Hosted by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Alvin can transport scientists miles underwater to explore the deep sea. With no light, organisms scavenge material falling from above or manage to [...]
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 [...]
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.”
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.
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.
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 [...]
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.
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.
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 [...]
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 [...]
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).
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.
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,”
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.