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.
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.
My most memorable moment as an intern at Archbold came as a complete surprise one morning. I was walking to the Learning Center, like I did every day, but this morning there was something very very different. 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
It’s a cold, windy morning at Archbold. The sun has not yet risen and the clouds are tinted purple. I’m riding with Dr. Reed Bowman, director of Archbold’s Avian Ecology Program, on the morning of the November 2014 Florida Scrub-Jay Census. This particular census is much colder and windier than usual, and Dr. Bowman and I are chilled even in our jackets and gloves. We know that finding the jays is going to be tough in this weather. Our mission is to locate all members of 18 scrub-jay families, using only a truck, binoculars, a notebook, and a jar of peanuts. In total, the census team is trying to locate over 200 birds in 85 families, all in one day!
Did you know that perched atop the highest point of Highlands County, Florida, there lives a well-studied colony of Gopher Tortoises? Twice a week, an Archbold biologist locates 18 adult tortoises that are part of a study on the movements and social behaviors of this threatened species. But how does she find 18 tortoises in a field the size of a baseball diamond? Keep on reading to find out! Continue reading
You never know what you’ll observe during a walk at Archbold. As I was walking around the Explorer’s Loop one morning, I noticed some commotion in the distance. Looking with my binoculars, I saw a Blue Jay and a juvenile (young) Red-headed Woodpecker harassing an American Kestrel. I’m so glad that I was carrying my camera, because the battle about to begin was epic. Continue reading
When I got back to my room yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to find my face covered in black soot. My eyes still stung from the smoke and my cheeks felt slightly stiff from so many tears drying on them under the intense heat of fire. I put down my camera, which had been damaged by either smoke or heat, and took off my blackened Nomex jacket, which smelled strongly of burnt palmetto. I had participated in my first controlled burn. Continue reading