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

Plants: Expert Water Managers in the Face of Uncertainty

Imagine receiving your salary, not biweekly or monthly, but at random times over the year and in equally random amounts. You would need to save money for daily needs, not knowing when the next packet of cash is arriving, nor how much one would receive. Plants face this exact scenario when it comes to balancing water needs. 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

Fire Ants and Floods

Fire ants can’t think or speak, but even if they could they wouldn’t be phoning FEMA. Floods favor fire ants. The region of South America where the imported fire ant originated is largely flat and subject to seasonal flooding. When these fire ants were (accidentally) brought to Alabama and Florida they got off the boat already adapted to their new home. 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

Preserving Plants: Archbold’s Leonard J. Brass Herbarium

Opening the door to one of several imposing, hunter green cabinets, Stephanie Koontz carefully pulls out some large folders labeled with plant names. She sets them on the table and gently opens one up. “A herbarium is more than just sheets of pressed and dried plants” says Koontz, a Research Assistant in the Plant Ecology Program at Archbold Biological Station. “It is a record documenting changes in individual plants and plant communities over time.” Herbariums are collections of preserved plant specimens that are organized by plant species name. The large sheet of special archive paper has a dried and flattened plant glued to it. In the bottom right corner is a label with the plant name, collection date, who collected it, and location information about where the collection was made. “This sheet here was collected back in September 1945 by Leonard Brass, Archbold’s first botanist appointed by Richard Archbold when the Station was founded in 1941,” states Koontz. “Look at its excellent condition! When properly collected and pressed, these records will last at least 100 years.” Continue reading

Using Maps for Conservation Efforts

At Archbold Biological Station, we make a lot of maps. There are many uses for maps and we use them to support our mission of Research, Conservation, and Education. We look at maps to make management decisions for the species or landscape that we are studying, we create maps to help us solve research questions, and we share maps with the public and elected officials to explain environmental topics. GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, is the main tool used to look at, create, and share maps. Vivienne Sclater, GIS and Data Manager at Archbold Biological Station says, “GIS is a very powerful piece of computer software that allows you to look at many different aspects of a map at once. You have the freedom to visualize how things interact with each other within a specific landscape. GIS has many different applications, from determining the best location for a new branch of your store, to predicting where an endangered species might exist based on the environmental conditions in a location where you know it occurs”. GIS is very useful for conservation work and Archbold has been very active in the Society for Conservation GIS since they started over 20 years ago. Continue reading

Archbold Weathers Hurricane Irma

Archbold Biological Station Executive Director Hilary Swain was up early in the morning of the 11th September, after the major winds from Hurricane Irma had passed through. She surveyed the scene from the water tower. The main Station buildings, constructed like a steel and concrete fortress, looked intact. Most other Archbold buildings survived with no major structural damage, although the whole campus was a disheveled mess of trees and twisted branches. Most of the trees that fell were large, old laurel oaks planted years ago, and not typical of the native Florida scrub at Archbold. Laurel oaks often have rotten centers and are very vulnerable to storm events. Amazingly very few trees fell on buildings. Archbold Biological Station was lucky! Continue reading

Hidden Pastures: Florida Scrub is a Special Habitat

Scientists from all over come to Highlands County, where they join resident scientists at the Archbold Biological Station to explore the special habitat called Florida scrub. An obvious feature of Florida scrub are patches of open sand where nothing grows. Or so it seems. Some years ago, scientists at Archbold noticed that after a rain tiny trails appeared in the sand, as if a microscopic mole were burrowing just below the surface. Equipped with nothing but curiosity and pocket knives, the scientists carefully scraped away sand above the burrows, discovering that each trail ended in a little cricket a quarter of an inch long, shiny black with reddish knees. It turned out that the cricket was new to science, so Archbold entomologist Mark Deyrup and Cornell entomologist Thomas Eisner described it, naming it Neotridactylus archboldi, in memory of Richard Archbold, who founded the Station and protected the land where the cricket was discovered. Continue reading

Garrett’s Mint a Rare Breed: Plant was Discovered in Sebring in 1940s

Highlands County is home to one of the highest concentration of rare plants in North America. Most of these rare species occur in Florida scrub, the shrubby habitat many Highlands County residents see every day, from the undeveloped lot in residential neighborhoods to the intact expanses at conservation sites. Among these rare species, some are the rarest of the rare. “There are a handful of plants in this area so close to extinction that human intervention is necessary for their survival,” states Stacy Smith, Research Assistant in the Plant Ecology Program at Archbold Biological Station. “Interventions to help these rare plants, such as the creation of new populations (introductions), or adding new plants to existing populations (augmentations), have been carried out by Archbold over the past few decades. One species requiring this special treatment is an odoriferous (strong smell) shrub called Garrett’s Mint (Dicerandra christmanii).” Continue reading

