September 2021 Newsletter

the power of PLACE

Gothic Valley

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 wasn’t the case in 1991.  It was a glorious summer for me.  Cash, or more accurately “loose change”, in my pocket, free room and board, and little to worry about when I clocked out.  It was perhaps less glorious for RMBL; they had to teach me which way to turn a screwdriver (“rightie-tightie”).  Perhaps my greatest skill was slipping away to work on the fence when I got advance notice that the honey wagon was coming to pump outhouses.

Despite my lack of mechanical aptitude, I love Gothic’s facilities.  Johnson Dorm.  Virginia.  Lead King.  Mammal Lab.  Baker.  Barclay.  Oh-Be-Joyful.  Enders.  Enders Annex.  Crystal.  Gates. Each of those cabins are woven into my memories.  From summers in Gothic that anchored my post undergrad winter wanderings, to graduate school, to starting a family, to seeing my boys grow into young men, for 34 years my life stages have been defined in part by a Gothic cabin.

Ian Billick - Director RMBL

Ian Billick | PhD
Executive Director, RMBL


Benn Schmatz

Maintenance Man

Maintenance Man

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 on RMBL’s Work/Maintenance crew, and he’s nailed that qualification. In fact, he says one of his favorite things about the job is getting the call — for a leaking faucet, a heater on the blitz, you name it. He loves fixing things for people. “I enjoy doing something that improves their quality of life so they can have a good experience while they’re at RMBL,” he says.

Finding time to sit down for an interview was challenging for Benn because he’s been emersed in a Wilderness First Responder course with NOLS, the North American Outdoor Leadership School. He’s been learning advanced first aid techniques to help people with all sorts of injuries from sprained ankles to severe trauma. He’ll need those skills when he takes on winter caretaking for RMBL. Especially this winter. The SAIL project will send three technicians every two weeks to live on-site and maintain the dozens of instruments used to measure the atmospheric and surface processes that control precipitation. In addition, a rotating cast of scientists will show up at RMBL to monitor the calibrations of each piece of equipment.