Stacy, Queen of Thorns

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

Meeting one of America’s rarest wild birds

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.

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Wetland Explorer

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

Searching for Scrub-Jays

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!

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Tortoise Tracking

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