Who is Ron Shimek anyway...

Me! Present (left) and past (right)

Casper, my buddy!

Casper and Lily, the newest member of our family.

He's had a hard day "supervisin..."  June 17, 2007.

I am one of a rare breed, a native Montanan.  I was born on 28 March 1948, Great Falls, Montana.  After many years living elsewhere, my wife and I presently reside in Wilsall, Montana.  Being a Montanan is somewhat of an embarrassment these days, considering that for the last 20 years or so, the state's politics were somewhat on the dark side of the middle ages.  As a whole, the people of this state, as indicated by their elected officials were/are anti-education, anti-progress, and anti-environment.  The 2004 election resulted in a change in the party holding the governor's office and the state senate; for the first time in about 20 years Democrats will be able to call some of the shots.  It remains to be seen, however, if anything meaningful can be done to reverse some of the damage done by the last 20 years of the rule of Republican idiots. The fact that there actually were state legislators that wanted to increase the acceptable amount of arsenic allowed in drinking water above the federal limits may give the reader a feeling for the competency of these people.  Given that heavy metal poisoning often results in mental disorders, perhaps these legislators had been brewing some arsenic tea for quite sometime. In any case, I have some hope that such idiocy is in the past.  Montana is a pretty nice place to live if you can ignore the nation's largest pollution Superfund site (the Butte area).

Where we live

Mosaic of satellite images of Central Montana, Northern Wyoming, and a bit of Eastern Idaho, showing Wilsall, Montana and the associated region.

A satellite view of Wilsall, Montana with Crazy Mountains to the east of town.

An aerial/satellite view of Wilsall, Montana, taken from "Google Earth" on 14 June, 2006.

Our house, taken from "Google Earth" on 14 June, 2006.  The image appears to have been taken in late summer of 2005.

The view east from my office window on the 13th of April, 2006, with the Crazy Mountains in the background. 

Wilsall, Montana From The Northeast on 9 September, 2007.

Thunder Jack , A Mountain Man, Symbolizing The First Europeans In Our Area.  A Bronze Sculpture On The Highway Just North Of Wilsall,  9 September, 2007. This Wonderful Sculpture Was The Gift Of One Of The Town's Businessmen.

I grew up in Great Falls in the EE (Eisenhower Era = "Paranoia R Us"...)  Malmstrom Air Force Base, a major Strategic Air Command base, is located at the east end of that city.  Now devoted to maintaining Minuteman missiles, during my youth its primary mission was air defense and as a base for refueling tankers.  I learned to "duck and cover" early.  In between learning the various warbles of air raid sirens, I became interested in aquatic and marine animals.  I started keeping fresh-water aquaria when I was about 12. Was fairly successful, and was soon selling Angelfish and Betta s to the local pet stores.  Additionally, I did a lot of reading as a kid, and was fascinated by marine biology.  Was hooked early, I guess.

Had my first "marine" experiences with actual living animals in a salt-water fish tank when I was 14. I wanted an sea anemone in with my neon gobies and a small queen angelfish, so the dealer sent me one. As I look back on it now, they sent me a large Aiptasia ... and gee, I was happy to have it! As might be expected, that tank didn't last too long, and I went back to keeping exclusively freshwater aquaria.  During my high school years, I was blessed by several excellent teachers, Dr. Jerry Lightner and Mr. Paul Hudson among them.  These gentlemen "set the hook."  I was destined to become a biologist.

Started college in 1966 at Montana State University in Bozeman where I majored in Zoology. No aquaria during this phase of life. Had some excellent instructors during this period, too. Drs. Robert Moore and Harold Picton, especially, contributed to keeping my interesting in things zoological at a high pitch. Spent the summer of my sophomore year on a summer research fellowship at the Georgetown Medical/Dental School in Washington, DC, and learned that I REALLY didn't want to become a member of the medical profession.  The next summer was spent the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts learning about marine ecology and invertebrate biology. Decided at this time that Invertebrates were THE animals - everything else was insignificant.

Started graduate school at the University of Washington in the autumn of 1970, and resurrected my fresh-water fish hobby. What better way to supplement the meager grad student wages than by selling fish to the local pet stores? My wife and I specialized in raising wild-type green swordtails. I got scuba certified in early 1971.


Got married in June of 1971 to a beautiful young woman, Roxie Fredrickson, who after all these years is still a beautiful young woman and  the joy of my life.

