Fig 1. The road up the mountain to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
Colorado is home to thousands of wildflowers, and every spring the alpine meadows are full of vivid red and purple paintbrushes, white and blue asters, and golden sunflowers. The cows move up the mountain and the native hummingbirds flit through the meadows. I conduct my field research in these mountains, studying how invasive mustard plants can impact the delicate balance of flora and fauna in the subalpine range.
Fig 2. A deer seen from the side of the road, with Mount Gothic and Paradise cabin behind it.
During midsummer, there seem to be as many deer in the area as scientists. They spend their time in much the same way as well, dashing across the road and snuffling around the cabins.
Fig 3. A watercolor remembrance of my little campsite in Paradise Valley, an excerpt from my travel journal.
The weekends are spent backpacking to places with names like Belleview and Paradise Valley. Short trips into the breathtaking scenery leave one feeling refreshed and ready to take on the week of field and lab work that requires incredible stamina at 9,500 ft. above sea level.
Fig 4. Near the bottom of Belleview Mountain, you can see the Rockies stretching for miles.
The Rockies are filled with a breathtaking array of wildflowers in the springtime. Alpine meadows occupy a delicate range of elevation, determined by a mix of temperature, sunlight, and snowmelt. The plants here flaunt their colors in the spring, nestled in meadows below mountaintops but far above the valleys. As the spring goes on, the cattle move up the mountains into the lower altitude fields.
Fig 5. A field of wildflowers just outside of the town of Crested Butte. The yellow daisies are an invasive chamomile flower and can be seen spreading throughout the meadow.
The flowers that grow midsummer at 12,000 ft. above sea level have vastly different growing conditions from those just 1,000 ft. lower down the mountains. Much to the delight of scientists and tourists alike, this leads to incredible variety and biodiversity that is beautiful to see.
Fig 6. Inspired by the native wildflowers in bloom and the valleys full of cattle, I spent much of my free time with my watercolor paints.
Fig 7. The field station at sunset (http://www.rmbl.org/).
Summer rains wash away the dust of the morning, coming like clockwork at 2:00 in the afternoon. This leaves evenings damp and smelling of fresh clean mountain air, as the sunset reflects in the water that accumulates on the dirt road.
Journaling and photography are a great way to keep track of beautiful moments in time that can otherwise be washed away by the constant onslaught of work. You don’t need a fancy camera or expensive equipment, all of these photos were taken on my cell phone!
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