Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory

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Several RMBL buildings in Gothic, Colorado

The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (aka RMBL - pronounced 'rumble') is a Colorado high-altitude biological field station located near Crested Butte, in the West Elk mountains) It offers courses for undergraduate students - including National Science Foundation funded REU students [1] and provides support for researchers from universities and colleges.

RMBL was founded in 1928 on the remains of an abandoned mining town in Gothic, Colorado.[2] Approximately 160 people are in residence there during the summer field season. Over 1500 scientific publications have been based on work from the Laboratory (currently 30-50 per year).

The diversity and depth of research at the lab make the area around Gothic, Colorado a well-understood ecosystem. While scientists can use RMBL's facilities [7] to study any topics relevant to the ecosystems around the Lab, a number of particular research areas have emerged as topics of particular interests. Charles Remington, an influential figure in the study of butterflies, spent a number of years working on the genetics of butterflies at the Lab. A number of other scientists, such as Paul R. Ehrlich, Carol Boggs [8], Ward Watt (former President of the California Academy of Sciences [9]), Maureen Stanton, and Naomi Pierce,[3] have also spent time working on butterflies at the Lab.

Climate change is another well-studied area at RMBL, fueled by researchers such as John Harte [10][11], who has been heating a Rocky Mountain meadow to measure the effects of long-term warming on soil moisture, nutrient cycling, and plant communities [12].

Pollination biology is another historical research strength of the lab. Since 'introduced honeybees' do not survive at higher elevations such as the RMBL, a number of scientists, including Nicholas Waser [13], Mary Price [14], James Thomson [15], Diane Campbell [16], and David Inouye [17], who are interested in native pollination systems continue to work at the Lab.

The lab is home to one of the longest running mark-recapture studies of a non-game animal in the world. Ken Armitage started a study of yellow-bellied marmots in 1962[4] and it has been continued by Dan Blumstein.[5][6][7]

Stream ecology is another research focus. David Allan conducted work on streams around the lab in the 1970s. Barbara Peckarsky [18], one of the world's top stream ecologists [19], has worked on the streams for 30+ years along with collaborators from around the world [20].

A number of scientists who have had an influence on environmental policy [21] have also worked at the lab, including John P Holdren, [22] President Obama's National Science Advisor [23], Ehrlich (author of The Population Bomb), Michael Soulé (founder of Conservation Biology), John Cairns [24] (member of the National Academy of Sciences), and Theo Colborn (author of Our Stolen Future).

Some of the more rambunctious scientists from RBML have adopted a tradition of publicizing their work by marching in the Crested Butte, Colorado Fourth of July parade wearing leaf skirts made of skunk cabbage, and playing "trombones, kazoos, pots and pans".[8]

RMBL is a member of the Organization of Biological Field Stations.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ Naomi Pierce's page at Harvard
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ [4]
  6. ^ [5]
  7. ^ [6]
  8. ^ Harte, Julia (2014-07-02). "Fourth of July Parade Brings Scientists Dressed in Foliage—Some With Nothing Else". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 

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