Director’s Letter November 2021

Gothic in the Fall

Donations to the annual fund fuel RMBL

I’m a telemark skier and getting new equipment can be a bit traumatic for reasons hard to explain to non-telemark skiers. The staff at the local outdoor gear company, the Alpineer, has been dropping hints as only good friends can. I got new boot shells, but with odd-shaped feet I desperately clung to my old liners. As we found rusting pieces of metal where only cloth should be and inventoried the worn holes, the saleswoman gently suggested new liners too. With a deep, calming breathe, I took the plunge.

When I started as Executive Director in 2000, Gothic’s buildings were a well-worn boot. Wonderful memories of friendships, conversations, and discovery obscured rusting metal, gaping holes, and worse. But if we wanted to make new memories, we needed to invest.

The boots will take some wearing in, but they will be great. And since 2009 when we started the annual fund, RMBL’s scientific and education use has doubled. Our yearly investment in facilities has improved services while making RMBL more sustainable. The annual fund has supported staff capacity to raise capital funds to renovate older buildings and create new ones. The added staff capacity has made it possible for RMBL working with local, state, and national partners to conserve thousands of acres.

But society needs RMBL to be more! A historic drought, emerging diseases, climate change, and food security have put environmental issues front and center. RMBL’s science strategy starts with ensuring scientists have, and can afford, critical services such as housing and lab space and access to research sites. What will make RMBL special, however, will be enabling globally relevant, cutting-edge science that cannot happen anywhere else in the world. We will make that happen by curating the largest collection of long-term field research projects and supporting collaborations among projects, past and present.

At the center of this strategy, we will leverage the power of place, creating a place-based data-rich environment, ensuring scientists have access to data, new and old. By integrating emerging big data techniques with rapidly developing technology, from genomics to sensors, we will transform field science. Our current focus is creating a spatial data platform providing spatially precise estimates of environmental factors such as snow melt date, water availability, and temperature, linking weather and climate to organisms. We are working grant proposals and capital gifts to support this work, but as with the buildings, the annual fund will make it possible.

The adjoining article profiles Jim and Doris Brogan, RMBL supporters who are passionate about environmental education and committed to science. As they have gotten to know RMBL better, they have increased their support. Think about joining them and increasing your annual donation. And if you have never donated to RMBL, invest in an organization that is changing field science! Those comfortable boots that have carried us to this point in our journey are not enough. We can, and will, find ways to travel much further. Your support makes that possible!

Ian Billick - Director RMBL

Ian Billick | PhD
Executive Director, RMBL