1. When was the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory founded?
RMBL was founded in 1928, by Dr. John Johnson, a scientist with ties with the local Western State College. For more history on the founding of RMBL, click here.
2. Is RMBL’s location considered historic?
RMBL occupies the remains of Gothic, a silver mining town that was a boomtown from 1879 to 1882. There was an unsuccessful attempt to revive mining in 1914. Three original buildings dating to 1880 have survived, all of which have been renovated and are currently in use. Two buildings dating to 1914 also have been renovated and are used as student dormitories. The town site is not officially designated a state historic site. However, Gunnison County has designated seven of the buildings as historic. Find out more about the history of RMBL here.
3. How is RMBL organized?
RMBL is a non-profit, 501 c(3), organization. The board of trustees appoints the executive director who hires staff. It is a membership organization, with membership open to the public. Voting members help choose the board of trustees.
4. What are RMBL’s annual expenditures?
In 2011 RMBL’s expenditures were $1.41 million, with revenue at $1.13 million.
5. How is RMBL funded?
Scientists are charged fees to use our facilities for their research. Students pay to take classes. Private donations provide full scholarships for some students as well as help keep the fees we charge low by supporting RMBL’s operations, programs, and facilities. Foundations such as the State Historical Fund and the National Science Foundation have helped fund restoration and infrastructure projects.
6. Is RMBL affiliated with a particular institution?
No, RMBL is one of the oldest and largest independent field stations in North America. We host scientists and students from universities and research institutions around the world.
7. Is RMBL different from other scientific field stations?
There are approximately 300 scientific field stations in North America. RMBL is only one of a handful that is not associated with a university or museum. It is the only independent field station of its size that is self-supporting, funded primarily by the fees it charges scientists to use its facilities and private donations. Because it is an independent field station, RMBL attracts scientists from institutions across the world. Additionally, many of these scientists conduct research throughout their careers. Consequently, there is a remarkable diversity and depth of research ongoing in Gothic.
8. How many scientists and students use RMBL?
Because of its high-altitude location, research at RMBL takes place largely from June through September. RMBL hosts one of the largest annual migrations of ecologists and evolutionary biologists. In 2011 we hosted more than 75 researchers and 54 graduate students, as well as 40 students, 10 of whom were funded through the National Science Foundation with the Research Experience for Undergraduates Program. RMBL averages more than 120 research projects every year.
9. Why Should I Care About RMBL?
10. Does RMBL offer science classes to non-scientists?
RMBL holds field trips and tours for the public every summer. Approximately 450 people who are “non-scientists” participate in RMBL activities annually. For more information on programs for non-scientists, please go to Kids Nature Camp or Adult Science Tours.
Additionally, RMBL hosts a week-long Citizen Scientist Symposium during the summer. More information on this course is available by contacting Allison Butcher at (970) 349-7420.
11. How many papers have been written based on research at RMBL?
As of September 2011, there have been 1,325 papers, books, and chapters written based on research at RMBL. There have been 123 Masters and Doctoral dissertations. Find all of this information on RMBL's Digital Library.
12. What are some of the long-term studies at RMBL?
RMBL is the site of long term studies on stream ecology, pollinators, climate, and animal behavior. Below are two examples.
- The wildflower Scarlet Gilia, Ipomopsis aggregata, is one of the best understood wildflowers in the world, largely due to work at RMBL. A number of scientists, including Dr. Nick Waser, Dr. Mary Price, and Dr. Diane Campbell, have devoted considerable efforts to understanding the ecology and evolution of this species in order to better understand all plants.
- Dr. Ward Watt’s work on Colias butterflies over more than 45 years is a textbook example of genetics and evolution. He tracks evolution from the level of the gene, to protein structure, to metabolic and developmental pathways, to the consequences of genetic variation for how individuals live in their environment.
13. What are some of the long-term datasets at RMBL?
Some of RMBL’s research projects involve long-term monitoring that go back more than 30 years. Such projects are extremely important for detecting and understanding the consequences of changes in the environment, such as changes in temperature, precipitation, air quality, and pollinators. Some examples are below.
- The mark-recapture study of marmots, started by Dr. Ken Armitage and continued by Dr. Dan Blumstein, dates back to 1962 and is one of the oldest non-game mark-recapture studies in the world.
- Dr. David Inouye started his ongoing study on wildflower phenology in 1973.
- Gothic hermit, billy barr, started daily monitoring avalanches, weather, and the spring arrival of birds in 1972.
- Dr. Scottie Willey and Dr. Bob Willey started monitoring stream insects in 1972, a study continued by Dr. Bobbi Peckarsky.
- Work on the population numbers of the tiger salamanders started in 1988.
14. Does the general public have access to RMBL data?
Absolutely! We want the data collected at RMBL to enhance the understanding of ecosystem processes for anyone who is interested. For data sets or additional information about RMBL science, see Digital RMBL or the RMBL Data Collections. Be sure to read the RMBL Data Use Policy before downloading and/or using RMBL data.
15. Can I use RMBL datasets in my undergraduate science courses?
If you are an undergraduate science instructor who wants to use real data to lead student investigations in your classroom, please check out our college-level curriculum built around RMBL data. These modules match a major RMBL research area with a RMBL data set and an inquiry-based teaching strategy designed to improve key skills. Please read the RMBL Data Use Policy before downloading and/or using RMBL data.