Science Stories

Taylor Bastian

Science Story April 2024

Mining for marmots Taylor Bastian is a PhD student at University of California Los Angeles and part of Dr. Dan Blumstein’s lab. Last year, she spent her first summer at [...]
Jenifer Blacklock

Science Story March 2024

Engineering the Future One of the qualities that sets RMBL apart from other field stations is its knack for encouraging multidisciplinary collaborations among scientists. Think of Dr. David Inouye’s over [...]
Gothic field trip

Science Story February 2024

Force of nature Never underestimate the power of family vacations to shape a child’s future. For Dr. Pat Magee, Professor of Wildlife Biology and Conservation at Western Colorado University, childhood [...]
Anna Reilly and Matt Cullinan

Science Story January 2024

The price of nature It’s a common story. A family visits Crested Butte to ski, falls in love with the alpine wonderland, and returns again and again. Soon they discover [...]

Science Story December 2023

RMBL in the News With about 70 media mentions in 2023, RMBL attracted a lot of attention. Any summary (and apologies for paywalls) of RMBL media coverage in 2023 has [...]
Char and Pete Rowland

Science Story November 2023

The science of giving There is something about spending time in nature that ignites an appreciation for science. Char Carbone and Pete Rowland each carved an independent path from nature [...]
Dr. Becky Irwin

Science Story October 2023

Dr. Rebecca Irwin is a bee researcher. And tagger. And curator. She’s also, as of 2009, a collaborator in Dr. David Inouye’s Phenology Project. The 50-year study of the phenology [...]
Amy Ellwein Photo September 2023

Science Story September 2023

I was pretty excited when Ian asked me to write a piece on the intersection of geology and biology for the RMBL newsletter. My scientific career in soil geomorphology places [...]
Brianna Guijosa-Photo-August 2023.docx

Science Story August 2023

Brianna Guijosa is an undergraduate who has spent the last two summers at RMBL studying how decomposition adds nutrients to the soil. The decomposing subjects are mice, and the creatures [...]
Suan Washko

Science Story July 2023

Imagine that you’ve grown up a city kid in a concrete jungle. But at some point, a science class suddenly whets your appetite for aquatic biology, and the intellectual craving [...]
Breckheimer Photo June 2023

Science Story June 2023

We all know it’s important to see the big picture. Dr. Ian Breckheimer can confidently say that he does. But he also doesn’t miss the details. With his spatial data [...]
Dr. David Inouye

Science Story May 2023

Many of us humans complain about the disruption of daylight saving time, yet somehow we adapt. Imagine the clock shifting enough to throw whole seasons off by weeks or more. [...]
Brett - April Photo 2023

Science Story April 2023

Brett Biebuyck grew up exploring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the lush landmass flanked by three of the Great Lakes and filled with dense forests, diverse wildlife, and spectacular waterfalls, among other [...]
Jessica Lundquist Photo March 2023

Science Story March 2023

When we last talked with Dr. Jessica Lundquist of the University of Washington (Spring 2022 Newsletter), her team was setting up all the instruments needed to measure snow sublimation, the [...]
Dr. Jennie Reithel

Science Story February 2023

The life cycle of a research project begins with a question, something a scientist wants to know about the world. How do hummingbirds court? How do flower colors evolve? How [...]
Dr. Rebecca Prather

Science Story January 2023

RMBL has a unique talent for turning budding scientists into fully formed researchers whose scientific contributions resonate around the globe. Case in point: Rebecca Prather. Fresh from finishing her PhD [...]
beaver image

Science Story December 2022

(Apologies in advance if you hit unexpected paywalls on any of the following articles.) Always charismatic, mammals got plenty of attention. Work by Drs. Gabriela Pinho and Dan Blumstein (both [...]
Jocelyn Navarro at RMBL

Science Story November 2022

Jocelyn Navarro grew up in Pomona, a city in southern California. She’s the daughter of Mexican immigrants whose highest level of education was elementary school. So who could have imagined [...]
The Johnson Family on Barclay cabin porch

Science Story October 2022

According to Doug Johnson, he and his sister Carol Johnson, along with their late brother Dan, won the parent lottery. Their parents, Dorothy and Chris (John C. Johnson Jr.) not [...]
Gijs de Boer photo September 2022

Science Story September 2022

You may remember the story in our spring printed newsletter about two important studies at RMBL that are going to great depths, and heights, to improve the ability to predict [...]
Ute STEM Group 2018 San Luis Valley, CO

Science Story August 2022

They are the longest continuous residents of Colorado. They have lived in the Rocky Mountains since time immemorial and are still here today. Their original territory was a massive landscape [...]
Karole Armitage Photo Copyright Bruce Weber Hig Resolution-1.tiff

Science Story July 2022

For Karole Armitage, spending her childhood at RMBL was like growing up in utopia. In this remote Rocky Mountain wilderness, she says that she and her brothers roamed wild and [...]
Henry and Sandra Estess

Science Story June 2022

For decades, RMBL has hosted world-renowned scientists, supporting their research with field sites, lab facilities, housing, technological and logistical assistance, and access to historic data. We have achieved this as [...]
Dr. Kate Maher at Kettle Ponds

Science Story May 2022

You don’t have to be a scientist to know that carbon is the key to life. Everything on Earth is fundamentally made from carbon, and since our planet itself is [...]
Alvin with Board and Staff Woods Hole April 2022

Science Story April 2022

There are three new members of RMBL’s Board of Trustees, and they’re bringing nothing less than a tsunami of scientific insights and practical experience. Let’s meet them. Dr. Susan Avery [...]
Caroline McLean

Science Story March 2022

Caroline McLean wears many hats, and they’re all Earth-friendly — biologist, teacher, nature photographer, RMBL volunteer, to name a few. As a volunteer for RMBL, she assists Dr. Rick Williams, [...]
George Sibley and family at RMBL circa 1970

Science Story February 2022

RMBL’s winter caretaker program turns 50 this year; this is an account of how it started, and of our experience as the first caretakers in the winter of 1971-72 – [...]
Havalin Haskell

Science Story December 2021

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with the problems our world faces, now that our generation is waking up to the possibility that we could cause our own extinction. But [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 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 [...]

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 [...]
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 [...]

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 [...]
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 [...]

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.”


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 [...]
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 [...]

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

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 [...]
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.

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? [...]
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 [...]
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 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 [...]
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 [...]
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 […]

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.  ..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 […]

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).

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.

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.

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.


Science Story – February 2019

Digging deep to reveal climate change.

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.