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 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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Archbold: A National Natural Landmark


While many are familiar with Archbold Biological Station’s relatively recent designation to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 for its role in the history of architecture, science, and conservation, few may be familiar with Archbold’s one designation as a National Natural Landmark more than three decades ago. The National Natural Landmark program is run by the National Park Service and serves to “recognize and encourage the conservation of sites that contain outstanding biological and geological resources.” Archbold was selected for the program in 1987 for its “outstanding condition, illustrative value, rarity, diversity, and value to science and education.” It encompasses one of the largest relatively undisturbed tracts of contiguous natural communities characteristics of the Lakes Wales Ridge, and is home to a large number of endemic and rare species of plants and animals. Continue reading

The Science of Life

Archbold Biological Station offered two outstanding students Miranda Bunnell and Ashley Engle, both rising seniors at Lake Placid High School, a special opportunity for 2018 summer work at the Station. Their excitement, exuberance and newly-found appreciation for science and love of the Florida scrub comes through wonderfully in Archbold’s new short film entitled ‘The Science of Life’, highlighting their experiences. The film is by Jennifer Brown from Into Nature Films and can be viewed on Archbold’s Vimeo channel at

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Who inherits the castle? Dispersal in Birds

Who inherits the castle? In medieval times, or in the Game of Thrones, it was always the eldest son. Daughters were often sent great distances to wed the sons of other dynasties. Younger sons had a tough decision to make – stay and serve their older brothers or venture forth trying to make their own fortune. It was a rigid system driven by a cold hard reality; there were far more children than there were castles. Most of the offspring had to leave their home. Continue reading

Growing Scientists at Archbold

Once a door is open here, it doesn’t close,” states Alan Rivero, who is finishing up an internship and starting a seasonal research position at Archbold Biological Station. “Archbold has a direct impact on the community and this is reflected in the two of us,” continues Rivero, referring to himself and Lexi Siegle. The two both grew up in Highlands County and both worked this summer as environmental education interns for Archbold’s Ecology Summer Camp for seven to twelve year old children. The internships were part of their lifelong associations with Archbold, and their parallel development from childhood campers to professional biologists. Their stories are also an example of the positive role a biological field station can have on local students. Continue reading

Frog calls in your backyard

While you are staying in one of Archbold’s cottages, was delighted to hear a chorus of frog calls each evening, one of the many special surprises visitors who spend the night on the station have the pleasure to experience. Complied here are WHO’s notes on each species’ individual call, along with photos of each species. Where available, a sound bite of each species’ call is also provided. Simply click on the species’ photo, and the audio recording will open in a pop-up window. Pay attention, and next time you hear a frog call in your backyard, you may be able to identify it! Continue reading

Spiders in Fire-Dependent Florida Scrub

The vast majority of the 171 spider species that are stored as specimens in the Archbold Collection of Arthropods live in arid scrub habitats that are maintained by periodic fires. “If I walk across acre after acre of scrub shortly after an intense fire has burned over it, the spiders seem to be completely absent,” claims Dr. Jim Carrel, Archbold Research Associate. “Clear evidence of this is that no spider webs are visible on the thousands and thousands of charred stems, regardless of where you look hour after hour.” Yet, Dr. Carrel and other scientists know that within a few years, for all intents and purposes they will be back. This raises the intriguing question: how does the spider community reassemble itself after Florida scrub is burned? Continue reading

New discoveries by Archbold interns: pygmy mole crickets, fairy shrimp, and newts

