Science Stories

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

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

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 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 — […]

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).

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.