Published: Sept. 28, 2023

Situated in the Alpine tundra in the hills above Boulder, Colorado, Niwot Ridge’s Tundra Lab is among the highest research laboratories in the continental United States. The lab is a squat, hardened, concrete structure perched on stilts on the side of a mountain, more military bunker than college building. Yet the concrete semi-circle is just a gateway, a stopping point to towering peaks, six permanent glaciers and a sprawling valley of lakes that comprise the Niwot Ridge LTER. When I visit in April, the landscape is a patchwork of glaring white snow with gold-flecked tundra peeking through.

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Researcher measuring snow in the alpine