Where the Nightjars Are…Research on Nightjars at Archbold Biological Station

Author: Dr. Reed Bowman


A Chuck-will’s-widow perched on a branch during the daytime. These are nocturnal birds that capture flying insects in the dark. “Chuck-wills-widow” by Scott Heron is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Native Floridians probably grew up listening to the rhythmic call of the Chuck-will’s-widow, singing its name over and over. The Chuck-will’s-widow is nocturnal, a member of a family of birds known as nightjars. In Highlands County, they breed in the spring and summer but fly south for the winter, only to be replaced here in the winter by the Whip-poor-will, another nightjar that breeds farther north. A vast trove of folklore exists around these birds. Their scientific name Caprimulgidae, literally means “goat milkers,” as they were thought to feed on the milk of lactating goats at night. Rather both species are aerial insectivores, mostly catching flying insects on the wing in the middle of the night. The birds have tiny bills that belie their enormous mouths and stiff whiskers to catch moths flitting in the dark. The whiskers are sensitive to touch and help direct insects into their mouth. Think of them as large catcher mitts and the ball is the flitting unpredictable insects. Both species are declining in numbers throughout their range, especially in Florida, yet relatively little is known about them here. In 2019, Dr. Reed Bowman, Director of the Avian Ecology Program at Archbold Biological Station, and Yosvany Rodriguez, a post-baccalaureate research intern from Franklin and Marshall College, began studying them at Archbold. Dr. Bowman said “The decline of these species may be driven by changes in flying insect populations or changes in species’ breeding or wintering habitat. We wanted to understand their preferences for different habitats and patches burned at different times here at Archbold. Does our fire management benefit them?”

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A Brief History of Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch 2S cattle-holding brand

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The Buck Island Ranch 2S branding iron. Photo by Mary Margaret Hardee.

Author:  Hilary Swain

There have been many stories over the years regarding the meaning behind the Buck Island Ranch 2S brand. Some say it had no significance at all. However, those in the cattle business know there is always some meaning behind a ranch’s holding brand.

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Long Live the Florida Rosemary

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From left to right: intern Seth Raynor, intern Lily Fulton, research assistant Lexi Siegle-Bates, and research assistant Scott Ward work together to measure large rosemary. Photo by volunteer Linda Gette.

Author:  Lexi Siegle-Bates

Scientists at Archbold Biological Station work in some of Florida’s unique habitats. One of these interesting habitats is known as ‘Rosemary Scrub’ or, more informally, a ‘rosemary bald.’ You may have walked through a rosemary bald before without even knowing it. A rosemary bald is a relatively open landscape characterized by large Florida Rosemary shrubs (Ceratiola ericoides), and a few other dominant plants. Not many other plant species can grow in this habitat.  This is partly due to allelopathy, which is when plants release chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants. In particular, Florida Rosemary plants secrete a chemical known as ceratiolin, which prevents most other plants from germinating in the area surrounding the rosemary shrubs.  Allelopathic interference, droughty soils, and other environmental limitations, result in patches of bare sand forming between rosemary shrubs, hence the name ‘Rosemary Bald.’ Since there is not much competition from other plants, rosemary shrubs can grow in large clusters, often with 100’s of individual plants in a small area. Florida Rosemary is also a long-lived perennial shrub with a steady growth rate, meaning it can often grow taller and wider than the scientists at Archbold!

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The Red Widow Spider: A Secretive, Harmless Resident in Florida Scrub

Author: Dr. Jim Carrel

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Female Red Widow Spider. Photo by Jim Carrel.

Hidden away in the native scrub habitats at the Archbold Biological Station is a rare spider whose presence generally goes unknown to all but ardent field biologists. The Red Widow Spider spends most of its life hidden in short palmetto bushes.  Its world-wide range is restricted to undisturbed sand ridges in four central counties and two counties near Florida’s Atlantic coast. Dr. Jim Carrel, Research Associate at Archbold and former professor of biology at the University of Missouri, explains, “Although this species has a toxic venom like the dreaded Black Widow, there is no record of it having ever harmed a person. This is not at all surprising considering how much work I have to do to find them. The likelihood of anyone encountering a Red Widow by chance is near zero.”

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Settling down and having kids changes birds’ social lives too

Author: Dr. Angela Tringali

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Four Florida Scrub-Jays perch above oak scrub at Archbold Biological Station. Photo by Dr. Reed Bowman.

There are numerous articles on how friendships change in your 20s, 30s, and after marriage or parenthood. What we do not know is how ubiquitous these changes are throughout the animal kingdom. Researchers at Archbold Biological Station describe the social lives of Florida Scrub-Jays in different stages of life.

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Eavesdroppers and snoops in the scrub!

Authors: Eli Haines-Eitzen, Abby Parker, Natasha Radic, and Keith Tarvin


A model Florida Scrub-Jay mounted on the top of a 15-foot pole appears to be ‘on sentinel,’ scanning its surroundings for predators. A rope and pulley system allows the researchers to raise the box below the model, causing the sentinel to ‘disappear.’ Photo by Keith Tarvin.

