March 2022 Newsletter

the power of PLACE

Emerald Lake

It is easy to underestimate the power of small acts of community

It is easy to underestimate the power of small acts of community.

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 at a historic low. With “high trust institutions,” like public schools and libraries, facing an onslaught of lawsuits and criminal charges, trust continues to decline.

The decline of trust is not simply a matter of inconvenience. Brooks notes that nations and economies start to collapse when people lose faith in their institutions and each other, citing ethicist Sillela Bok, “Whatever matters to human beings, trust is the atmosphere in which it thrives.”

Operating RMBL involves trust. Faculty trust us with students; some students may be irretrievably lost to science if they have a bad summer. We make innumerable decisions about housing and access to resources that require trust. Supporters trust us to use donations wisely. When landowners and managers trust us enough to provide access to their property, it greatly expands RMBL research.

Creating trust is like accumulating money in the bank. Everybody makes mistakes and miscommunication is inevitable; trust is lost. If we do our job well, however, we put more money in the bank than we take out. At RMBL we work hard to earn trust, going the extra mile to meet the needs of students and scientists, be accountable financially, and treat other people’s property with the same care as our own.

Ian Billick - Director RMBL

Ian Billick | PhD
Executive Director, RMBL


Caroline McLean

Mother Nature lover

Mother Nature lover

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, curator of RMBL’s herbarium. She demonstrates a biologist in action for people who come through the Visitor Center. The action happens to be pressing plants for the herbarium’s collection.

It’s not just for show; these plants are pressed and mounted on archival paper and labeled to identify the species, collector, date of collection, location, and other relevant information so they can be cataloged and stored in the herbarium, which will have nearly 11,000 specimens by the end of summer.

“People can drive up to the Visitor Center to find out who we are, what we do, and why it matters to be collecting data at the upper end of a watershed and how that’s significant for making decisions about the environment across the planet,” she said.