Deep Dive into the Flathead Lake Biological Station: Responding to COVID-19
Written from the perspective of FLBS Media and Information Specialist Ian Withrow, each "Deep Dive into FLBS" column features entirely original content and provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse at Bio Station science, researchers, partners and programs. Future installments are scheduled to be published by the Bigfork Eagle the third Wednesday of each month.
Responding to COVID-19
Earthquakes, blizzards, windstorms, pandemics … so much has happened since the last “Deep Dive” column published, much of it directly tied to the incessant and insidious spread of COVID-19, that I hardly know where to start. I suppose it would be best to take a breath, relax a little, and let you all know how the Bio Station is being impacted by and responding to these unprecedented challenges.
For the past few weeks we’ve been adhering to Governor Steve Bullock’s stay-at-home directive, with the vast majority of our team working from home. Only a skeleton crew remains on-site to keep our technology online, perform core administrative functions, maintain our infrastructure and conduct essential laboratory work. For these limited crewmembers, social distancing is a constant focus, and masks are being worn in any shared spaces.
In addition, we’ve called off all of our workshops and public events this spring, including the incredibly popular Science on Tap speaking event that we co-host with the Flathead Lakers and Flathead Lake Brewing Company. Currently, Science on Tap has been cancelled through the summer and is tentatively scheduled to return in August.
In the meantime, the Flathead Lakers are working to produce short Science on Tap videos from some of the more popular past events. We will provide updates on this project as soon as we can. We won’t officially be able to announce the status of our summertime research cruise and open house events until we are closer to their scheduled dates.
All right, time for some good news, because like so many of you out there, we at FLBS aren’t simply coping with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. We’re doing everything we can to rise above and do our part in the fight against it.
Here are a few examples:
Four bio station employees are first responders with various local volunteer fire departments. FLBS researchers Shawn Devlin and Tyler Tappenbeck and facilities technician Reggie Heiser are all on call, ready and willing to leave the safety of their homes to assist in any emergency that may arise. Additionally, the Yellow Bay Substation of the Finley Point Fire Department is based on bio station property. The bio station’s maintenance supervisor Eric Anderson is the fire captain, and they sure were busy clearing trees from Montana 35 after the Friday the 13th windstorm!
Our SensorSpace facility is helping local medical professionals by utilizing 3D printers to make reusable masks for healthcare providers at Kalispell Regional Healthcare. These “Montana Masks” have disposable N95 filters and we are hopeful that they will help the doctors, nurses and staff of Kalispell Regional continue to do their critical work as safely and effectively as possible.
To assist teachers and parents in this unprecedented time of at-home learning, bio station educator Holly Church launched an online platform for the new “Be Aquatic Invasive Species Aware” curriculum that was created with the support of FLBS, the Flathead Lakers, Montana Fish, Wildlife &; Parks and the Montana Department of Natural Resources. This virtual curriculum, which specifically engages middle school students with aquatic invasive species awareness and prevention tools, can be found on our website, and also includes hard-copy options for students without technology or internet access at home.
Ultimately, however, we’re in the same boat as everyone. We’re enduring, adapting and finding our way. Our Flathead Lake Monitoring Program, though impacted, continues. Our cutting-edge research, though adjusted, carries on. For over a century, we have served as the sentinel of the Flathead Watershed, an honor we will continue long after this pandemic is through.