Have you ever noticed how strange or awkward it feels when a murmuring crowd suddenly goes quiet for no apparent reason? As a member of such a crowd, perhaps in an auditorium before a speech or performance, chances are you never really notice the murmuring until it stops. But once it ceases, you may look up and scan the room to see what caused the sudden hush–is there a problem? Does someone know something that you don’t?

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Oberlin College Biologists Study Mosquito and Bird Behavior at Archbold


Oberlin College Researchers at Archbold Biological Station. From left to right: Keith Tarvin, Eli Haines-Eitzen, Madeleine Gefke, Mary Garvin, Natasha Radic, Abby Parker, Katherine Karson. Photo by Katherine Karson.

Authors: Madeleine Gefke, Katherine Karson, and Mary Garvin

During their winter January Term, faculty and students from Oberlin College visited Archbold Biological Station to research mosquito and bird behavior. Biology Professors Mary Garvin and Keith Tarvin established a base at Red Hill and were joined by Oberlin students Katherine Karson, Madeleine Gefke, Natasha Radic, Eli Haines-Eitzen, and Abby Parker. Having returned to chilly Ohio in early February for their spring semester, the students are grateful for the opportunity to have experienced Archbold and the amazing Florida scrub. Below, we describe the Garvin team research, and next week we will report on the Tarvin team research.

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The Richard Archbold Archive


Richard Archbold circa 1930, mounted in the original cardboard frame from the photographer. Photo credit:  Kaiden Studios, Inc.

Author:  Joe Gentili

Richard Archbold, founder of Archbold Biological Station in Venus, Florida, spent the period from the late 1920’s until the beginnings of WWII on a series of expeditions that took him across the globe. In conjunction with the American Museum of Natural History, he led three scientific expeditions to New Guinea and participated in an earlier one to Madagascar. During his travels to and from these expeditions, he and his crew visited places as far flung as Hawaii, Australia, and Equatorial Africa. Along the way, he accumulated a wealth of photographs, documents, artifacts, and more. The official Archbold Expeditions materials are archived at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, but his personnel collection from the expeditions, as well as other personal and family memorabilia are housed at Archbold Biological Station. These materials are collectively known as the Richard Archbold Archive: Archbold Librarian Joe Gentili said, “The overarching goal of the Richard Archbold Archive is to protect and preserve Mr. Archbold’s materials.”

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Small Footprint, Substantial Facelift

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BEFORE: Disturbance, buildings, an old tennis court, and a large stand of non-native bamboo on the future location of Archbold’s Learning Center and Lodge in March 2005. Main Drive is on the right. Photo credit: Archbold Biological Station

Author:  Dr. Hilary Swain

Every real estate person lives by the maxim—location, location, location.  When Archbold designed and built the Station’s Frances Archbold Hufty Learning Center, location was the pressing issue. But it wasn’t about where to site a new facility to increase market value. Dr. Hilary Swain explained there were many questions for Archbold staff, the architect, and the engineers: “Could Archbold add a large new facility dedicated to outreach and education while minimizing impacts?  Could a building serve as a portal to the Florida scrub and be in harmony with nature? Could it be built without disturbing or degrading any native scrub or wetland habitats? Could the design complement the existing historic buildings and not detract from their appearance?” The answers were all yes; Archbold selected a location that met all these goals, but it took a lot of thinking and planning to get there. This is the second in a series of monthly articles on the principles of ‘green building’ design, using Archbold’s Learning Center to illustrate how to build while also enhancing rather than degrading the environment.

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Found Nowhere Else: Florida Ziziphus


Seedlings grown from seeds placed into an introduction Photo Credit: Archbold Biological Station’s Plant Ecology Program

Author: Rohan Patel

We are situated on a unique landscape, the Lake Wales Ridge. Formed millions of years ago when most of Florida was underwater, it is one of the most diverse spots in Florida, home to dozens of rare and endangered species found nowhere else on Earth. One of the rarest is Florida Ziziphus..

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Restoring Florida Scrub Across Ridges


The Plant Ecology Program crew along with St. Lucie County land managers begin clearing encroaching oaks from a population of Lakela’s Mint. Left to right: Seth Raynor, Lexi Siegle-Bates, Angela Soto, Drew Cunningham (St. Lucie County) and Stephanie Koontz. Photo credit: Scott Ward.

Author: Stephanie Kootnz

Running north south along the eastern coast of the Florida peninsula, the original habitat of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge exists as small remnants of Florida scrub dotting the landscape, nestled between hospitals, county buildings and major highways. These scrub patches are relics of what the ridge looked like long before development. Similar to the Lake Wales Ridge in central Florida, the Atlantic Coastal Ridge is an ancient sand dune paralleling the Atlantic coast of Florida from St. John’s County south to Palm Beach County. It shares many of the same plant and animal species found in Florida scrub habitat in Highlands and Polk counties; however, this ridge is much younger at around 130,000 years old compared to the Lake Wales Ridge which likely exceeds 1-2 million years in age. Even so, while the Lake Wales Ridge has many more endemic species, plants and animals found only on the Lake Wales Ridge, the Atlantic Coastal Ridge has endemics unique to its dune system.