Started work at the UW Friday Harbor Laboratories in 1971, and started keeping marine aquaria for research animals and various pets at that time. I had marine and freshwater tanks in my research areas for the remainder of my time near the coast (until 1985). Most of these systems were open flow-through but many were closed systems. Primarily I kept mollusks, echinoderms, and cnidarians; most of these animals were also research subjects, but some were strictly pets.

Graduate school came to an end in 1977, when I was awarded a Ph. D. for my efforts.  Most of my work involved direct effort on the natural history, morphology, and population ecology of turrid gastropods.  Did a lot of secondary work with sea anemones, sea stars, sea urchins, tunicates and some fish.  Subsequently, I learned what a bad career choice my research specialty was as nobody, except me, cared about turrid gastropods.  Sigh...

Took a position as Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Alaska, Anchorage in 1977. Was selected as Department Chair in 1979.  We left Anchorage in 1980....  It was not a good place to live for us, but was able to get some more anemone and snail work done whilst there.  

We went back to Friday Harbor, Washington where I entered the ghetto of unemployed marine biologists (called "Independent Investigators") who were working at the labs there while submitting job applications. Found that I could wallpaper my office with the rejection letters I received (In 1977 there were 60+ invertebrate biology jobs advertised, in 1981 there were 3... lotsa competitors so jobs became tough to get). See note of bad career choice above.  In 1981 I did some diving and a bit of informal research at Cozumel in the Caribbean.

Started doing environmental consulting during this period, and also working on other projects. Was also teaching part time where ever I could; worked up and down the coast.

In 1983, I took a two-year contract as Assistant Director of the Bamfield Marine Station (now Bamfield Marine Science Centre) on Vancouver Island, BC, where I had taught Marine Invertebrate Zoology for the preceding two years. Did a lot of work on scaphopod mollusks and sea anemone interactions during this period.  Also went to Palau for the first-time. Was also chief scientist for a PISCES IV research submersible program and got about 25 dives done in various localities surrounding the marine station.  Left Bamfield at the termination of my contract in 1985 and moved to Tucson.  Bamfield gets 110 inches of rain a year... A drying out phase was needed. In Tucson, I became a research associate at the University of Arizona.  We only kept freshwater aquaria while in Tucson.  We really liked the Tucson area, and probably should not have left there.

Returned to the Pacific NW in 1986 with a temporary summer teaching position at the Friday Harbor Labs. Subsequently taught as a temporary instructor at many of the colleges in the Seattle area for a year or so after that. Did a research cruise and several submersible dives as a senior postdoctoral fellow at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Florida in 1988.  

In the summer of 1988 I hired on as the head of the marine biology section at an environmental consulting firm in the Seattle area. Soon was into consulting "big time" - had lots of high profile and high stress jobs during most of the next five years. After a couple of years of this, I decided I didn't like being a professional biological consultant for a large company, but having gotten fully yuppified, and in debt up beyond my eyeballs, I couldn't afford to leave.

Got my first reef tank in 1991.  As a high-priced consultant, I had relatively few opportunities to actually do field work; I was too expensive and the company kept me busy writing.  So, getting the reef aquarium was my way to remain familiar the animals. Shortly after setting up my tank I became active in the (now defunct) Pacific NW Reef Club and soon became editor of the club newsletter.

Went on my second diving trip to Palau in 1992. Took all sorts of environment measuring equipment along, and generally had almost no success at measuring the parameters I wanted to measure. Such is the life of research in the slow lane.

Quit the consulting firm in 1993 and set up my own company. Figured if I was going to be exploited as a consultant - well, I wanted all the profits.  Yeah...sure... 

During the years from 1986 through 1992, we got progressively more and more disenchanted with the Seattle area; the miserable commutes and the gray drizzle eight months of the year finally wore us down and we decided to chuck it all and move back to Montana.  The wide open spaces and sheer beauty of the state brought us back, and remain the major factors keeping us here.  

Moved back to Montana in February of 1994, and set up my reef aquarium here in the hinterlands.  It is nice to have a slice of the tropics in one's office on those winter days when the temperature is cold enough to freeze the mercury in a thermometer.  Was, for a while, an Affiliate Associate Professor of Ecology at Montana State University, and taught a few courses there, but what had been a good zoology department has turned into a landscape ecology department.  As a result, invertebrates, except insects and a few fresh water species in other taxa, have vanished from the scope of all at that school, as did any involvement with me.  Subsequent to returning to Montana, I taught Maine Invertebrate Zoology at the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, in the summers of 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2003.  After the last course there,  I decided to terminate that relationship.


Ron Shimek