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Directors Letter September 2020

We are born into a world of chaos of fragmented and disconnected light and sound, but millions of years of evolution have shaped our brains to find order. Our five senses are data collecting machines designed to satisfy our innate curiosity. Within the space of 10-20 years we pass from a helpless babe sheltered in the arms of our parents, to individuals capable of beautiful music, writing sonatas, and peering into the mysteries of the universe. The challenge of an educator is not to fill the heads of students with facts, but to nurture curiosity and reveal tools of discovery that complement our five senses.

Liam and David Atkins

Science Story September 2020

Want to know how to spark a kid’s fascination for science? Send them to RMBL summer camp. Case in point: Liam Atkins has been a regular in the summer education programs since he was just a little tyke of six. Now he’s 15 and has just finished the high school program. He’s loved every year [...]
Town Pano

Director’s Letter August 2020

Forever is a long time, even for a 90+ year-old organization like RMBL.  On July 16th RMBL placed a conservation easement on the Gothic Townsite, dedicating the land and the buildings to research and education in perpetuity. The power of a place is the result of how shared human experiences are woven into a region’s [...]
SUsan Lohr 2

Science Story August 2020

Easily the main feature that brings people to Colorado, and especially to Gunnison Valley, is the breathtaking beauty of the landscape. Part of that is due to Gunnison County being 83 percent public land. The rest is due to ranchers — ranchers who have preserved the unparalleled beauty of the Valley simply by being there [...]
Ground Squirrel Panel

Director’s Letter July 2020

Five million wildflowers and counting!  The National Science Foundation will invest almost $750,000 to support the RMBL phenology project another 5 years.  In 1973, Dr. David Inouye (emeritus at the Univ. of Maryland) started tracking when plants flower.  His daughter-in-law Dr. Nora Underwood (Florida State University) now heads the project and is joined by Dr. [...]
Single Squirrel

Science Story July 2020

What do the words “wildlife at RMBL” bring to mind? Marmots? Fair enough, but there’s another member of the Tribe Marmotini that RMBL scientists have been studying for over 30 years. It’s the golden-mantled ground squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis). And it might arguably surpass the marmot on the cuteness scale. But who’s keeping score? We love [...]
Flax

Science Story June 2020

Ian Miller is one of the scientists on the front lines. He’s a PhD candidate at the Metcalf lab at Princeton University, and he’s studying a particular plant native to the Rocky Mountains, Lewis flax (Linum lewisii) and its enemy, a fungus called flax rust (Melampsora lini). Conducting his research at RMBL not only offers [...]
06 - Purple vetch

Director’s Letter June 2020

RMBL owes our ability to move creatively in response to Covid19 because our founder, Dr. John C. Johnson, was fired from his job for not being a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan.  After World War I, the Colorado State Normal School, which trained teachers, became Western State College, offering 4-year degrees.   Dr. Johnson had [...]
Gothic May 23

Science Story May 2020

In a normal year, RMBL scientists return to their universities at the end of summer and, except for the fall youth program, things get quiet around here. But Gothic doesn’t go into hibernation. While everyone else is back home, there are a few hardy souls who stay in Gothic through the long, snowy winter.
They clean and manage the Nordic ski huts used for winter rentals. They shovel snow off the dining hall roof. They take care of all the ongoing maintenance that keeps RMBL functional. One of those caretakers is Rachel Dickson, a graduate of the University of Montana, who has spent the last three summers at RMBL. She began as a student in the undergraduate program and then worked as a research assistant for the next two seasons. This past winter was her first as a caretaker. The snowpack was below average, so she adjusted quickly. It was only when spring and a global pandemic arrived that things got weird.

Paintbrush Photo by Benjamin Blonder

Director’s Letter May 2020

Field scientists enjoy studying evolution in the field but are less excited to be in the middle of it themselves. Gothic will be different this summer! Having operated through the Great Depression and World World II, RMBL curates one of the largest collections of long-term field studies. The show goes on!
RMBL has received approval for an operating plan from public health that will allow us to house scientists in Gothic. We are eliminating shared bedrooms, so we will operate at about two-thirds capacity. To minimize having a scientist re-introducing the virus to Gunnison County and to keep the virus from spreading within Gothic, we will have aggressive containment procedures. We will require scientists to self-isolate for 7 days upon arrival, conduct daily symptom-monitoring, and use face masks.