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Mint Monitoring: near and far



Titusville Mint (Dicerandra thinicola) grows only in Brevard County, FL. Photo by Scott Ward


Author: Scott Ward

In November of 2019, the Plant Ecology Program at Archbold Biological Station completed its 19th year of monitoring, of a rare mint, Titusville Balm (Dicerandra thinicola), found only in Brevard County. In addition to this species, staff also worked in Highlands County to monitor populations of two other rare mint species that only grow in Florida: Garrett’s Mint (Dicerandra christmanii) and Lake Placid Scrub Balm (Dicerandra frutescens).

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Color the Scrub!


Some awesome fourth grade students and their wonderful teachers posing with the new Scrub Coloring Books after a field trip out in the Scrub at Archbold Biological Station. Photo by Dustin Angell.

Author by: Megan Selva

Archbold Biological Station is pleased to announce its release of its fourth edition of The Scrub Coloring Book! Thanks to a wonderful and generous donation by Dr. Warren Abrahamson and his wife Chris, Archbold was able to revise and print the latest edition of its coloring activity book. This book is given as a gift to children that participates in an Archbold field trip with their school, or visits with their family.

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Archbold visits Ringling Museum for Arts Solutions


Art and Science Incubator participants on a tour of Ringling Museum of Art. Photo by Gavin Bacon.

Author: Dustin Angell

There is a saying that goes, “It’s not like ecology is rocket science… it is much harder.” That facetious phrase reminds us that ecosystems—habitats and the web of life they support—are more complicated than perhaps they seem. Communicating environmental issues can be challenging as well. How do you make something relevant that to many people is… uninteresting? Depressing? Frightening? Challenging? Archbold Biological Station in Venus, FL is turning to the arts to help connect people with science and hoping it can bring out the human side of environmental issues.

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Harvesting the Sunlight


Building design features for harvesting sunlight in Archbold’s Learning Center. Drawing credit: Archbold Biological Station.

Author: Hilary Swain

Have you ever wondered why some buildings feel so light and airy throughout whereas others have dark corners, even in rooms with plenty of windows? Or, been frustrated switching on indoor lights on a bright, sunny day in Florida just to see what you are doing? Or, felt gloomy losing your view and the sunlight when pulling down the blinds to keep out the heat? Archbold Biological Station’s Frances Archbold Hufty Learning Center provides answers to these and other questions. This is the first in a series of monthly articles on the principles of ‘green building’ design, using this building to illustrate how to save water and energy and to improve the quality of life indoors.

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Archbold’s 4th Annual Research Symposium: Transending Scientific Borders



Presenters at the 4th Annual Archbold Research Symposium. Archbold scientists were joined by collaborators from the University of Florida, University of Miami and University of Central Florida.
Photo by Bill Parken.

Authors: Stephanie Koontz and Becky Windsor

On Thursday, December 12th, 2019 Archbold staff, collaborators, and visitors gathered for the 4th Annual Archbold Research Symposium to learn what Archbold Biological Station scientists were up to the past year. A crowd of nearly 60 people listened to talks and viewed posters from scientific programs such as Avian Ecology, Plant Ecology, Herpetology, Restoration Ecology, Agro Ecology, and Invertebrate Ecology, but also heard from the Education, Archives, and Land Management Programs. “The diversity of topics in this year’s research symposium were great,” said Dr. Angela Tringali of the Avian Ecology Program. “We jumped all around Archbold, from birds, to summer campers, to plants, to history, to cattle ranches. There is just so much going on and it’s incredible to hear about it all at once.”

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Archbold Air Support


A photo of Archbold Biological Station taken during sunrise. Photo by Kevin Main.

Author: Paul Ruben

Archbold Biological Station continues to implement new data collecting technologies using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly referred to as ‘drones’. The Archbold Drone Program is expanding due to the kindness of generous donors, which allowed the Station to recently hire Geographic Information System (GIS) Research Assistant Paul Ruben. Ruben joins a small group of Archbold staff and consultants who are FAA Part 107 certified drone pilots. “I’m excited to work for such a storied science and conservation organization and to have the opportunity to use the newest technology in my field,” said Ruben. “Honestly, it’s a lot of fun and really amazing what drones are capable of teaching us,” he continued while watching a drone fly overhead on a mission to map the details of an earlier prescribed burn on the Station. “We use drones to map the boundary of a prescribed burn and document the fire intensity where the burn spread across different plant communities”.

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Weather, Weather, Weather Data


Main Weather Station at Archbold Biological Station. Photo by Kevin Main

Author: Kevin Main

Weather data have been collected at Archbold Biological Station for nearly 90 years,” said Kevin Main, Land Manager for Archbold. “We have daily high and low temperature, and daily rainfall going back to 1931. In 1982 additional sensors were added to measure humidity, soil temperatures, and evaporation, and in 2006 we got an automated system that records even more detailed weather data.” The Station currently records 15-minute data for temperature, rainfall, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, soil temperature and moisture (at three depths), barometric pressure, and light intensity. Archbold uses the data in conjunction with the many research projects that require precise information about weather conditions and trends.

