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News: Features & Opinions Archive (2014)

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Date: September 2014

Dinner Speaker Describes Elk Mountains Retreat

by Vicky Gits

Ian Billick, PhD, the executive director of one of the nation's renowned biological laboratories, founded 80 years in the Colorado ghost town of Gothic, spoke May 8 at Plan Jeffco's annual dinner with the commissioners at the Applewood Golf Course. Dr. Billick introduced the dinner attendees to the activities of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL), a scientific research outpost eight miles north of Crested Butte and the Crested Butte ski area. The summer program at this famous biological study center attracts students, scientists, and tourists.

Ian Billick was appointed to head the nonprofit 501c(3) organization in March 2012. He is a graduate of the University of California at San Diego and previously was a student and worked at the lab. He was a visiting professor at Truman State University and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Houston, conducting ecological research on population and community biology prior to accepting the RMBL opportunity.

The RMBL provides living facilities, access to research sites and laboratory sites and helps manage the information generated by resident scientists. The lab employs a staff that varies seasonally from 10 to 75 people and maintains 70 buildins on 1,300 acres. The lab is a gathering place for leading scientists and provides an outdoor classroom where the next generation of field scientists can be mentored.

The lab is inaccessible to the public in the winter but in the summer months welcomes visitors and offers workshops and special classes for children. It operates on a budget of about $2 million a year.

The RMBL Education Program offers students the opportunity to decide if a career in field biology is right for them in an active scientific community with up to 160 scientists, postdocs, graduate students, staff and family members.

RMBL has had the opportunity in the last 80 years to document the positive and negative effects of climate change on the ecology surrounding Gothic. The recent effects are that some migrating birds are arriving earlier in the spring, before some of the insects have hatched. The climate change also is affecting those mammals that inhabit the higher altitudes as the warmer temperatures are forcing them to even higher altitudes where there is less forage.

More information on the laboratory is available at www.rmbl.org

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