Director’s Letters


Director’s Letter April 2024

The Marmot Abides “One generation passeth, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever” (Ecclesiastes 1:4-9, King James Version) Like “The Dude”, the marmot abides. “I don’t know [...]
Traverse Boards

Director’s Letter March 2024

New Insights "The old order changeth, yielding place to new, And God fulfils Himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world. Comfort thyself: what comfort is [...]
Ore House in winter

Director’s Letter February 2024

Brigadoon To see a world in a grain of sand And a heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palm of your hand And eternity in an hour. [...]
RMBL Youth Education Program

Director’s Letter January 2024

Learning I have learned that everything has its own language and that if I listen carefully to the birds and the creatures, and even the grasses, I will hear the [...]
Ruby Range

Director’s Letter December 2023

Ruby Peak:  A monument to inference and ways of knowing Ruby Peak stands at a metaphorical point of triangulation on the map of how we know the world involving the [...]
Char and Pete Rowland

Director’s Letter November 2023

The Power of Mitzvah: from Thanksgiving to Hope   “A great flame follows from a little spark.” Dante Alighieri, Paradiso, 1321 AD (Courtney Langdon translation) Communities and futures are built [...]
October 2023 Photo of Aspens Solomon 2019 B&W-2

Director’s Letter October 2023

“History repeats her tale unconsciously, and goes off into a mystic rhyme” James Burn, In the Christian Remembrancer, October of 1845 “The enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences [...]
Aspen Photo for September Newsletter

Director’s Letter September 2023

Philosopher and historian Will Durant reminds us that we might benefit by occasionally considering the ground upon which our feet stand, metaphorically as well as literally. Geology is often destiny, [...]
Fox kits

Director’s Letter August 2023

When the child was a child, It was the time for these questions: Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there? When [...]

Director’s Letter July 2023

“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, [...]
Butterfly June 2023 E Newsletter

Director’s Letter June 2023

With the GPT-3 chatbot writing college essays and computer programs for students desperate to reduce homework loads, concerns about artificial intelligence (AI) destroying humankind have taken on a new urgency. [...]
01 - White Squirrel

Director’s Letter May 2023

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a [silver] sixpence in her shoe.” You will have to bear with me to see how I connect the dots. But [...]
Cabin In the lower East River Valley

Director’s Letter April 2023

“The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit’s one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself for the first [...]
Winter - Redrock black and white

Director’s Letter March 2023

Thirty spokes are joined together in a wheel, but it is a centre hole that allows the wheel to function. We mould clay into a pot, but it is emptiness [...]
Ant Photo - February E Newsletter 2023

Director’s Letter February 2023

An MBA might have been better preparation than a PhD for serving as RMBL’s Executive Director. But studying ants turns out to have been good job training. For 5+ years [...]
Winter - sunrise on Redrock black and white from Steve Gibbs Jan 2023

Director’s Letter January 2023

In addition to supporting the work of individual scientists through ensuring access to field sites and providing logistical support, RMBL is changing field science by encouraging integrative research. Supported as [...]
05 - Milkyway

Director’s Letter December 2022

While the acceleration of time with age can be distressing, when it is -10 F and daylight is a precious commodity, the blur of time can be comforting. But my [...]
November Photo

Director’s Letter November 2022

Only through the bringing together of head and heart- intelligence and goodness- shall man rise to a fulfillment of his true nature. From Love in Action, Martin Luther King, Jr. [...]
Cabin in Gothic

Director’s Letter October 2022

Dr. Johnson first encountered Gothic on July 4, 1919. He had just finished a PhD in Parasitology at the Univ. of California, Berkeley and he was visiting friends and family [...]
Gothic road with fall colors

Director’s Letter September 2022

RMBL research sits at the center of one of the most critical issues facing the western United States, water. The Titan Prometheus defied the gods to bring fire to humans, [...]
Salamander Crew RMBL

Director’s Letter August 2022

Maintaining and sharing knowledge is nestled in the core of being alive, and human. There are many ways of knowing. DNA molecules sit in our nuclei, bits of information transmitted [...]
Marmot on a chair by Jimmy Lee

Director’s Letter July 2022

In a classic film Bill Murray’s character repeatedly wakes on February 2, Groundhog Day, doomed to live the day over and over. Stuck in an endless loop, he initially wreaks [...]

Director’s Letter June 2022

This spring my family visited London, taking one last family trip after opportunities lost to covid before our oldest son leaves for college. A highlight was visiting the Old Royal [...]
Photo credit Jeremy Snyder East River Valley

Director’s Letter May 2022

Red Rock rises just south and east of Gothic. A relatively easy climb with good south facing exposure, it is a popular first hike for RMBL students without a lot [...]
Beaver Pond

Director’s Letter April 2022

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 [...]
Emerald Lake

Director’s Letter March 2022

I think regularly about the article by David Brooks in the Atlantic (Oct. 5, 2020) "America is having a moral convulsion." He cited polling data showing that among Americans, trust is [...]
Gothic in Winter 2022

Director’s Letter February 2022

“The only real requirements for the job are imagination and ingenuity; so far as experience and expertise are concerned—forget it. The idea is to correct the successes of the past, [...]

Director’s Letter January 2022

Director’s Letter, January 2022 It’s deep winter in Crested Butte. My early morning skis above Mt. Crested Butte bring double digit negative temperatures joined by dawns that splash warm, red [...]
Gothic Mountain

Director’s Letter December 2021

Almost 2500 years ago Archimedes famously waxed poetic about fulcrums and torque: “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.” As high school physics students have [...]
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, [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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, [...]
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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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.

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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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.

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 [...]
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 ( 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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 ( 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.  […]

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, […]

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 […]

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.


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.