“Weather data are also useful during prescribed fires,” Main said. “I can access the data from my smartphone and look at trends in humidity, wind speed and wind direction during the day, which helps me make decisions for managing the fire.”

The Archbold weather station happens to be located in a rather cold spot. “I have received several calls over the years questioning our low temperatures. It can be 5-10 degrees colder at the Archbold weather station than other locations just a few miles away, and it’s not because of a faulty temperature sensor. We have two professional grade sensors on site, and both are always within a degree of each other,” said Main. “The record low recorded at Archbold was 13 degrees Fahrenheit, on January 12, 1982 and January 5, 2001. The temperature has sunk into the teens 23 days in the last 50 years. Snow was recorded for one day, January 19th, 1977, when a “trace” of snow was recorded.

While Florida certainly feels hot in the summer, the actual temperature rarely gets above 100 degrees F. The highest temperature recorded at Archbold in the last 50 years was 103 degrees F, on July 3rd, 1998. The daily high temperature was 100 degrees F, or higher, just 24 times since 1969.

Hurricanes are a big driver of weather during the summer months. The weather station has recorded tropical winds and rain multiple times. The single largest rainfall event was caused by Hurricane How on October 2nd, 1951, when 12.15 inches of rain fell in a one-day period. The most recent hurricane to affect this area was Hurricane Irma, in 2017. Archbold received 8.89 inches of rain over a two-day period and had peak winds of 97 mph (which ended up being one of the highest reliable wind readings on the Florida peninsula during the passing of the storm).

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Hurricane Irma’s path across Florida. Archbold received heavy rains
and wind from the eastern eye wall of the storm. Photo credit: National Weather Service

Archbold’s weather data are provided to the National Weather Service through the Service’s Cooperative Observer Program. “We have been an observer station for the National Weather Service since 1969, and we recently received an award from them for 50 years of service,” said Main.

“The Archbold weather data are not currently publicly available online in real time from Archbold, although you can retrieve daily data from the National Weather Service”, says Hilary Swain, Archbold Director. “Data from private weather stations like Archbold can also be viewed on websites such as Weather Underground. Vivienne Sclater, who heads up data management at Archbold, is moving us over to a new data management system in the coming months and that should rectify some of the challenges of making more Archbold monitoring data available to the public in the future.” If you are interested in local weather, there are several other weather stations in this area that provide data. NOAA maintains a very extensive Climate Reference Network (CRN) station on Archbold property a little further south towards Venus with 15-minute data for many meteorological measurements. (https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/crn/station.htm?stationId=1530). Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch has an extensive network of weather stations and data from the Ranch’s main weather station are streamed to the US Department of Agriculture for posting online. The Florida Agricultural Weather Network (FAWN) is another source of weather data locally, supporting a weather station in Sebring and another in Palmdale (https://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/) with publically accessible data.

The Bad Seed: A Tangled Tale


Dense stand of Tanglehead Grass along Old State Route 8 beside the Archbold Biological Station. Photo credit: Archbold Biological Station

Author: Mark Deyrup

As one approaches the Archbold Biological Station on Old State Route 8 both sides of the road are lined with dense even stands of knee-high grass. A distinctive feature of this grass is its clumps of messy blackish seed heads. The same grass can be found along many roads through Highlands County. While not unattractive to look at, woe betide anybody attempting to walk through this grass when it is producing seed, for they will end up with hundreds of sharp-pointed seeds working through socks and even through fabric running shoes. This plant is Tanglehead Grass (scientific name Heteropogon contortus). Tanglehead seeds also work their way into the fur of animals, and where tanglehead is abundant in other states it can prevent raising sheep because of the intense irritation caused by seeds penetrating the wool and lodging in skin.

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A Big Batch of Beetles


The Gray Blister Beetle Epicauta heterodera visiting flowers of Palafoxia for nectar and pollenPhoto Credit: Archbold Biological Station

Author: Mark Deyrup

The living world may be richer and more interesting than we imagine, so much so that it is a major challenge to formally assess this wealth. At the Archbold Biological Station scientists have recently measured one dimension of this rich living heritage. After much patient work in the field and laboratory, Archbold staff and visiting researchers have recorded and collected specimens over decades allowing compilation of a mammoth list of 1,709 different species of beetles that that have been documented on the Station. There is probably no other site in North America with such a comprehensive specimen-based catalog of beetles.

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Spiders at Archbold: What Has Been Learned in Past 70 Years

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Female Workman’s Jumping Spider found on low growing shrubs in dry, open scrub and sandhill habitats on the Lake Wales Ridge. Notice bright green jaws.
Photo by: Giff Beaton

Author: Jim Carrel

In the past three years information about every spider species archived in the museum collection at the Archbold Biological Station has been computerized. Each listing for 482 preserved individuals includes the spider’s scientific name (taxonomic family, genus, and species), latitude and longitude for where it was collected, as well as the month and year it was found. This information recently became available free-of-charge to anyone in the world at the web site Global Biodiversity Information Facility (www.gbif.org).