New discoveries can happen anywhere; sometimes, literally right under our feet. At Archbold Biological Station, you might notice small, raised piles of sand right after a rain. If you carefully scrape away the sand, a tiny, shining black cricket is revealed. This is the Archbold Pygmy Mole Cricket first described by Drs. Mark Deyrup and Tom Eisner in 1996. It is a fascinating little creature that is specialized for existence in open sandy patches of Florida scrub, feeding on blue-green algae that grows just below the surface of the sand. Archbold Entomology Intern Brandon Woo became enamored with these crickets, and soon realized that there was much more to learn. “Nobody has carefully explored other sand ridge habitats in Florida for pygmy mole crickets. Since the scrub-adapted ones are flightless, there is a high potential that new species are scattered around the state,” he explained. Encouraged by Archbold Entomologist Dr. Mark Deyrup, Woo has been visiting various scrub habitats to find more of these crickets. He has confirmed that the Archbold Pygmy Mole Cricket also lives at the Avon Park Air Force Range, and has found what appears to be a new species of Pygmy Mole Cricket in the Ocala National Forest. In addition, Deyrup collected specimens of yet another new species from the northern Lake Wales Ridge in Polk County. Woo is currently describing this species. “I think these crickets really show that anyone, young people included, can go out into the field and make important discoveries. Archbold is a great place to jump-start such an adventure,” he says. Continue reading

Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch wins multiple awards at Florida Cattlemen’s

On June 19, the Florida Cattlemen’s Association kicked off its three-day Annual Convention in Championsgate, FL. The Florida Cattlemen’s Association is “a statewide, non-profit organization, established in 1934, devoted to promoting and protecting the ability of cattlemen members to produce and market their products.” Filled with exhibition hall booths, a trade show, educational seminars, auctions, a banquet, and social events, the Convention is a time to socialize, network, learn, play, and relax. Their theme this year was “share your passion,” and Archbold Biological Station’s Buck Island Ranch sent a passionate crew of researchers and ranchers to attend the event, including Executive Director Dr. Hilary Swain, Director of Research Dr. Betsey Boughton, and Ranch Manager Gene Lollis. Continue reading

Queen of Red Hill

Written by Hilary Swain, Jennifer Brown (Into Nature Films), and Betsie Rothermel

Archbold Biological Station has a new leading lady. She is the star of the film, ‘Queen of Red Hill,’ just released online at Archbold’s Vimeo and Youtube channels. Her name is Number 21, that is, Gopher Tortoise 21. At 60+ years old, she is one of the ‘grande dames’ of the Gopher Tortoise community living on the Red Hill at Archbold. She landed her role, vividly portraying her sandy, underground realm, because her story is Archbold’s story. She is emblematic of a tale told throughout wild Florida – loss of home, survival, and eventual recovery. Continue reading

Archbold Beetle Survey

Insects are present in virtually every habitat and many are attracted to lights at night, particularly moths, mayflies, flies, and of particular interest, beetles. Archbold Biological Station hosts an impressive number of beetle species within its unique habitats, many of which are found only in central Florida. What beetles live at Archbold and how these populations change over time is of prime interest to scientists and ecologists seeking to preserve the unique and fragile Florida scrub habitat. Continue reading

Water, water everywhere

During the winter and spring of 2017-2018, Archbold Biological Station’s property was completely dried out. The dry and hot spring weather turned seasonal wetlands into beds of dried grass, soaked soils into flaky crusts, and green and springy vegetation into crunchy and dry fuel. One of the quotes at the entrance of Archbold’s Frances Archbold Hufty Learning Center is by Benjamin Franklin: “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” And indeed, now that the summer rains have arrived, starting with a record breaking amount of rainfall in May 2018, Archbold is well-equipped to care for every drop of water that comes its way. Water is essential to all life, after all. Continue reading

Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch wins multiple awards at Florida Cattlemen’s

On June 19, the Florida Cattlemen’s Association kicked off its three-day Annual Convention in Championsgate, FL. The Florida Cattlemen’s Association is “a statewide, non-profit organization, established in 1934, devoted to promoting and protecting the ability of cattlemen members to produce and market their products.” Filled with exhibition hall booths, a trade show, educational seminars, auctions, a banquet, and social events, the Convention is a time to socialize, network, learn, play, and relax. Their theme this year was “share your passion,” and Archbold Biological Station’s Buck Island Ranch sent a passionate crew of researchers and ranchers to attend the event, including Executive Director Dr. Hilary Swain, Director of Research Dr. Betsey Boughton, and Ranch Manager Gene Lollis. Continue reading