The Birds Go Digital: Archbold Bird Collection Enters the Digital Age

The Archbold Biological Station Biological Collection houses hundreds of thousands of preserved specimens of animals and plants. In an ongoing effort, Archbold scientists, interns, and volunteers have been working together to digitize and post the Archbold Collection online. The last day of July marked the end of the second year of this digitization project. “During the first year, we focused on digitizing our insect and plant collections,” says assistant curator Stephanie Leon. “This second year, along with continuing the insects and plants, we also digitized the Archbold bird collection.” Continue reading

Into Archbold: By Guest Writer Rick Anderson

Jennifer Brown’s attention to the rolling landscape of the Lake Wales Ridge happened during one of her first trips to Highlands County. Her companion pointed out the barely noticeable rise ahead on a drive up Old State Road 8 in Venus. “My eyes were quickly trained to notice this subtle topography of the Ridge”, said Brown, a nature documentary filmmaker living and working in Venus since 2012. She said, “I began to understand that this part of Florida was different and learning how different became my journey.” Continue reading

Volunteers Key for Archbold: They Play a Large Role in Helping Organization Fulfill its Goals

“I work with the kids at summer camp. What a joy when I see and hear them having so much fun while learning about nature. There is no better reward,” says Pat Talbott, who volunteered over 100 hours during this season of Archbold’s Ecology Summer Camp. Pat was recruited three years ago by his friend and long-time Archbold volunteer, Lee Andrus. The organization relies on Talbott, Andrus, and more than 65 other volunteers each year to help with outreach as well as land management, scientific research, events, and many other activities. Last year, volunteers contributed more than 3,000 hours of services to the organization. Continue reading

Secret Lives of Spiders: The Majority of Spiders are Not Seen by People

The vast majority of spiders around Lake Placid are never seen. This is good news to many folks, for the fear and loathing of arachnids (that’s spiders) is as common in central Florida as it is everywhere else. Dr. Jim Carrel, Research Associate at Archbold Biological Station and former professor at the University of Missouri, said, “In my 50 years of doing research at the Archbold Biological Station, I have had hundreds of people tell me that they don’t like spiders. And some refuse to come into the building after they learn that I am a ‘Spider Doctor’, even after I assure them that there aren’t any live spiders in my lab. But if you find spiders interesting, as I do, then you are willing to go out of your way to locate them.” Continue reading

Florida Scrub-Jay Surveys

If you have any scrub-jays in your yard at this time of year you may have noticed some have heads that are brown, instead of their typical blue. These brown-headed scrub-jays are the young of this year and you can see them flying around and begging their parents for food. This distinctive plumage allows scientists at Archbold Biological Station to distinguish between adults and juveniles. Dr. Angela Tringali, biologist at Archbold Biological Station says, “Being able to tell juvenile and adult Florida Scrub-Jays apart is important because it tells us if the breeding season has been successful. At Archbold, where the scrub-jays are individually marked and monitored, we already have that information. But at places where the scrub-jays are not monitored year-round, counting the jays at this time of year gives us important information about how well each family-group is reproducing.” Continue reading

Richard Archbold and the Glades Electric: Archbold Biological Station Founder Played Key Role in Founding Electric Co-Op

Richard Archbold was a world renowned explorer, conservationist and philanthropist. He spent his life travelling to new uncharted regions, learning about previously unknown plants and animals, and using his resources to further understanding about the natural world. With the onset of WWII in 1939 Mr. Archbold had to put his explorations on hold. As a result he began a search for an area in the USA that could be his scientific base of operations. Continue reading

Island Apple Snails: Non-Native Snail Has Pros and Cons

If you were an Island Apple Snail originally from South America and invading the subtropical wetlands of Florida, would your ease of travel, even at a snail’s pace, matter more or less than your destination? This is the research question that Steffan Pierre, Research Assistant at Archbold’s Buck island Ranch is examining. Steffan completed his Master’s thesis research at University of Central Florida on this very subject. Continue reading