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Helping Rare Plants Survive

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From left to right: Angela Soto, Megan Verner-Crist, and Lexi Siegle-Bates wrap up the project.
Photo Credit: Katherine Charton

Author: Lexi Siegle

This summer, biologists with the Plant Ecology Program at Archbold Biological Station were on a mission: to bolster a newly discovered population of a rare mint plant called  Scrub Balm (Dicerandra frutescens). The property where the new population was found is near Lake Placid and managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. It was recently surveyed for rare plants. When the previously undocumented population of Scrub Balm was found, biologists were excited about the discovery since only a dozen populations of this rare plant were already known. There were, however, very few plants in the newly discovered population, meaning it was vulnerable to extirpation. Thus began a plan to augment the population.

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To Move or Not to Move, That’s the Frog’s Question

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Adult Gopher Frog following capture. Photo by Garrett Lawson

Author: Garret Lawson

Habitat alteration is one of the greatest threats facing wildlife species that have specialized food and shelter preferences. Discovering whether—and how—native species use human-modified habitats is an important part of understanding their likelihood of persisting in changing landscapes. This is an especially interesting question for amphibians that use both aquatic and terrestrial habitats, like the Gopher Frog.

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Archbold Students Disperse Far and Wide

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Rachel King (left) discusses her research poster with Jennifer Jones at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.
Photo Credit: Eric Menges

Author: Dr. Eric Menges

Over the years, hundreds of students and scientists get training and research experience at Archbold Biological Station. What happens to all these bright minds? Many things, it turns out. Some are graduate students, some professors, some work for government agencies, and others for non-profits. But they never forget their Archbold roots. This August, thousands of ecologists gathered for the largest such conference, The Ecological Society of America’s  Annual Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. Among them were over a dozen Archbold alumni.

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Archbold joins Ranch to Ridge Expedition traversing Highlands and Polk Counties


The route of the 2019 Ranch to Ridge Expedition from Highlands Hammock Park to the Tiger Creek Preserve. Photo Credit: Florida Wildlife Corridor

Author: Hilary Swain

On Saturday, October 19, three intrepid Florida Wildlife Corridor explorers, Carlton Ward Jr., Mallory Dimmitt, and Joe Guthrie completed the final day of their 7-day 2019 expedition south to north through Highlands, Hardee, and Polk County. Joe Guthrie described their route: “We started in Highlands Hammock State Park, going west of the Ridge, turning north to traverse private ranches and public lands on foot and horseback, then trekked east across US 27 near the Frostproof junction into a conservation bank and state and federal lands, and ended up on paddleboards at The Nature Conservancy’s Tiger Creek Preserve on the Ridge near Lake Wales.”

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Teaming Up for Global Grasslands


Dr. Betsey Boughton, Agroecology Research Director at Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch, monitoring plant species composition in the grassland experiment.
Photo Credit: Research Intern, Jessica Patterson

Author: Dr. Betsey Boughton

Grasslands make up more than 40 percent of the world’s ice-free land. Grasslands are important because they have sustained humanity and thousands of other species for centuries. But today, those grasslands are shifting beneath our feet. Global change—which includes climate change, pollution and other widespread environmental alterations—is transforming the plant species growing in grasslands, and not always in the ways scientists expected. Continue reading

How Flowering Responds to Climate

Author: Eric Menges

Since the 1980s, Archbold Biological Station has provided a post-baccalaureate internship program (offered to individuals after they have completed their undergraduate degree). Over the years this has provided hands-on research experience to more than 500 college graduates. “Interns benefit from living at a biological field station, being trained in field research, and completing their independent research project,” explains Dr. Hilary Swain, Executive Director. “It is one of only a few programs nationwide that allows recent graduates to gain research experience before they commit to a graduate program or choose another career path.”

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A Look at Archbold’s Library

Author: Joe Gentili

Libraries have had a place in all societies with written works for thousands of years. They come in many shapes and sizes and each is designed to serve a different function and a different base of users. Many people are exposed to libraries in the form of their local public branch or perhaps a library in their school. For over seven decades, employees at Archbold Biological Station have had access to a different kind of library, one with the specialized materials and resources that scientists need to do the research they are engaged in.

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Post-doc Student Working at Archbold: Searching for Hidden Drivers of Florida’s Rarest Plants

By Maya Bell, University of Miami

There is a new collaboration growing at Archbold Biological Station, but it is so small, you can’t even see it. Over the last month, post-doctoral researcher Daniel Revillini from the University of Miami has been planting thousands of seeds—some smaller than a speck of dust, others the size of a grain of rice—into hundreds of tiny pots in a makeshift grow house in the basement of the university’s Cox Science Building. The goal is to find out if soil microorganisms, too small to see, affect the fates of these seeds.