Archbold’s Dr. Reed Bowman wins prestigious ornithology award

Dr. Reed Bowman, Director of the Avian Ecology Program at Archbold Biological Station, received the Margaret Morse Nice Medal from the Wilson Ornithological Society. This award is “the premier ornithological award bestowed by the Wilson Ornithological Society” and is given to individuals who “exemplify scientific curiosity, creativity and insight, concern for the education of young and amateur ornithologists, and leadership as an innovator and mentor,” said Dr. Sara Morris, past President of the organization. Continue reading

Archbold joins museums around the world for International Museum Day

On Friday, May 18, Archbold Biological Station was one of seven Highlands County museums and one of more than 37,000 museums across 156 countries that celebrated International Museum Day. Each year, the International Council of Museums chooses a theme for the celebratory day, one that lies “at the heart of the concerns of society.” This year the organization featured “Hyperconnected Museums: New Approaches, New Publics.” Hyperconnectivity refers to “the multiple means of communication we have today, such as face-to-face contact, email, instant messaging, telephone, or internet,” states the International Council of Museums. “This global network of connections becomes each day more complex, diverse, and integrated.” Continue reading

Archbold visits New York Botanical Garden, compares plant collections

Last Friday Archbold Biological Station’s Executive Director, Dr. Hilary Swain, had the opportunity to visit the New York Botanical Garden in Bronx, NY. Swain, accompanied by Archbold Board of Trustees members Mary Hufty, Lela Love, and Vevie Lykes Dimmitt, and Archbold Director of Philanthropy Deborah Pollard, enjoyed a special tour of the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium and the LuEsther Mertz Library. They were hosted by staff members Doug Daly, Curator of Amazonian Botany and Director of the Institute of Systematic Botany, and John Mitchell, Honorary Curator. “The New York Botanical Garden is an iconic living museum, a major educational institution, and a plant research and conservation organization,” Daly explained while on the tour. “Founded in 1891, this has always been a botanical garden with a conservation mission – to conduct basic and applied research on the plants of the world with the goal of protecting and preserving them.”

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Going Native: The “Right Place, Right Plant” Perspective on Landscaping

Back in 2011, when Archbold Biological Station added two state-of-the-art buildings to its facility, known as the Adrian Archbold Lodge and Frances Archbold Hufty Learning Center, the decision was to “go native” with the landscaping around the buildings. Bringing their inspiration to life was the work of Nancy Bissett of The Natives, located in Davenport, Florida. Together as a team, Bissett and Archbold Biological Station designed the entire 2-acres surrounding the buildings using only plants native to this region. Bissett also grew and planted a total of nearly 12,000 individual plants of more than 75 species for the project. The open vista of native plants surrounding the buildings is now a peaceful, aesthetic setting and serves as a beautiful living display to educate visitors. Continue reading

Camper Turned Professor Invites Archbold Into the Classroom

I think Florida would be the most tricky weather you could have to go out as a biologist and do research,” reflects student Timothy Hobbs, after seeing a presentation from a local wildlife biologist in the Introducing Biology class offered at the South Florida State College’s Lake Placid campus. Fellow classmate, Sarah Moretto offers, “It was very interesting. Not my field of work, but definitely cool to learn about.” The presenter, Archbold Biological Station’s Emily Angell, had just given a slideshow presentation on her career as a biologist, highlighting her work in Florida and other sites throughout North America. Emily, along with her husband, Archbold’s Education Coordinator Dustin Angell, both visited the class this spring at the invitation of one of the college’s newest professors, Amy Bohan. Continue reading

Archbold and University of Florida take the national stage

On April 22, Archbold Biological Station and the University of Florida (the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Hardee county), collectively sent a team of delegates to the weeklong annual meeting of the Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network held in El Reno, Oklahoma. “LTAR is a national initiative by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose goal is to build knowledge to sustainably intensify agriculture, while minimizing or reversing environmental impact,” explains LTAR Data Manager Shefali Azad. “The network currently consists of 18 sites across the continental United States, each with a long-term history in agricultural and ecological research. The Archbold-University of Florida collaboration comprises one site.” Continue reading

