Bio Station grateful for community support during difficult time

by Ian Withrow
| November 18, 2020 3:10 AM

Well, here we are.

Winter seems fully upon us now, and Thanksgiving is just around the bend. Hard to imagine it’s been an entire year since we first met among these pages of the Bigfork Eagle. So much has happened since then. Unforeseen challenges. Unrelenting uncertainty. All aspects of our lives have been entwined by this leviathan of a pandemic, and now the ideas expressed in that first November 2019 column feel oh, so long ago and more than a little naïve.

But I’ve always been taught to find the silver lining, and for all of us at the Bio Station, in spite of everything, the silver lining of 2020 really does shine.

Flathead Lake is healthy! Our scientists are still conducting impactful and meaningful research. Our Flathead Lake Aquatic Research Education (FLARE) K-12 Program is finding innovative ways to connect with local schools through distance learning, virtual platforms and small, socially distanced field trips. We hosted summer interns, teacher workshops and artists-in-residence on our campus. We took advantage of decreased occupancy to address issues with our aging infrastructure. We also did our part in the fight against the pandemic, including using our 3D printers to create mask holders for local healthcare providers.

None of this would’ve been possible without the support of our incredible Bio Station community, for whom we are extremely appreciative. In the fall of 2018, the University of Montana (UM) publicly announced Campaign Montana, the state’s most ambitious fundraising effort to date. Understanding the overwhelming generosity of our donors, we aimed high at the Bio Station, setting a goal of $7.25 million toward the advancement of our research, monitoring, education and outreach programs, plus upgrades to our facilities and support for our talented students and personnel.

When Campaign Montana came to an end this summer, not only had UM exceeded its goal, but we were humbled and amazed that the Bio Station had surpassed ours by $1 million.

Back in my initial column, I made a promise that our discussions here would always be built upon a foundation of credibility and truth. I have not strayed from that commitment, and certainly don’t plan to today. So here’s a little more truth for you as we step carefully into the holiday season: Now more than ever, you are at the very heart of all that we do.

As I write this, our future remains unclear. This column comes to you, not from my Bio Station office at Yellow Bay, but from a makeshift desk in the basement of my Polson home. Through a window patterned with slowly melting snowflakes, my view is of the Mission Mountains, Polson Bay and the grand expanse of Flathead Lake sprawling beyond the Narrows, where a single ray of sunshine has broken through the storm. In the pauses between key strokes, I watch a flock of a geese depart on some long and transitional journey, and listen to my wife and young daughter as they laugh in the kitchen upstairs.

I have no idea what tomorrow might bring. I’m just as unsure and scared as anyone. But I do know that whatever awaits us, we always have reason to be grateful. And we always have reason to hope. They call Montana the Last Best Place for a reason. It’s the kindness, the generosity and the resilience of the people that call it their home. It’s you, in other words, that make this Last Best Place true.

From all of us at the Flathead Lake Biological Station, please accept our deepest and most heartfelt gratitude. We strive to be the research and education facility the Flathead Watershed and Montana deserve, and whether it be Thanksgiving or otherwise we are now and always so very thankful for all we’ve been given.

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Bio Station columnist Ian Withrow. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)