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Exploring novel objects, novel places, and novel technology

Author: Dr. Angela Tringali

Researchers at Archbold Biological Station are gathered around a computer screen, watching a video of a bird hop around a doll. The bird is gathering peanuts that have been placed around the doll’s feet. The doll is a troll doll, complete with brightly colored hair and a jeweled belly button. The bird is a Florida Scrub-Jay, a highly social member of the crow family. As the jay gathers the peanuts surrounding the doll’s feet, it hops in a semi-circle from the doll’s rear to its smiling face. Mouth full of peanuts, the jay lifts its head. It finds itself eye to eye with the troll and jumps straight into the air before fluttering backward.

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Children Imagine their Science Futures in an Archbold Art Project

Author: Dustin Angell

What did you want to be when you were a child? Did you ever dress up and pretend to be an astronaut, police officer, or maybe the President? This summer, campers at Archbold Biological Station in Venus, Florida pictured their future science careers during an original arts project called #MyScienceFuture. For more than 100 children attending Archbold’s Ecology Summer Camp sessions, this multi-day project culminated in professional photo shoots and messages they wrote for themselves, their families, and the public. #MyScienceFuture combines photography appreciation, imaginative play, drawing, and creative writing as tools for learning about nature and science.

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Intern to Professor Trajectory began at Archbold

Author: Dr. Jennifer Schafer

The first time Dr. Jennifer Schafer drove down Old State Road 8 and past the Spanish moss-covered oaks along the driveway into Archbold Biological Station, it was October 2001 and she was excited about her first job outside the Midwest. It did not take long for her to fall in love with the Florida scrub—the views from the Florida rosemary scrub patches, the sunsets over pines and palmettos, and the high level of endemism—species not seen anywhere else in the world. Eighteen years later, she is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Winthrop University in South Carolina and a Research Affiliate at Archbold, focusing on studies of plant ecology. And now, when she drives down Old State Road 8, she feels like she’s coming home.

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Hitchhiking Lizards

Author: Amanda West

Florida’s warm winters make it an ideal place for non-native reptiles to survive when transplanted here.  When a new species gains a foothold in south Florida, it may continue spreading northward, a process known as ‘secondary dispersal’.  In March, Archbold Biological Station researchers caught a small lizard making just such a move.
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Minty Fresh Conservation

Author: Stephanie Koontz

In conservation sometimes rare plants and animals need a little boost in numbers to help populations in the wild rebound or remain stable. For plants, this is typically done by directly sowing seeds or by collecting seeds or stems from plants in the wild, growing them up in a greenhouse, and then re-planting them into their natural habitat. These translocations can be to new sites, where the habitat is right, or to existing populations in the wild. The Plant Ecology Program at Archbold Biological Station has successfully conducted three translocations of one of the rarest mints on our planet, Garrett’s Mint (Dicerandra christmanii), found only in Highlands County, Florida. “Through these efforts, we hope to keep this unique little mint around for generations to enjoy”, exclaims Program Director Eric Menges.

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Citizen Scientists in Highlands County

This week many people across the country are celebrating ‘Citizen Science’.  What is citizen science? Are there local citizen science programs? Who do you contact if you want to become a citizen scientist?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines citizen science as: “scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions.”  “Many citizen science projects are aimed at improving our understanding of life of Earth and how ecosystems are changing over time” says Dr. Hilary Swain, Director at Archbold Biological Station. In the era of ‘big data’, the Internet and ‘real time data’, citizen science is undergoing a revolution. Professional scientists only have their eyes and ears directly on a few places at any one time, limiting the number of places at which scientific data are collected and how often data can be collected. By adding the observations of well-trained citizens, science is expanding its reach. Scientists including those at Archbold, now engage the general public by developing straightforward protocols, providing training, and using powerful computer analytical tools to verify the quality of the data submitted.
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Back from the Brink

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Flowers of Florida Ziziphus coat almost every leafless branch when at peak flowering. Photo credit Cheryl Peters

Winter for most of the United States is defined by cold temperatures, leafless trees, and in some states, lots of snow. Most flora and fauna have gone dormant or are hibernating, awaiting warmer spring temperatures. For many field biologists, this slowdown is a time to catch up on data processing and plan for the upcoming field season. But scientists in Archbold’s Plant Ecology Program are not afforded this leisure; they are hard at work collecting annual data on one of the Lake Wales Ridge’s rarest and most imperiled plant species, the Florida Ziziphus. “This plant was once declared extinct,” remarks Research Assistant Stephanie Koontz, “but once scientists and naturalists within the community started to look for it again, they discovered a handful of wild populations! We are now working hard to help bring this species back from the brink of extinction.”

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A Passion for Natural History and Insects


A Saltbush plant, native to Florida. Photo by Toby Shaya

When visiting natural history museums, one might be accustomed to seeing skeletons and replicas of animals towering overhead. Or maybe long rooms with dioramas, or models, depicting life from times long past and habitats all over the world. Or possibly even larger rooms offering interactive displays designed to learn about animals, big and small. For children and adults alike, Archbold Biological Station combines all that this vaunted institution has to offer as well as access to a pristine but endangered bit of Florida’s natural past, the Florida scrub. This is literally ‘natural history’ at its finest. Visitors learn about South Central Florida’s unique natural habitats and the science that goes on at the Station. Toby Shaya experienced this for the first time this past fall as a new research intern.