A Walk Through Time: Architecture, science, and conservation the making of a historic landmark

The early morning mist lifts over pine trees and oak shrubs as you start down the driveway to Archbold Biological Station. You are entering the ancient wilderness of the Florida scrub, one of North America’s most threatened ecosystems. At the end of the drive a vista opens to reveal the Station’s buildings. You have arrived at one of the world’s great biological field stations, renowned not only for its scientific discoveries and conservation leadership, but also its remarkable architectural history. In 2007, the U.S. Department of the Interior listed Archbold Biological Station at Red Hill on the National Register of Historic Places. But how did this all come together, and why here, in remote south-central Florida?

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Cameras on the Kissimmee

Nature photography comes naturally to most of us. A magnificent sunset, a beautiful flower, or an impressive bird can inspire us to raise our cameras and take a picture. Some of the earliest photographers were aiming their lenses at nature, too. Carleton Watkins’s images of California’s Yosemite region even helped convince Congress to establish our country’s first federally protected park in 1864. Nature photography that helps protect the wildlife and places it depicts is called “conservation photography.”

For science and conservation organizations like Archbold Biological Station, photography is an essential tool in community outreach to teach about and foster appreciation for nature. Recently, Archbold’s Education Coordinator Dustin Angell was invited to work with the Riverwoods Field Labratory (RFL) to teach an evening photography workshop as part of a boat tour on the Kissimmee River. Angell, who is also a conservation photographer, worked with RFL to create a workshop that would show people how they could use their photos to bring awareness to the ongoing restoration of the river, the largest river restoration in the world.

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Archbold and the Florida Wildlife Corridor

The Florida Wildlife Corridor team has just completed its third expedition. Unlike the team’s first two 1,000-mile expeditionsEverglades to Okefenokee in 2012 and Glades to Gulf in 2015which took 100 days and 70 days respectively, this recent Heartland to Headwaters adventure was a mini-trek lasting just one week, from April 15-22. Cheering on the team at their kick-off event were Archbold board members and staff. Archbold has been an important science and conservation partner for the Corridor since the beginning. Continue reading

Buck Island Ranch: Forging a Way to Sustainable Ranching

Among the challenges of the 21st century is doing agriculture in a way that supplies enough food for a burgeoning global population, while also sustaining natural biodiversity, nature’s services, and economic viability. Cattle ranching is a key industry for developing these sustainable practices, and is especially relevant to Florida. Florida is one of the oldest and largest cattle-producing states in America, dating back to five hundred years ago when cattle was introduced by Spanish explorers. Ranching remains a vibrant part of Florida’s economy, culture, and heritage. Continue reading

Putting Florida on the Map

Environmental Educators from eight southeastern states gather each year for a regional conference that is organized by a professional group from one of the participating states. At the meetings, educators sharpen their skills and share their ideas. This year the honor came to Florida for the first time. On March 16-18, the League of Environmental Educators in Florida (LEEF) hosted the 6th Annual Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance Conference at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. The multi-day event drew over 225 educators from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Sharing the Master of Ceremonies role with LEEF’s Past President and Conference Chair Barbara Stalbird, was Archbold Biological Station’s Education Coordinator and current LEEF President Dustin Angell. Continue reading

Dr. James N. Layne Collection: A Look at the Ecological History of Highlands County

Ever since Richard Archbold founded his biological field station in 1941, continuous scientific exploration has been occurring in Highlands County, Florida. For more than 75 years, staff and visiting scientists at Archbold have worked towards understanding the life histories and ecology of the plants and animals that live here. This long history of exploration, study, and conservation fosters an awareness for the changes in the landscape of Highlands County that have occurred. Continue reading

