMass Boston Nantucket Field Station which is a biological field station located 26 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. She was born and raised in Oklahoma and is thrilled to be closer to her family. Sarah's husband, poet and educator Len Germinara will bring his years of experience in teaching kids about poetry and the environment to the Gunnison Valley and RMBL. You can find Len and Sarah and their dog Swegen roaming around Almont and Spring Creek as they explore their new home.
Jennifer Reithel, PhD
Jennie first came to RMBL in 1993 as an undergraduate, working on bee behavior research. Since then, she's been a winter caretaker, graduate student, and instructor at RMBL. She became the Science Director in 2007. She and her husband, Ian, and two boys, Cormac and Giles, enjoy spending summers at Gothic, climbing mountains, looking for bugs, pulling weeds, and socializing in the dining hall!
billy has a BS in Environmental Science from Rutgers. He came to RMBL in 1972 and has worked in the library, food service and plant, starting the accounting in 1980. Also worked for CO avalanche center for 30 years and was on a fire fighting hot shot crew for 5. A founder and board member of the Gothic Cricket Club.
Youth Programs Manager
Ann joined RMBL's youth programs in 2015. Ann has a B.S. in Natural Resources from Colorado State University and a M.A. in Teaching from Colorado College. Ann has worked as a teacher, field instructor and program director for public schools, natural resource agencies and non-profit environmental organizations located in the Rocky Mountains. Ann grew up in Colorado spending lots of time outdoors, and she loves to share her passion for science, nature and learning with young people. When Ann is not teaching, you might find her climbing mountains, riding horses, identifying wildflowers or hanging out with her husband, Travis and their dog, Badger.
Gothic Store and Visitor Center Manager
Rick first joined us in the summer of 2014 as an Information Specialist with the CB/Mt. CB Chamber of Commerce conducting daily tours of the Gothic town site and welcoming RMBL guests, and summer residents, to the Weldon and Rosalie Weekley Visitor Center and Store. This summer he and his staff will be cheerfully serving up the RMBL message along with tasty treats; one-of-a-kind goods; and travel advice to those on an adventure. Rick grew up in Des Moines and has a BBA-Marketing from the University of Iowa. He spent more than 20 years as a VP and COO with Applebee’s International, Inc. and D’Amico & Partners, Inc. until he, and his wife Susan, moved to Grand Junction, Colorado from Minneapolis in 2002. He joined the Crested Butte Mountain Resort Ski & Ride School as an Adult Alpine Instructor in 2004, after purchasing a condo in Skyland, where he continues to pursue his lifelong passion for teaching, coaching, and sliding on snow. If you can’t find Rick at the Gothic Store this summer, you may find him on his bike, or out enjoying the “high alpine” around Crested Butte.
This will be Jen's fifth summer at RMBL; prior to her role as Development Coordinator, Jen was Adult Programs and Outreach Coordinator, Gothic Store Manager and Visitor Center Guide. Jen has a degree in Geology from the University of Colorado, Boulder and worked at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research. When Jen is not hiking or xc skiing in our beautiful mountains you can find her with her 'better half' Barry and their many pets!
Samantha received her BS in biology from Converse College and a Masters in Public Health from the University of South Carolina. Samantha began her career in environmental health, enforcing hazardous waste regulations and spent the past eight years working for the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. In her free time Samantha enjoys skiing and mountain biking with her husband Daniel and playing with her son Ayden, and daughter Skylar.
Shannon has lived in the Gunnison/Crested Butte valley since 1996 and is a 2002 WSCU graduate with an Environmental Biology and Ecology degree. She has done GIS work with RMBL since 2007 and became the GIS/GPS Coordinator in 2011 after acquiring her Masters Degree in Geographic Information Science. While working for RMBL, Shannon also enjoys teaching GIS classes through WSCU and University of Denver programs. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family and her daughter the most. Fun activities for them include gardening, biking, cross country skiing, yoga, cooking, crafting, traveling, and they are lovers of music and dancing. Shannon thoroughly enjoys sharing her passion for GIS and GPS with all, and you are sure to find her positive, enthusiastic spunk contagious.
Pepe Valian is RMBL's new Facilities Coordinator. Pepe has worked for RMBL for the past few years in the Visitor Center. Pepe has lived in Crested Butte for 35 years with his wife Cathleen. He has many years of experience in contracting and facilities management in his previous life as the Public Works Manager for the Town of Crested Butte. Pepe will continue in his role in the winter months as the Guest Services Supervisor for the Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
Dining Hall Co-Manager
Ben Adams joined the RMBL dining hall staff in 2016 with his wife, Fran. Having grown up in Iowa, he started his cooking career after moving to Austin, TX. He has cooked in restaurants and food trucks around town, working specifically with raw and vegan food, as well as Asian cuisine. He particularly enjoys grilling, and is known to make zesty kimichi. Ben will be returning to RMBL the next few seasons to enjoy the mountain air and cook stellar meals for students and staff.
Dining Hall Co-Manager
Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Fran has been cooking professionally since 2007 in kitchens and restaurants all around Austin, TX. Specializing in southern Italian cuisine, as well as vegan and raw diets, Fran spends much of her time perfecting recipes, baking, and cooking for friends and family. She first came to RMBL in 2016 cook at the dining hall with her husband Ben, and will be spending the next few summers creating culinary masterpieces for RMBL students, researchers, and staff.