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.
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.
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 →