A Frenzy of Frogs and Fish: Many Make the Move to Small, Temporary Ponds

Florida is known for water. From freshwater springs and rivers down to coastal estuaries and the blue ocean, water is everywhere in our state. Here in Highlands County, our landscape is filled with lakes. But what about in the Florida scrub, the high dry sandy ridges that run throughout our region? Dig down into these sandy soils and you will soon hit water, except at the highest elevations. Even here, scattered throughout the scrub, the shallow depressions in the sand become seasonal ponds that typically fill and dry during our wet season from June through November. But seasonal rainfall and sandy soil mean that water is not necessarily available for long. Continue reading

Summer Ecology Camp turns 25

What do you remember about your childhood summers? Many of us fondly recall catching frogs and fireflies, spotting animal tracks and wildlife, or hiking and swimming. This summer marks Archbold Biological Station’s 25th year creating memories like these for children attending the Ecology Summer Camp. The camp emphasizes outdoor activities in nature as well as contact with working scientists. It’s a science camp designed to meet the needs of all children – future scientists and non-scientists alike. Continue reading

Weed or Not to Weed?

The Beggar Tick Daisy, also called Spanish Needles, is a plant familiar to every resident of Highlands County. It thrives, as the plant guides say, in roadsides and “waste places.” Highlands County has plenty of those, although ecologists prefer the term “disturbed areas” to “waste places.” It grows even better in a neglected area of the garden. Mark Deyrup, entomologist at the Archbold Biological Station, knows this too well. “If I leave home for a month in summer, by the time I return Beggar Tick Daisies that were almost too small to notice are five feet tall. When I try to pull them up I can pull a back muscle, or the plant breaks off at the base, or both. The broken plant recovers faster than my back.” Continue reading

50 years in the Scrub: Dr. James N. Layne at Archbold Biological Station

June 8, 2017 marks a special anniversary for Archbold Biological Station and Highlands County. On this date 50 years ago, Dr. James N. Layne was hired to be Archbold’s first Director of Research. He worked closely with Richard Archbold, during the last decade of Archbold’s life. Richard Archbold was a pioneer establishing his biological research station and also engaged in conservation efforts here in Highlands County and the rest of Florida. Richard Archbold’s dedication and resources were applied to understand and conserve the natural treasures of our region. Following Archbold’s death Dr. Layne was appointed Executive Director and tasked with guiding and directing the Station’s future. Continue reading

High School Research Assistantships

Do you remember what you did over your High School summer vacation? Many of us took up seasonal positions as lifeguards, camp counselors, or landscapers. However, for some, a summer break from school is an opportunity to broaden their education. For those seeking that prospect in the field of science, Archbold Biological Station offers the perfect experience. Continue reading

Wings in the Night

When most citizens of Highlands County are happily snoozing in their beds, or perhaps binge-watching their favorite TV series, the natural world at the Archbold Biological Station goes into hyperactivity. From their daytime refuges innumerable moths emerge, spread their wings, and throw themselves into the night air. Biologists at the Archbold Biological Station, as elsewhere, tend to be diurnal. Most of us go about our daily lives with little notion of the ‘nightly’ or nocturnal lives of moths. Continue reading

Here’s Looking at You Sensors – The Eyes and Ears of Environmental Monitoring

“Every breath you take… Every move you make… I’ll be watching you” — The Police, 1983

This well-known song could be talking about sensors. Sensors—those tiny instruments sometimes as small as a bug, often hidden, have become ubiquitous in our lives. They are found in smartphone Fitness Apps that count every step we walk, to automatic flush systems in urinals, to tire pressure sensors in cars. Quiz yourself—take any place or field of activity, such as a supermarket or your home, and list as many sensors in action as you can think of. You’ll be surprised at how many you find! Continue reading

Archbold Interns Flock to Florida Bird Meeting

Archbold Biological Station’s programs center around science, conservation, and education. Education goals are achieved in a variety of ways from visiting 4th grade school groups to summer camps, lectures to visiting university classes, guided weekend tours for the public, and internships. Archbold’s scientific research internships are directed at older students, often those that have completed a Bachelors degree in science and are contemplating graduate school. Internship positions at Archbold are highly sought-after and attract students from all across the country to Highlands County. These interns usually spend 6-8 months at Archbold. They spend about half their time working in one of Archbold’s research programs—conducting field work, processing samples, and undertaking data entry and analyses. Interns also pursue independent research of their own, mentored by one of the Program Directors, senior scientists often with decades of experience. Continue reading

