Director’s Blog 4/26/20

Director’s Blog April 26, 2020

By Ian Billick, PhD

An update is overdue!  I’ll start with Crested Butte, an early epidemic center, and then move to RMBL.

The epidemic has died out.  Transmission of infections peaked around March 13th when the school and ski resort closed, and with the first public health order limiting group sizes and imposing social distancing.  Because of delays between infection and serious health problems, the community is still sorting through the physical toll.  At least 4 have died and we’re just assessing how many survivors have serious long-term health issues.  Gunnison County caused turmoil when they told non-residents they couldn’t come to the county, leading to charges and counter charges with the Texas Attorney General, who seems to have time on his hands.

Restrictions are loosening, including welcoming back non-resident homeowners.  The County Public Health Officer has indicated that visitors, and lodging, will be allowed on a limited basis starting in July, assuming no second wave.  If we can ramp up testing and implement wide-scale contact testing, we might open faster.  I wouldn’t count on it.

Given the current plans, unless you own a home in the County, you should not plan on being at RMBL until July.  We will update everybody if anything changes.  The Admin Director, Brett (, has been busy lining up local research assistants to help teams that are unable to travel here.  I encourage you to reach out to him.

We will have an undergraduate research program, involving a mix of group projects that include local and distant students, as well as projects using existing or remotely collected data.  Contact Rosemary ( if you want to be involved.  It will be a good way to carry out a field project, given the travel limitations.

We are planning how to operate RMBL when people can return, including estimating housing capacity if only family members share rooms, and if the dining hall is not open.  Because of the potential for a second wave, we might limit mixing between Gothic and the larger community, and even limit mixing within Gothic.  If we can pull it off, it will be a summer prioritizing data collection and not for socializing.  It may be unpopular, but I can only hope we have people in Gothic to complain.

Financially it will be tight.  The Board has been meeting regularly to review finances, examining our assumptions for revenue and overseeing spending priorities.  We successfully navigated the Payroll Protection Program; most, or all, of the $253,000 will end up as a grant, which is a big help.  Operating the summer undergraduate research program will also be a boost.

Let me know if you have any questions.  I know that potentially losing a summer of research is stressful.  We will be as creative as we can be, working within legal and ethical constraints, to help you in whatever way we can.  Best of health to you, your families, and communities!