Construction is continuing on a new $850,000 facility at the University of Colorado at Boulders Mountain Research Station that will provide researchers and students with year-round living and teaching quarters.
The new Fireweed Hostel, the first construction project at the station in 30 years, will replace the original hostel at the site. Considered by scientists to be one of the premier alpine research sites in the world, the Mountain Research Station is located 25 miles west of Boulder at an altitude of 9,500 feet and is administered by CU-Boulders Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research.
The new two-story, 3,200-square-foot building will include meeting facilities for up to 70 people, a full kitchen, several bathrooms and winterized sleeping areas for up to 32 people, said Steve Seibold, assistant director of the Mountain Research Station. Once the facility is completed, it will be available for short-term rental by university groups, corporations or private businesses to host meetings, seminars and retreats, he said.
CU has raised nearly $500,000 for the Fireweed Hostel construction project from an NSF grant and contributions from the CU Graduate school, INSTAAR and CUs Global Change and Environmental Quality Program.
Contributions also have been made by students in the environmental, population and organismic biology department, he said. The first phase of construction will be completed this spring, including the building shell, heating system and furnace room.
Because of rising construction costs, an additional $325,000 to $395,000 must be raised before the facility can be fully completed. Mountain Research
Station and CU Foundation employees are hopeful that private donors will step forward to help make up the financial shortfall, said William Bowman, director of the station.
The research station was established by CU in 1921 as a recreational and educational facility on land leased from the U.S. Forest Service. Field courses established that year have continued and expanded since then, although the station was closed during World War II. In 1929, Congress and President Herbert Hoover deeded the forest service land to the university.
The station is adjacent to Niwot Ridge, which rises in elevation to 13,500 feet and is one of only 18 Long-Term Ecological Research sites in North America funded by the National Science Foundation and the only one in an alpine environment. Featuring tundra, talus slopes, forests, glacial lakes and wetlands, the site is administered for NSF and the U.S. Forest Service by INSTAAR.
CU students and faculty and researchers from around the world use the study area to understand how the climate and environment is changing over decades and centuries naturally and because of human-caused disturbances.
Summer courses offered at the Mountain Research Station include plant and animal ecology, geologic field techniques, conservation biology, aquatic biology and the study of tree-rings. More than 800 scientific publications have been produced by researchers working at the station and dozens of graduate research projects have been completed by students from CU-Boulder and other universities around the world.
The Niwot Ridge study area features climate stations at varying altitudes and a state-of-the-art alpine tundra laboratory at an elevation of 11,565 feet. The tundra lab was recently wired with fiber-optic and high-voltage power lines, allowing for year-round research in a region where winds can approach 160 mph and the wind-chill factor can dip as low as 70 degrees below zero.