Local Woodpeckers Adapt to Hurricanes

If you live in the south, hurricanes are a part of life. As humans, in 2017 we prepared by tracking the radar, stocking up on supplies, boarding up our windows, and if necessary, evacuating entirely. However, what about the local wildlife? What if you’re a woodpecker that lives in a tree – a tree that can be knocked over or even snapped in hurricane-force winds? Continue reading

Tracking Panthers in Highlands County

“My passion is endangered cats,” says biologist Dr. Jennifer Korn, who studies Florida panthers. Most of these panthers live in South Florida, but Korn focuses on the ones in the rest of the state. Until recently, that meant only the few adventurous South Florida males who crossed the Caloosahatchee River in search of territory and mates. But after photo proof of a mother and kittens on Babcock Ranch Preserve, Charlotte County, in March 2017 – the first clear documentation of a female north of the river in over 40 years – Korn’s work got more exciting. Also in March, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists documented a second female north of the river, near Venus, Florida, Highlands County, just a few miles from Archbold Biological Station. Continue reading

John A Roebling II: 150th Birthday of Famous Highlands County Resident

On November 21st 2017, Archbold Biological Station will celebrate a great man’s 150th birthday. “Though none of us ever had the pleasure to meet John Augustus Roebling II,” Fred Lohrer, Librarian at Archbold states, “he has had a profound influence on all of our lives. Without his purchase of a large tract of pristine scrub habitat south of Lake Placid almost 100 years ago, and his subsequent donation of that property to Richard Archbold in 1941, none of the decades of ecological research Archbold Biological Station engages in would have been possible.” Continue reading

Florida – a Watery Crossroads for Fish

One of the charms of fishing is the chance to spend a few hours relaxing in natural surroundings, far from the pressures of everyday life. However, beneath the calm surface of the water, is a world of coexistence, aggression, and predation involving a diverse cast of characters—fishes, amphibians such as frogs, crustaceans such as freshwater crayfish, mollusks, aquatic insects, plants, and algae. Like a global metropolis, South and Central Florida’s wetlands, lakes, and canals today host aquatic creatures from many continents; some native to Florida while others have been introduced by humans. The changing mix of species and environmental conditions pose questions such as—where are recently introduced fishes coming from? How do they interact with native plants and animals? And how do human impacts such as nutrients from fertilizer and resulting algal blooms affect fishes? Dr. Amartya Saha, Ecohydrologist at Archbold says, “These kind of issues need to be explored in order to maintain healthy and diverse aquatic ecosystems and the services they provide, ranging from recreational fisheries to maintaining water quality.” Continue reading

Living and Working at Buck Island Ranch

Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch, a 10,500-acre working ranch, is home to the MacArthur Agro-ecology Research Center and provides researchers the opportunity to find solutions for sustaining economic and ecological values of working landscapes. For research assistants, interns, and volunteers at Buck Island Ranch, typical data collection ranges from collecting feral hog ‘dung’ in the middle of day, sampling plants in wetlands wearing waders at 90°F or surveying wildlife during heavy rain, to name just a few. Continue reading

Plants, Drought, and Hurricanes

When Eric Menges, Program Director of the Plant Ecology Program, started working at Archbold Biological Station in 1988, it seemed to him like an ideal job combining two of his main research interests. It allowed him to study an ecosystem with many rare plants, and it was a landscape where events such as fire and hurricanes (as we all know) were common. Working previously in the Midwest, Menges had spent many hours studying prairie fire and how a particular rare plant responded. Menges recalls “While I discovered a lot about this one plant species, my conclusions about the role of fire on rare prairie plants were limited”. Continue reading

Florida’s Ranchland Water Solution

The next time it rains in central Florida, some of that water will likely flow across a cattle ranch on its way to Lake Okeechobee. Ranchers are working with South Florida Water Management District to hold back (retain) water in some of the ditches and wetlands on their property during the wet season. Archbold Biological Station’s MacArthur Agro-ecology Research Center (MAERC) (Buck Island Ranch) is participating and monitoring this program called the Northern Everglades Payment for Environmental Services (NE-PES). Continue reading