Anaiz Ruiz spent ten months living on a small commune in the Rocky Mountains that houses staff members of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL). The laboratory is located in an abandoned mining town called Gothic, Colorado. In 1924, Dr. John Johnson visited Gothic, Colorado and witnessed a rare amount of diversity in the local ecosystems. Johnson began return trips to Gothic with students to study its ecology. In 1928, RMBL was officially founded and has been heavily researched ever since.
Ruiz worked for RMBL as an intern over the summer. She was housed in a cabin in the woods with over ten other girls and no indoor plumbing. Her least favorite part of the experience was “not being able to shower every day.” While Ruiz’s least favorite part of her time at RMBL was not being able to bathe on a daily basis, the most challenging adjustment she had to make was to the elevation. The laboratory is located at 9,500 feet in elevation and the research the team conducts takes place anywhere from 8,000 to 12,000 feet in elevation. Chaffey College is elevated at 1745 feet above sea level. Ruiz cited the roughly 8,000 foot difference in elevation as her most difficult experience in transitioning from living in suburban California to the RMBL.
“Every day I got to wake up inside of nature. You walk outside and you see so many different types of wildlife” stated Ruiz, “When we would go into town, you would see deer walking through the streets.” The future ecologist worked along local streams, collecting samples of water containing different species of caddisfly. As caddisflies are collected, they are documented and reinserted into the habitat. After that, they are observed and analyzed along with other species of caddisfly. Scientists are looking for the ways in which the different species interact with each other. They want to see if the different species will lift one another up or if one will tear the other down, and the ways in which each group responds to cohabitating with the other.
Ruiz and her team at Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory found that one species of caddisfly migrated to a deeper level within the streams. While there is less oxygen for the caddisfly, the other caddisfly species living directly above them are unable and unwilling to go after them that deep in the stream. The team found that the species living above began to hunt other species of caddisfly, so those caddisflies moved to where the dominant species could not get to them. They found that these particular subjects did not coexist, but instead one dominated the other while the other adapted to avoid its new predator.
“I would never have been able to do this if it weren’t for Linda Lamp,” said Ruiz, “Without her, none of this would have been possible. I would recommend this internship to any student at Chaffey that has the opportunity to.” After ten weeks, Anaiz returned from her internship the Saturday before the 2019 fall semester began.