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Partnership for Protection


Florida Goldenaster flowers in bloom attract a native pollinator. They have one of the longest flowering periods of any Florida wildflower. Photo by Steve Dickman.

Both prominent establishments along Lake Wales Ridge since their beginnings in 1941 and 1929, Archbold Biological Station and Bok Tower Gardens have been longtime collaborators. One an expert on plant demography of rare species and the other an authority on native plant horticulture, Archbold’s Plant Ecology Program and Bok Tower’s Rare Plant Conservation Program have most recently teamed up to study the federally endangered Florida Goldenaster (Chrysopsis floridana).

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The Original EBAY


Although eBay is a household name in e-commerce and extraordinarily successful, their name was an afterthought. Founded it 1995, the company was originally known as Auction Web, owned by a parent company named Echo Bay. When they tried to establish a domain name for their web-site, they discovered that echobay.com was already taken so they shortened it to their second choice, and thus eBay was formed. But unbeknownst to the founders of eBay, EBAY had long been the name of a territory of Florida Scrub-Jays at Archbold Biological Station.

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Rare Plant Thrives with Encourage-mint from Fire


Titusville Balm flowers in bloom. Photo by Suzanne Kennedy.

Nestled among the business developments and suburbs of Florida’s Space Coast and hidden within dense patches of hickory and oak trees on dry, nutrient poor sands, you can find a spindly and discreet minty herb popping up. Its delicate purple flowers and fragrant fleshy leaves persist even in this harsh environment surrounded by vegetation bigger and better at competing for resources. Restricted to a 13-mile range in the northeastern part of Brevard County atop the Atlantic Coastal Ridge, this plant — known as the Titusville Balm (Dicerandra thinicola) — is one of the rarer plants in the state of Florida, and in the world. But scientists studying this species are hopeful that it will endure, given a little encourage-mint from fire.

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Sensory Overload: Using Your Senses in Science

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The Florida scrub is home to hundreds of specialized plants from pine and oak trees, to wetland grasses, to a wide variety of wildflowers. How do scientists at Archbold Biological Station tell them apart? “When identifying plants, we have to rely on all of our senses,” explains research assistant Lexi Siegle of the Plant Ecology Program. “While sight is very important in identifying differences among plants, it can be inadequate when two species look alike. We also distinguish differences by using smell, texture, taste, and even sound.”

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Richard Archbold’s Role in World War II


Richard Archbold, far left and crew aboard the Guba

Before he established the Archbold Biological Station, Richard Archbold explored large areas of the South Pacific Ocean during the 1930’s, while flying to and from New Guinea as sponsor and leader of three scientific expeditions to various parts of this large island near Australia. In the process, he and his crew charted much of the island and the surrounding seas, with the help of a military style Consolidated Aircraft PBY-1 flying boat, known as GUBA II. The knowledge he gained of the area, as well as the equipment he used, would both come to play important roles in World War II; in the Pacific and also on the Atlantic front.

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Archbold Sister Science in the Canadian Rockies


Archbold staff members, Dustin and Emily Angell at a research site in the Canadian Rockies

Students and researchers come from around the country to Archbold Biological Station in Highlands County because it offers something special: VIP access to the natural habitats and ranchlands of Florida’s Heartland, decades of scientific data, on-site experts, lodgings, and meals. Archbold is one of approximately one thousand field stations around the world. Each is different, but all offer access to the outdoor laboratory that is the natural world. This summer, two Archbold staff, Dustin and Emily Angell were invited to  a field station in the Canadian Rockies to meet the scientists there and see what research they are pursuing.

Emily is an Archbold Research Assistant monitoring endangered birds at the Avon Park Air Force Range and Dustin is Archbold’s Education Coordinator. The couple moved to Highlands County together from Syracuse, NY to accept positions at Archbold.. “This trip  was part of our 5th wedding anniversary road trip,” said Emily. “We visited a field station in Costa Rica as part of our honeymoon, too.”

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Gather the Harvest


Florida Scrub Jays.  Photo by Reed Bowman

Autumn is harvest time and this is true for animals as well as for people. Local oak trees, from majestic live oaks to many small stature scrub oaks, are heavy with acorns, and you’ve probably noticed enterprising squirrels burying those acorns. Acorns are an important food for wildlife; bears, birds, and deer all eat acorns. In some cultures, acorns also are an important food source for people; acorns are easy to collect and rich in calories thus are an efficient food. Once on the ground, acorns are protected from deterioration by chemicals called tannins and their thick husk. Because they store so well, many animals (including humans) store them to eat later, especially over the winter when other types of food are less abundant.
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New Partners and Projects


Harwrightia flowering along the margin of cutthroat prairie and wet forest. Photo by Stephanie Koontz

