April 2023 Newsletter

the power of PLACE

The gaps are the thing

“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 time like a once-blind man unbound. The gaps are the cliffs in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are the fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fiords splitting the cliffs of mystery. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock—more than a maple—a universe.” Annie Dillard, Pilgram at Tinker Creek

Dr. Ed Johnson (Director of the Kananaskis Field Station of the University of Calgary) once described field stations as landlocked naval vessels. The British Navy carried explorers who were filling in gaps on their maps (or as I like to call it, as in our July 2022 enewsletter, “chasing dragons out of the world”). Field stations, however, support “discoverers”, scientists who fill gaps in our understanding of the world.


Ian Billick - Director RMBL

Ian Billick | PhD
Executive Director, RMBL


Special ops

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 natural wonders. From a young age he became hardwired with wilderness wanderlust. Not surprisingly, after graduating from high school, he went straight to Alaska, where he earned his degree in history and northern studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.


Beckoned by an even more remote wilderness, Brett found himself in the Arctic supporting researchers at the Toolik Field Station operated by the University’s Institute of Arctic Biology. Being there not only taught Brett about how field stations worked but also aroused his curiosity about their origins and history. The more he researched field stations, the more he heard about a unique one in the Rockies called RMBL.