Dan and Marmot

Science Story April 2020

We’re mad for marmots. What’s not to love? First, they’re adorable (especially the babies). You know the chubby, furry guy that emerges in February to predict the duration of winter? He’s a groundhog, which is one of the 15 species of marmots. And his close relative, yellow-bellied marmots, are found all over the mountainous western [...]
Fox Kit Blumstein

Director’s Letter April 2020

Scientific detectives are pointing to the pangolin as a key puzzle piece in understanding the biological tragedy that has killed tens of thousands, thrown millions out of their jobs, and stranded even more in their homes.  Covered entirely in scales, pangolins are the least cuddly mammal.  Lacking teeth, they use tongues as long as their [...]
Doug and Carol Johnson with Avery

Science Story March 2020

When you think of the RMBL community, it’s tempting to define it as the group of scientists and students who converge on Gothic every summer. Granted, that’s an esteemed, international group, but it represents only the scientific community. Widen that circle, and you must include the families of those researchers who return year after year, [...]
SFA project - RMBL (Rocky Mountain Biological Lab), East River Catchment - Crested Butte, Colorado..Earth Sciences Division and their collaborators from the DOE Joint Genome Institute.explore the East River Basin and Rocky Mountain Biology Laboratory (RMBL.org) in Colorado as a field site for studies that would characterize hydrology, geology, mineralogy, microbiology and genomics of the watershed scale response to climate change.  These studies are subsumed under Berkeley Lab's "Microbes to Biomes" initiative and the Sustainable Systems Scientific Focus Area (SFA) 2.0, supported under the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) Climate and Environmental Sciences Division...

Director’s Letter March 2020

What does it mean to support field scientists and students in the year of Coronavirus?  As soon as we figure it out, we will let you know! With one of the highest rates of infection in Colorado, the local school, ski resort, hotels and short-term rentals are closed.  Most flights have been cancelled and restaurants [...]
RMBL sunset

Director’s Letter February 2020

Having met my wife and raised two boys in Gothic, the subject of families at RMBL is dear to my heart.   Jennie and I had a typical RMBL romance (and you can read another story of family and science in the adjoining article), wandering across years, states and universities, as we narrowed in on how [...]
Paul and AMy

Science Story February 2020

What happens when two scientists at RMBL fall in love, get married, and start a family? The result could be a baby scientist, or if not a scientist, an exceptionally curious child who grows up with an innate affinity for nature. Exhibit A: Dr. Amy Iler, Dr. Paul CaraDonna, and their daughter Zoe. Amy first [...]
Sunrise on Redrock in the winter after large snowstorm black and white_(1)

Director’s Letter January 2020

A Gothic winter is magical and RMBL is expanding opportunities for students of all ages to experience it. When the snow starts to fall, the larger world fades away.  A typical year brings 40 feet of snow, covering one-story buildings with a white, smooth blanket of snow.  The snow came so fast in one storm [...]
Sunrise on the east face of Gothic Mountain after fresh snowstorm -1(1)

Science Story January 2020

When’s the last time you dug someone out of the snow? We hope you never need to rescue a companion from an avalanche. The thing is, in Colorado your odds of encountering an avalanche are higher than elsewhere. In a December 2019 article in The Salt Lake Tribune, the headline blared: “Colorado is the most [...]
Peggy Quarles, Gothic in Summer Snow banner

Director’s Letter December 2019

Philanthropy makes it possible for us to reach undergraduates who otherwise would never make it to Gothic.  In 2019 we provided approximately $150,000 in financial awards to students, equivalent to full rides for 20 students, or half of the 40 students we host.  For a society in which children have fewer opportunities to grow up [...]
Gavin Belfry

Science Story December 2019

For University of Tennessee undergraduate Gavin Belfry, the summer of 2019 was particularly seedy. He spent the summer assisting with Dr. Benjamin Blonder’s seed distribution research at RMBL. For six years, Dr. Blonder’s team has been looking at where plants are showing up at a series of plots on Mount Baldy. The point is to [...]
SFA project - RMBL (Rocky Mountain Biological Lab), East River Catchment - Crested Butte, Colorado..Earth Sciences Division and their collaborators from the DOE Joint Genome Institute.explore the East River Basin and Rocky Mountain Biology Laboratory (RMBL.org) in Colorado as a field site for studies that would characterize hydrology, geology, mineralogy, microbiology and genomics of the watershed scale response to climate change.  These studies are subsumed under Berkeley Lab's "Microbes to Biomes" initiative and the Sustainable Systems Scientific Focus Area (SFA) 2.0, supported under the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) Climate and Environmental Sciences Division...