Recently, researchers of Archbold Biological Stations’ Plant Ecology Program joined forces with staff from Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to implement a new study following the state threatened plant called Hartwrightia (Hartwrightia floridana). This plant species was once known to occur in seepage slopes and along margins between flatwoods and wet, low-lying areas. “We have records from the Florida Natural Areas Inventory that show populations once spread from central to northern Florida and even into Georgia”, recalls Stephanie Koontz, researcher from the Plant Ecology Program. She continues, “However, at the 2018 Annual Rare Plant Task Force meeting of academics, scientists, government agencies and conservation organizations, it became obvious that little was known of the current status of this plant. It was then decided that Archbold scientists would collaborate with Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Conservation Program to update many of these occurrences and collect data on populations in Highlands and Polk counties.”

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Archbold Agroecology: The research program at Buck Island Ranch

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Betsey Boughton, Keith Brinsko (Agroecology Research Assistant) and Avarna Jain (Research Intern) sample plants in a grassland experiment at Buck Island Ranch. Photo by Dustin Angell

Buck Island Ranch, operated by Archbold Biological Station, is a full-scale cow-calf operation with approximately 3,000 cows on 10,500 acres. The Ranch is home to more than 700 plants and vertebrate animals, of which six are federally threatened or endangered. When Archbold started leasing the ranch from the MacArthur Foundation in 1988, the vision was to operate the ranch as a full-scale cattle operation to serve as a real-world laboratory for agroecology research. The research focuses on wetlands and water management, understanding how grazing and fire affect wetlands and grasslands, and more recently, understanding the ranchland carbon cycle.  In addition to Archbold’s research program, they also coordinate the research activities of many visiting researchers and graduate students who conduct their own studies at Buck Island Ranch. A major multi-investigator initiative in which Archbold is deeply involved is the new US Department of Agriculture Long-term Agro-ecosystem Research Network or LTAR where the Ranch, partnered with the University of Florida Range Cattle Research and Education Center, is one of 18 sites nationwide selected to form a science network for cross-site experiments and interdisciplinary research. The goal of the LTAR network is to understand how we can sustain food production while decreasing environmental impacts.

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What is a Biological Field Station?

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 Field trips are a fun feature of every field station meeting: this year Archbold staff got to visit Mount Desert Island and Duck Island, both operated by the College of the Atlantic in the Gulf of Maine.

“What is a biological field station? That is one of the commonest questions I am asked before I give a presentation about Archbold Biological Station. It doesn’t matter if I am in Highlands County, elsewhere in Florida, or around the country, it’s the same question”, said Dr. Hilary Swain, Director of Archbold. “Most people are curious as they have never heard of a biological field station. I like to tell them they are special places which provide everything that students, researchers, and the general public would want to better understand the natural environment. I say that field stations combine four vital ingredients for science, conservation, and education. First, they are located in a ‘natural outdoor laboratory’—meaning there are species and habitats for study, and protected key ecosystems for science and conservation. Second, they have great facilities ranging from analytical equipment, places to stay and eat, libraries, environmental sensors, and hi-technology and communications. Third, they house a community of scientists, students, educators, and land managers with whom to share information and discuss emerging ideas. Fourth, field stations are a critical repository of knowledge, combining data, scientific publications and long-term monitoring to tell us how the natural world works and how it is changing over time.” Continue reading

Collecting Science

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An example of the many specimens in the Archbold Collection. Photo by A. Grimes

The world is full of interesting forms of life. Each time you wander out into the world you begin interacting with plants and animals, sometimes without ever knowing how that interaction influences or affects other organisms and the environment. At Archbold Biological Station, studying these plants and animals and their interactions with other organisms is what one branch of scientific study is all about. Because of this interest in how organisms behave, interact and influence the environment, scientists at Archbold have, over many years, collected a wide variety of useful and fascinating information, as well as thousands of actual specimens of the plants and animals in the scrub habitat of our own community. Three years ago, under a grant from the National Science Foundation, Archbold scientists began to digitize its on-site biological collection and upload the information online, making it more accessible to scientist from around the world.

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Antlion: Fuzzy Predator

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The pits and squiggles of the humble antlion or “doodlebug” are a ubiquitous feature of the sandy soils found at Archbold Biological Station and throughout the southeast. Antlions build inverted cone shaped pits by crawling backwards in a spiral and throwing piles of sand outwards. Once finished digging, they sit quietly at the bottom, waiting for prey. Ants or other creatures that step on the slope lose their footing and tumble into the pit, where the antlion waits with its powerful jaws and fast reflexes. Archbold is home to 11 different species of antlions, each with slightly different preferences for location and food.

Gently tickling the edge of a pit is often enough to coax the tiny hunter from its lair, revealing its scary looking mandibles and armored head. However, anyone brave enough to have dug the entire creature out of its pit was probably disappointed. “Despite having these big scary heads,” Archbold Intern Ann Dunn states,” they’re really just these fat little grub babies under there. They can’t sting, or even walk properly.”

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