Semester 41: Engaging, Understanding, and Improving

At HMI this week, academic studies have certainly been picking up in pace. One exciting science lab we are participating in currently pertains to the negative effects of mining on the environment. Towards the beginning of our semester, we came to understand simply that there were negative effects of the mining done in the mountains, but as the weeks have rolled past, we have dived deeper into what these effects are, and why they have come to be. Last week, we went to Lake Fork Creek to examine biodiversity and abundance of aquatic life in the water, both upstream and downstream of where acid mine drainage was leaking into the river. We were able to collect samples of the water and search for different kinds of small organisms, such as mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies. Our results were very informative, in that the upstream section of the river had a larger concentration and variety of life as compared to the downstream section. However, it was still not up to the standard of what perfectly unaffected water would look like, and upon further investigation we realized that the acid mine drainage that had been seeping out of the mines on the mountain were also being absorbed by the soil and the wetlands, then dispersed all around the area, getting into the river even upstream of the drainage deposit. This lab was quite engaging and certainly very important, as we learned how lack of environmental awareness when mining can have negative effects on life in the river, animals who use the river, and even humans who use the water from the river or nearby reservoir to drink. The problem was complex and difficult, but the larger implications of the overall issue definitely made the lab feel worth it. Next week, we are going to California Gulch just outside of Leadville to partake in more experiments with the water both upstream and downstream of the acid mine drainage deposit in order to widen our understanding of the problem in new areas.

This week in Leadville the weather has been hinting at winter. Temperatures are dropping, we’ve been seeing lots of drizzling rain and snow is in the forecast. But, the dreary weather has not stopped HMI students from enjoying every moment outside that they can. We’ve been bundling up to sit on Who’s Hall porch for meals, and students continue to enjoy walks and bike rides during their free periods. As the semester progresses our AMX runs (a morning exercise) have been continuously increasing in mileage. This week, students ran our second timed 2 mile run and some students improved their time by over 5 minutes. This shows the effort that we’ve been putting into improving our running and how rigorous morning exercise can be so beneficial. As we get more comfortable on campus, students have also been discovering the best ways to spend their free time. If all your work is done, it’s the perfect time to sign out and go for a walk, run or bike ride. This scheduled free time motivates students to work hard in their study halls to complete all their work so they can hang out with their friends during the day. We’ve been seeing students take these opportunities to do really creative and fun things. Some of us have been going for walks, taking photographs, organizing games and having dance parties. As we look forward to expedition, we’re also sad to leave all of the fun that we’ve been having on campus.

We had a jam-packed weekend here at HMI, complete with a fascinating science lab, a trip to the neighboring town of Salida, bowling, and a beautiful hike to the summit of Father Dyer Mountain. On Saturday evening we packed into the buses and made the 40 minute commute to Salida, a neighboring town that’s a little bigger than Leadville. We walked around, explored, and enjoyed a delicious picnic dinner. Then we headed back to the buses to go to a bowling alley, a long standing tradition of HMI’s. While there were definitely varying skill levels among the group, everyone had a great time goofing around and trying to knock down the pins—and there was some pretty cool costumes included. On Sunday there was an optional hike up Father Dyer Mountain, a peak near HMI that reaches about 13,900 ft. About half the class decided to go on the trip, while the rest hung back at HMI doing homework or kicking back around campus. The summit was beautiful, and made us all nostalgic for first expedition! The day ended with some more free time before dinner, and everyone was happy to have a fun and relaxing weekend before gearing up for another busy week at HMI!