Director’s Letter November 2019

RMBL relies upon donations to operate.  Scientists and students all pay to be at RMBL.  But we maintain 70+ buildings in a harsh environment almost 2 miles above sea level.  The elevation is a double whammy.  Not only does almost 40 feet of snow beat up the cabins, but Gothic is closed for half the […]

Rick and Ro

Science Story November 2019

It’s hard not to admire burying beetles. They fly around, lured by the aroma of a small mammal’s fresh carcass (which they can smell from far away). When they find a carcass, they meet a date, hook up, and start preparing the carcass to feed their growing family. It’s quite a ritual. They strip off […]

Gothic Mountain with FAll Snow 9.23.16 Nathaniel Ley

Directors Letter October 2019

Dr. Rosemary Carroll is following the lifecycle of a snowflake.  We can’t use a slow motion camera to watch a snowflake as it falls onto Schofield Pass in deep winter, and then trace it underground before it eventually makes its way back into the East River and through a fish.  But Rosemary uses isotopes, different […]

SFA project - RMBL (Rocky Mountain Biological Lab), East River Catchment - Crested Butte, Colorado..Earth Sciences Division and their collaborators from the DOE Joint Genome Institute.explore the East River Basin and Rocky Mountain Biology Laboratory (RMBL.org) in Colorado as a field site for studies that would characterize hydrology, geology, mineralogy, microbiology and genomics of the watershed scale response to climate change.  These studies are subsumed under Berkeley Lab's "Microbes to Biomes" initiative and the Sustainable Systems Scientific Focus Area (SFA) 2.0, supported under the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) Climate and Environmental Sciences Division.  ..Susan Hubbard - Berkeley Lab Earth Sciences Division Director...Kenneth Hurst Williams, PhD - Berkeley Lab Earth Sciences .Geological Scientist - Program Lead, Environmental Remediation and Water Resources..

Science Story October 2019

When it comes to water behavior, what happens in mountain watersheds doesn’t stay in mountain watersheds. After all, water is everywhere. It’s packed in the ice or snow, it runs through streams, it’s transpired through plants, and it hovers in the air. But it’s always on the move and always affecting every living thing it […]

© Cosima Reichenbach 2019

Science Story Sept 2019

We don’t need to tell you how beautiful Colorado is. Beautiful places attract people. Lots of them. In the last 50 years our state’s population has grown from two million to nearly five and a half million. Most of those people use Colorado’s public lands — the parks, the recreation areas, the ski resorts — […]

VOC Cosima. Volunteer and Gothic

Director’s Letter September 2019

It’s a small thing, but it makes me proud.  In early September Volunteer Outdoor Colorado (VOC) visited Gothic and reworked the Judd Falls Trail (see the adjoining article).  One of the most heavily used recreation areas, the previous trail was not “designed”.  It “emerged” as people scrambled through rocks and picked their way, occasionally through […]

PIC-2018-YP-RMBL-EcoSTEM 403 Group Jump

Director’s Letter August 2019

With your support, RMBL is investing in youth science. 30 years ago, RMBL started Kid’s Nature Camp. We now focus the program on science and formalized that transition in 2016 by renaming it Youth Science Programs. In 2001, we had 190 summer contact days with younger children. By 2018 we had over 1700 youth contact […]

KNC 2015 Butterfly Investigation

Science Story – August 2019

Your parents were right. It’s good for you to get out of the house. Besides, you can learn things. Just ask the Pre-K through high school kids that show up for our nature and science camps every summer. We take them to lots of cool spots at RMBL. They participate in hands-on activities. And they […]

Wissinger lab scientists sampling in the field

Science Story – July 2019

When you think of climate change, it’s likely you picture glaciers melting in the arctic, or massive wildfires scorching California hillsides. You probably don’t consider the thousands of little ponds tucked away in the Colorado Rockies, many of which can be found just up the Gothic Valley. But for freshwater ecologist Dr. Scott Wissinger, the relationship between climate change and high alpine ponds has culminated in thirty plus years of research at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL).

