Articles

billy barr Washington post 2

Billy Barr Featured in the Washington Post

He spent almost 50 years alone at 10,000 feet. His hobby helped shape climate research in the Rockies.

Doris and Jim Brogan - photo credit Alison White

Science Story November 2021

The year 2013 was an auspicious one both for RMBL and for some new residents of Crested Butte. Jim and Doris Brogan had just purchased a second home in the [...]
Gothic in the Fall

Director’s Letter November 2021

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 [...]
Rain on Gothic Mountain

Director’s Letter October 2021

Water. Aspen. People. To steal a metaphor from author Barbara Kingsolver, fall brings low tide to Gothic. But unlike oceanside tidal pools, our ebbs and flows come from the sun, [...]
Brittney Cleveland Summer 2021

Science Story October 2021

It’s interesting how a scientist’s research trajectory can change over a summer. One minute you’re all about the deep blue sea, and the next minute you’re overturning river rocks to [...]

RMBL Summer 2021 Operations Report

TO: RMBL scientists, students, staff, and other stakeholders FROM: Ian Billick, Kelly Sudderth, Jennie Reithel, Brett Biebuyck and Steve Jennison RE: Review of 2021 Operations DATE: October 15, 2021 Thank [...]
Benn Schmatz

September Science Story 2021

Benjamin (Benn) Schmatz has been hard for newsletter writers to get hold of lately. It’s not that he isn’t responsive. After all, responsiveness is a key requirement of his job [...]
Gothic Valley

Director’s Letter September 2021

Scientific Hogwarts It is a sign of how far Gothic’s facility plant has come that there is no possibility I would be considered for a RMBL maintenance job today.  That [...]
Scott Thompson overlooking Gothic

Science Story August 2021

Scoop a fishing net into one of the ponds at RMBLS’s Mexican Cut Nature Preserve, and you can easily come up with more than one tiger salamander. But there’s no [...]
RMBL Mexican Cut

Director’s Letter August 2021

What could have been a wet, soaked July 3rd turned into a day of sunshine. The day was a celebration of the life of Dr. Scott Wissinger.  Scott has been [...]
RMBL kids at play

Science Story July 2021

Does RMBL produce better science because it’s family friendly? It wouldn’t be a stretch to make that claim. Time and again, scientists say that one of the best ways RMBL [...]
Glacier lilies and Gothic Mountain

Director’s Letter July 2021

Pink tutus.  Stiches to heal a foot.  Mucking about in mud filled with caddis flies.  Hikes to remote mountain basins.  Learning more about identifying flowers that might ever be expected [...]
Bee

Science Story June 2021

Bees are truly beautiful. At least they are to Dr. Jessica Forrest. And she’d love for you to appreciate their beauty, too. Yes, bees are becoming more popular as more [...]
Wild Flowers with Gothic Mountain

Director’s Letter June 2021

Melittology, the bee-you-ti-ful study of bees, may seem like an obscure subject.   However, one-third of the calories that humans eat come from plants which are pollinated by insects and animals, [...]
Glacier lilies and Gothic Mountain

Science Story May 2021

You don’t have to be a scientist to be pulled into RMBL’s magnetic orbit. Simply caring about the environment or history will do. Shelley Popke has a deep affection for [...]
Fox Kits

Director’s Letter May 2021

I love the current RMBL staff.  We have had some great people working for RMBL over the years, but this group is special, from top to bottom.  Their collective experience [...]
Mayfly

Science Story April 2021

One of our long-term RMBL scientists has submerged herself in research on streams for nearly 50 years. Dr. Barbara (Bobbi) Peckarsky came to RMBL in 1974 as a graduate student [...]
7S5A9823-1

Director’s Letter April 2021

My quiz of the month—name this environmental feature! Its moods range from raging in the spring to placid and calm in the fall. It is 1450 miles long. It starts [...]
LBNL East River Valley

Director’s Letter March 2021

RMBL is reaching for the stars.  Or to be more precise, the lower atmosphere.  For the next two years our bug hunters and wildflower counters will be joined by snowflake [...]
Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility

Science Story March 2021

Most of us who aren’t scientists take water for granted. It comes from a faucet, but what is the source, really? Those in mountainous states know that rain and snowmelt [...]
billy

Science Story February 2021

Hundreds of scientists flood the hills of Gothic every summer to do research in one of the most-studied ecological sites in the world. But come winter, only one man is still standing. He’s made this abandoned silver mining town his home. He’s also made a name for himself without even trying. He’s billy barr.

First things first. Why is his name not capitalized? “Oh, it’s a stupid reason,” he says. “When I got here, I had two roommates. One of them signed his name with all small letters. I tried doing it, and it felt comfortable. A “b” is a big letter when you capitalize it; it’s not that big when it’s small. I just felt more comfortable with it.” Besides, he added, “It fit my personality better. I live a quiet little life, and it just fit me.”

billybarrcc

Director’s Letter February 2021

billy barr, subject of the adjoining article, is the beating heart of the RMBL community.  He embodies a lot of what makes Gothic unique. Empathetic and engaged, he creates a [...]
DSC01983river

Science Story January 2021

Sixty to 90 percent of the world’s water comes from mountainous watersheds. And 100 percent of them are being affected by climate change. This is what makes environmental research at [...]
Gothic Townsite September 2016 Nathaniel Ley

Director’s Letter January 2021

What does it mean to know a place? As a field scientist, knowing often involves quadrats, binoculars, and sensors—data we collect and mine for insight.  But there are other ways [...]
Andy Gloss

Science Story December 2020

Lee R.G. Snyder spent many summers as a researcher at RMBL before his untimely death in 1985 at age 39. Having been an astute observer of nature since childhood and [...]
Sunrise Over Crested Butte from Mt.Axtel

Director’s Letter December 2020

For what am I giving thanks for as we put 2020 behind us? A big part of my winter routine is climbing up Mt. Crested Butte early in the morning [...]
novoa

Science Story November 2020

One summer at RMBL can change the direction of a student’s life. Take Daniel Novoa, who just finished his sophomore year at East Los Angeles College and a summer internship [...]
porch marmot

Director’s Letter November 2020

What type of person is RMBL looking to for support in the season of giving? Our community is committed to science and education. From medicine, to energy innovation, to smart phones, scientific innovation is the foundation of the modern world. This is not a huge step for most, but there are a lot of scientific organizations. Why RMBL?
RMBL supporters are passionate about the outdoors; many have had formative and powerful experiences outside. Our community also values the importance of the natural world to well-being, affecting everything from mental health, to food security, to water, to air, and disease. We attract people who combine a love of science with a passion for the outdoors. But the world is a big place. Why the high alpine valleys winding their way through the central Colorado Rockies of the Gunnison Basin, centered on Gothic?
Here’s my list, rooted in how the Power of Place transforms us and the world we live in.

10 - RMBL

Director’s Letter October 2020

Standing on the shoulders of the giants that came before me, I know my place and I’m sticking to it.  It gives me a view to the past, and more [...]
Mexican Cut Gesa Michel 7.26.2018

Science Story October 2020

There’s a place near Gothic that is one of the best kept secrets among RMBL field scientists. It’s the Mexican Cut Preserve. A cirque (bowl-shaped basin) on the side of [...]
IMG_1130 copy

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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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? [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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.  […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

© 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, [...]
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.