COVID-19 FAQs for Scientists

Frequently Asked Questions 

For RMBL Scientists 

Last updated: 3/19/20

The current global pandemic is causing uncertainty about summer 2020 plans.  RMBL is committed to the health and safety of our community and also understands that scientists have critical long-term projects.  Below is a list of questions and answers directed to our research community and is meant to help PIs and their teams make decisions.  We will update this as new information becomes available, with major updates most likely 2-4 weeks out.   

We are very interested in knowing how you are thinking about this summer, and whether there are creative ways we can assist you.   Don’t hesitate to reach out to Jennie Reithel, RMBL’s Science Director, at, or Ian Billick, the Executive Director, at ibillick@rmbl.orgwith questions, suggestions, or feedback. 

Summary of changes:   

March 19, we upated the answer to: Can I or my team travel to Gunnison County to do research and stay in offsite housing? 


Is RMBL open as of Wednesday, March 18? 

Currently we cannot house scientists in Gothic. Gunnison County is shut down – in large part because we have a cluster of cases in the county. There is a public health order in place which shutters all nonessential businesses, including us, as well as the schools.  However, the situation is changing quickly. The only certainty is that things will continue to evolve in unpredictable ways and the key for all of us is to be as flexible as possible.   

Will RMBL be open this summer? 

We are preparing for summer, including processing research applications, as if we will have a normal summer, recognizing a normal summer is unlikely. 

When will RMBL know whether it will be open? 

Given how rapidly things are changing and that summer is over two months away, we will be waiting at least 2-4 weeks before making any big decisions.  Ideally any decision we make will be done in conjunction with local health care and emergency responders.  They are overwhelmed right now.  Consequently, we want to see how the situation unfolds and give them time to better understand what the county is capable of supporting. 

Will RMBL have any travel bans or quarantines, including for international students and researchers? 

RMBL will follow the guidance and recommendations of public health officials. As of 3/11/20, the Colorado Governor’s office recommended that travelers over 60 years of age and those with underlying health issues avoid nonessential travel to mountain resort towns in Colorado, which includes RMBL.  This is primarily due to the limited capacity of mountain community health systems to handle a surge in demand for their services. 

How will decisions about RMBL closures be made? 

The County is in a state of emergency and we have little freedom to decide how and whether we will operate.  To the extent that we have latitude, RMBL’s Board will be overseeing major decisions and setting general strategy. 

The deadline for housing priority is April 1.  Will that be extended? 

Yes, we are extending the deadline for housing priority to April 15. Scientists, research assistants, and visiting scientists should fill out the appropriate application form by April 15 in order to be prioritized for housing this summer. This will give all of us more time to assess the situation and see how things unfold. 

Should I wait until I know my summer plans to submit my teams’ summer applications? 

Do whatever feels right to you!  We will be flexible and nimble.  We do encourage you to communicate with us, either by submitting space requests or emailing us about where you are at.  The more we understand what you will be trying to do this summer, the better we will be able to help you! 

Is RMBL waiving cancellation fees for 2020? 

Yes! For all programs we are waiving any kind of financial penalty for coronavirus-related cancellations.  We hope this will allow scientists and students to do their best to plan and communicate with us, without having to worry about whether larger events will force them to change their plans, thereby incurring a financial penalty.

If RMBL houses people onsite this summer, how will RMBL respond if someone on site develops symptoms or a confirmed infection? Will RMBL be able to quarantine or isolate patients? 

It is too early to develop specific plans, but if we are able to host people onsite we will work closely with public health authorities to develop and implement guidelines and recommendations. 

Can I or my team travel to Gunnison County to do research and stay in offsite housing? 

Hotels and short-term rentals are closed.   RMBL cannot currently house people onsite.  Additionally, the county has asked all visitors to leave and told visitors considering coming to stay away.  Furthermore, while they are not actively prohibiting non-residential second homeowners from coming to the area, they are strongly encouraged to leave.   We hope that these restrictions will be relaxed before summer. 

I have a critical study that needs some maintenance.  What should I do? 

We encourage you to let Jennie know, in as much detail as appropriate, what you are concerned about.  She is keeping track of individual needs. We will be thinking creatively about how we might support research (e.g., enabling remote monitoring of sites, facilitating hiring of local research assistants, providing field oversight/supervision).  The better we understand your needs, the better we can plan! 

Can I ship supplies to RMBL? 

UPS, FedEx, and the Postal service are currently in operation in Gunnison County, though shipping times are a little delayed as of March 18. As in past years, our winter office is very small and we ask that you delay shipping things until it is closer to your arrival date. 

Are RMBL staff working? 

Yes.  Our senior management team (Ian, Kelly, Jennie, Steve, and Brett when he arrives) started weekly meetings to assess the situation with Coronavirus, figuring out both near and long-term actions.   

However, we ask for your patience and flexibility as we respond to this unprecedented situation.  Please remember that our staff are working from home, many with young and school-age children.  One of our staff has a likely but unconfirmed infection (rationing of test kits!) and is doing well.  We expect most of our staff have been exposed given how widespread the virus appears to be in the community.  Our staff are also pitching in in the communityvolunteering in various capacities.   

Will RMBL operate the Undergraduate Research Program? 

We are committed to running the Education Program for college students this summer; it will NOT be canceled. We are remaining flexible on exactly what the program will look like and it may include a distance-learning component. These details will be worked out in the months ahead. 

Has RMBL canceled other programs?  

We have closed the Gothic winter huts and Coffee Lab, and we cancelled March and April school programs.  No other programs have been cancelled at this time.  As with research, we are in a wait and see mode. 

Can RMBL survive a widescale disruption? 

We are here for the long haul!  There are financial realities that will drive our decision-making, but we are also doing our best to be compassionate and cautious.  We are thinking about strategies that can guide decision-making such as prioritizing having financial and staff resources to be fully operational in 2021.   

We are currently developing financial models  looking at various income scenarios and to help us think about expenditures (e.g., capital improvements in the summer, seasonal staffing, etc.  We have about 25% of our operating costs in reserves ($500k on a $2 million budget).  We are pretty close to completing a conservation easement that would add around another $1.3 million to our reserves.  About a third of our budget is fundraising, and that could be affected in different ways than operational revenue.  In the past fundraising has been a bit insensitive to economic downturns, but there is a lot of uncertainty around that.  We don’t have any debt, so reserves and financial contingencies can all be used to delay cuts to core operations. 

I heard there is community transmission of COVID-19 near RMBL, in Gunnison County.  Where can I get the most current updates on the local situation? 

Coronavirus is circulating in Gunnison County, the county where RMBL is situated.  For the latest updates on the local situation in Gunnison County, please visit this page on the Gunnison County website: