Director’s Letter December 2020
For what am I giving thanks for as we put 2020 behind us?
A big part of my winter routine is climbing up Mt. Crested Butte early in the morning and skiing down just as the light breaks on the mountains. It can be hard for me to spend as much time outside in summer, but with covid, I sneaked in quite a few hikes with RMBL students. The mountains brought me to Gothic in 1988 and they are a big part of why I am still here. To steal a line from a community member recently taken by the mountains in an avalanche, “the mountains have been good to me”. For that, I give thanks!
I am privileged to wake up each day and work at RMBL. I am constantly exposed to new research and the excitement of discovery. The undergraduates that come through in the summer are self-selected to be special. No matter where they come from, if they managed to make it Gothic, there is something about them that sets them apart. To be in the middle of such a special community, including scientists who are the best at what they do (see the attached profile on Dr. Andy Gloss), is a wonderful thing. To be immersed in that community in the mountains, where I can wander in wilderness minutes from my doorstep, is a whole other degree of special. For that, I give thanks!
I am fortunate in how I can participate in making good things happen. It is very rewarding to connect students to experiences you know will be with them forever. It is fun to untangle a knotty logistical challenge that keeps a project going. But more than that, it is deeply satisfying to be involved in projects, including land conservation and management, long-term financial planning for RMBL, and science, that will touch lives for generations to come. Beauty, community, and impact. For that, I give thanks!
In looking back on 2020, however, what sticks out is the science. While disease may not be the primary driver of human history, it has certainly been one of the main story lines. We started the year with an epidemic and before it closed, we were administering vaccines targeting that disease. It is so easy to get used to the miracles that science brings us, from smart phones, to the internet, to energy discovery and development, to modern medicine, to ever increasing food production. But given the history of vaccines, being able to develop an effective vaccine was not a given, and with completely new messenger RNA technology. To do it in less than 12 months was stunning.
I am grateful to what science brings us, and the passion and commitment that scientists bring to exploration and discovery. The challenges we face in managing the environment will only grow. But I tip my hat to the scientists that show up in Gothic, year-in and year-out, through good years and bad, and do their best to create a new way of seeing the world. For scientists, and how they shape the world we live in, I give thanks!
Ian Billick | PhD
Executive Director, RMBL