Annual Temperature Warming stripes USA Cropped

Director’s Letter – July 2019

The phrase “climate change” evokes a range of responses.  For many, climate change is a defining challenge; will our society be able to maintain the ecosystem services that underlie food, water, and human health?  For others, the words invoke confusion, disagreement, or even weariness. Oddly, for a subject that is so tied up in complicated [...]
sunny summit 715x300

Director’s Letter – June 2019

Biologists are learning that to understand life, we need to understand teams. Your body is composed of a series of teams. Only half the cells in your body are human. The other half are bacterial, viral, and fungal. We used to think that these non-human cells were invaders.

Inouye Frasera large

Science Story – June 2019

Dr. David Inouye first came to RMBL in 1971 and started his Ph.D. research there in 1972. “I was a graduate student studying hummingbirds and bumble bees, and I wanted to know what flower nectar resources are available for them, so I started counting flowers,”

Breckheimer and Drone

Science Story – May 2019

If you’re a field scientist, having access to over 40 years of prior research in the precise location you want to study is a huge advantage. Having access to advanced technologies that allow you to analyze and add to that data is icing on the cake.

Erin Gothic Image (002 700px)

Director’s Letter – May 2019

If you are old enough to have been lost, you can appreciate how quickly mapping technology is changing field science.  It wasn’t that long ago that my trips involved stacks of maps and my shaky sense of location.  Now, a swipe of my smartphone keeps my trip stress free.

climate change at RMBL

Science Story- April 2019

Scientists have been observing the effects of climate change on plants for decades. And most studies have treated all individuals in a species the same. But whereas most plant species are hermaphroditic – where individuals are both male and female – 10 percent of them are dioecious, meaning that, like most animals, individual plants are either male or female.

students at RMBL

Directors Letter April 2019

The importance of a Gothic summer to individuals is clear. We assess and track students, and they describe RMBL as “unforgettable”, “life-changing”, “once in a lifetime experience”, and “the best thing that has happened throughout my academic career”.

Science story hummingbird

Science Story – March 2019

What’s it like to watch a tiny male hummingbird soar to about 100 feet in the air and dive at breakneck speed towards the Earth while snapping its tail feathers and flashing its iridescent throat patch in a breathtaking display of lust? Or, more to the point, what’s it like for a female hummingbird? Ask Dr. Cassie Stoddard.

Avery Hummingbird Jacob Heiling - Directors Letter Image

Director’s Letter – March 2019

Hummingbird research captures why RMBL’s plans to archive historic data are so important.

Teaching kids about nature at Gothic

News – February 2019

Registration for Summer Programming is Live!

DIRT

Science Story – February 2019

Digging deep to reveal climate change.

People sitting by a lake and mountains

Director’s Letter – February 2019

Family and community are at the heart of what makes RMBL special. It is tempting to think of scientists as lonely figures in white lab coats working late at night amongst test tubes and beakers. But there are as many ways of being a scientist as there are scientists. Many RMBL scientists bring their families to Gothic year after year, and the importance of family and community at RMBL has a big impact on our science.

Nordic Ski to Gothic – February 14, 2019

Join us for a Valentine’s Day nordic ski to experience Gothic in the winter! We will check in with billy barr and his weather station, learn about a new winter snow science research program, and have a warm lunch in the Maroon Hut. The hut is a 4-mile, one-way ski on moderate terrain; we will not be travelling to Gothic if avalanche conditions are high or extreme – so this trip is weather dependent.

gothic mountain

News – January 2019

New article on RMBL from the environmental monitor.

man holding a hummingbird

Science Story – January 2019

To illustrate the power of place, each month we will share a story of science happening at RMBL.

Gothic-Lupines-Crested-Butte-1

Director’s Letter – January 2019

Last year the RMBL Board of Trustees adopted a new vision:  To unleash the power of place to transform how we understand the world and provide the scientific knowledge needed to maintain the environmental processes that support food security, air and water quality, and human health.  This month we are launching a new communications effort with this newsletter.