Director’s Blog 12/12/20

Director’s Blog December 12, 2020
Written by Ian Billick, PhD

We are in a nice snow cycle, which reminds me summer is almost here.  After 20 years as director, I’ve learned how quickly time flies.  When the Gothic dining hall opens I tell staff that summer is almost over.  They’ll often humor me with a chuckle.  If they stick around enough summers, I start to see a glimmer of recognition.

We don’t know exactly what next summer will bring.  How will the vaccine roll out?  Will we get our act together on testing? We are cautiously optimistic.  If the pandemic is no worse than last summer, we have plans for how we can house more people safely.  We think we can do even better, especially as vaccines roll out and if testing improves.  But we’ll communicate again in the spring once the future is closer.  We’re keeping our eyes on whether Gothic residents will have access to vaccines and if so, which one.  We will keep communicating.

We are substantially increasing fellowship support for scientists next summer.  We are anticipating some scientists will experience roadblocks to field work for 2-3 more years.  Summer undergrad research froze up last summer; not so fun fact-RMBL’s program comprised almost 10% all biology REU students last summer.  We know grad student programs are stalling out.  Colleges and universities are struggling.  We don’t know exactly how we will administer funds, though we remain focused on early career scientists, long-term research, and maintaining our PI community.  The more we know about your barriers, the better we can target funds where they will have the biggest impact.  Science Director Jennifer Reithel is cc’d here.  Please let both of us know how RMBL can help.

These plans are being made within the context of the 2021 budget.  Feedback on the budget is welcome now, to Jennie or I, or board members<>.  We don’t post board email addresses on the web, but you can get email addresses from Katie Harper<>.  Our budgeting process is guided in part by our 2020 review of operations, found here<>.  In addition to having financial experts on the finance committee, we have scientists on the committee (and the Board).  Dr. Dan Blumstein participates on the finance committee as President of the Board.  Board member Dr. Amy Iler just stepped down from the committee to chair the Board’s diversity committee and Dr. Kate Maher has taken her place.  Thanks to Dan, Amy, and Kate for representing a scientific perspective during budgeting.  To help people engage effectively in RMBL’s financial plan
ning, Kelly Sudderth has been doing financial orientation sessions.  Let her<> know if you would like to participate in future sessions.  As a reminder, Emily Snow did some excellent work<> on how RMBL decisions are made.

What else is going on?  Too much for this blog post, but here is a high level overview.  We are hiring an architect for North Village and anticipate an application to the Town of Mt. CB to entitle the property in January.  We have NSF funding for a new cabin next to Crystal, which we will start next fall hopefully.  Dr. Ian Breckheimer has been busy creating community spatial data products<> and supporting efforts to sustain the work.  Atmospherics research<> is coming to RMBL in a big way next summer-get ready for lots of sensors.  Erik Hulm<>, a geophysicist, will be assisting staff with the large number of new projects.

We are very close to implementing the RMBL Portal-for next summer we will have a whole new process for how we will manage applications and billing.  Thanks to Dr. Will Petry for responding to a blog post several years ago pointing out how archaic RMBL’s administrative processes are-online attachments that are hard to track, providing the same info year after year, etc.  It’s taken a lot of staff work to bring the portal to life.  Thanks to Brett Biebuyck and Chris Kittle for running herd. There will undoubtedly be some bugs, but we think the portal will make your life much easier.

As always, feel free to shoot me questions or feedback, or recommend subjects for future blog posts.  If you make it to CB this winter, let’s have coffee or go for a ski!

Happy holidays and stay safe.