With a total wild population of less than 100 birds and falling, the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow is facing the very real possibility of extinction. Habitat loss and other factors have brought this Florida endemic (found only in Florida) sub-species to this point, but biologists haven’t given up.
“Sometimes things fit together so well you wonder why you didn’t think to try them earlier,” says Dustin Angell, Archbold Biological Station’s Education Coordinator. He is referring to Archbold’s ongoing collaboration with Costa Farms (formerly Delray Plants), to offer a science camp for their employees’ children. “This was our third summer running this custom program. It is our last week of camp, and I look forward to running it all season.”
Collaboration is the key to successful science and conservation. Most of Archbold Biological Station’s research collaborations occur at local or regional scales, involving working with other scientists or institutions who can offer complementary expertise, or share facilities, resources, or study sites. Some questions, however, are best answered through larger collaborative networks. The Nutrient Network (NutNet) is bringing together grassland researchers from around the world to contribute location specific data to a multi-year planet-wide ecology experiment, and Archbold is part of the project.
Newcomers to Highlands County are often impressed with the local bird life. Sandhill Cranes, Roseate Spoonbills, and Great Egrets dazzle with their size and beauty. Wood Storks feed in roadside ditches and Osprey nest in trees and on utility poles. Locals appreciate the delicate beauty of Tree Swallow flocks in the evening and know to await the appearance of Swallow-tailed Kites as one of the first signs of spring. Over 200 kinds of birds can be seen in Highlands County and some are better known than others. “There is one bird in Highlands County that most people who live or visit here have never heard of, and that’s unfortunate, because it’s Florida’s rarest and most imperiled one,” says Archbold’s Education Coordinator Dustin Angell. He aims to change that with a new photo essay called “Saving the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow.” Continue reading
Reflections on 1721’s Ordeal: 1721’s ordeal sparked strong emotions among Archbold researchers and other staff, the first obviously being a sense of outrage, not to mention extreme relief upon her safe return. For me, this was also mixed with a large dose of frustration. I am not naïve enough to think societal attitudes and cultural practices change overnight. However, I wish we could find ways to expedite human behavioral changes in response to new scientific knowledge. (Click here for Part I of this story)
Her Narrow Escape: On Tuesday 8th November 2016, while our country was holding national elections, Gopher Tortoise #1721 was grazing along the entrance drive to Archbold Biological Station in Venus, Florida. She was sporting a painted “1721” on her shell, for easy observation, and also had a small transmitter glued to her shell—so Archbold scientists could monitor her whereabouts.
Florida cattle ranches provide more than beef and beautiful views. Cattle share the land with a rich mix of wildlife, including birds like Crested Caracaras, Wild Turkeys, and Sandhill Cranes. Some ranchers are even helping solve Florida’s water management problems. They are working with the state government on controlling the flow of water on ranchlands to make things safer for people and wildlife downstream. Researchers from Archbold Biological Station are helping with the science. Continue reading
Imagine a species so rare and endangered that the person who named it thought it was extinct. What if you were one of the scientists chosen to save it from extinction? For the last ten years, that’s been the story for Stacy Smith, one of Archbold Biological Station’s plant ecologists. Last month she brought me along to see some science in action. Continue reading
If you have trouble imagining what it’s like to be an ecologist, try thinking of it like this: The job of an ecologist is like putting together a giant puzzle, only all the pieces are hidden and the puzzle keeps changing. Continue reading
If you want to find one of the rarest birds in America, you have to start early. You also need to train your hearing. The Florida Grasshopper Sparrow is hiding in a field of palmetto and grass, and the only way you’ll find him, without scaring him away, is to listen for a call that sounds remarkably like that of a grasshopper. And to catch him, you must convince him you’re another male, come to claim his territory.
Exploring nature with an artist is like seeing the world with new eyes. Last week I brought Conservation Artist Mollie Doctrow to one of Archbold’s oak hammocks. Continue reading
We love sharing our nature and conservation stories from Florida’s heartland! That is why we started The Scrub Blog in late October. Since then we published 10 posts, and received 1,500+ views from 29 countries! Thanks so much for your support. Please subscribe and share our posts with friends. Continue reading
Most people think of Florida’s scrublands as high and dry, but field biologist Becca Tucker knows that’s not always the case. Part of her job is to monitor some of the 350+ wetlands found at Archbold Biological Station. Exploring seasonal ponds is one of my favorite things to do with students, so when Becca offered me the chance to tag along, I didn’t hesitate to grab my camera and a pair of rubber boots. Continue reading