Seed Germination Beyond Child’s Play

It’s just another day at the office for research assistant, Stephanie Koontz, as she heads out of the research buildings at Archbold Biological Station to work with some of the rarest plant species in Florida. “A favorite childhood memory of mine is removing the seeds of an apple core, placing them on a wet paper towel and watching them emerge over the next few days.” But, she adds, “If only germination was this easy with seeds of rare plants. Finding the right conditions for a seed to germinate and then helping that seedling survive to adulthood can be a bigger challenge than one might imagine.” Continue reading

Making Wetlands Wetter and Better

Wetlands are an important component of Florida landscapes. They provide shelter for plants and animals, which in turn attract naturalists, hunters or anglers. Look in the air and you might be able to see a Snail Kite in search of a Florida Apple Snail. Bend over, and there it is, a fascinating pitcher plant digesting its insect meal. In Central Florida, you might even see cows wandering around in freshwater wetlands. Here, they find good quality forage and a nice cooling station during the summer months. Setting aside mosquitoes, what’s not to love about wetlands? Yet, wetlands are threatened worldwide, facing pollution and land conversion. Continue reading

Town and Country Cane Toads

Florida’s landscape varies from sandy beaches to dense forests and swampy wetlands. This range of habitats allows a wide variety of animals to thrive. One of our larger groups of animals is the amphibians, which includes frogs, toads, and salamanders. In Florida there are more than 30 species of frogs and toads. And in Highlands County, our own backyard, one can find 18 different types of frogs and toads. However, not all of these species were originally from Florida; a few are non-native and some of these are considered invasive. Continue reading

From Scrub to the Web

The sun shines brightly, the wind carries the songs of the birds and the buzzing of the bees. Walking the trails at Archbold Biological Station and observing the beauty of the Florida scrub, one’s senses can be easily stimulated. But can the same beauty and nature be seen indoors in a research laboratory? In Archbold’s bug lab, nineteen, seven-foot-tall, hunter-green cabinets tower above scientists and students. Inside each of these cabinets, twenty-five basswood, glass-top drawers protect hundreds of thousands of pinned insect specimens, most of which have been collected over the decades at Archbold Biological Station. Each insect specimen is stored in its correct drawer, like a giant filing system, so that any trained biologist can quickly navigate to the right specimen. Continue reading

Restoring Wildlife Habitat

There are many beautiful natural areas in Florida. In places such as Myakka River State Park and Everglades National Park people can walk for miles across lands barely changed by humans. Florida also has vast areas of lands, such as cattle ranches, which contain both natural habitats, lands improved for agriculture, and disturbed areas. At Archbold Biological Station we own or manage nearly 20,000 acres serving as natural laboratories for scientific research, education, and conservation. Some of the Archbold property is pristine, wild Florida, as it was hundreds of years ago. But many parts of the land Archbold owns and manages were, at some point, and often decades ago, altered from their natural condition. According to Kevin Main, Land Manager at Archbold, “In some places at Archbold, especially on the 3,600-acre area known as the Reserve, we have chosen to focus on restoring these altered lands back to a more natural condition. Most native animals and plants, including many threatened and endangered species, require natural ecosystems in order to thrive.” Continue reading

Archbold Popular During Spring Break

“It has really opened my eyes!” “I have a student about to start graduate school for entomology (the study of insects) and I don’t think he slept at all, just running around the buildings all night looking at insects.” “Your facilities are fantastic!” “The great thing about Archbold is its placement in an ecosystem that is not found anywhere else on Earth, so we had a unique experience.” These are just some of the many expressions we hear from students and faculty that visit Archbold Biological Station with their classes during their college spring break. Continue reading

Mapping the Burn

With the increasingly severe drought during this years’ dry season, there is a lot of news about wildfires. As one of the lightning capitals of the continent, fire has been a natural part of the cycle of life in Florida for millennia. Fire is essential to conserve the Florida scrub that we love and protect at Archbold Biological Station and elsewhere in Highlands County. Fire is essential for maintenance of many other Florida ecosystems including pinelands, prairies, and most wetlands. Continue reading

Playing Lake Annie’s Song

Have you ever thought about the “artistic” side of scientific discovery? In a famous lecture in 1959, British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow, lamented that ‘intellectual life’ was split into two cultures—namely the sciences and the humanities—and that this was a major limitation for addressing the world’s problems. Nowadays scientists are increasingly reaching out to writers, poets, artists, and musicians to help them interpret and share their data and findings, not as tables, figures, and statistics, but rather by creating new works of art that reach a far wider audiences. One such arts-science alliance is a recent interpretation of the long-term data from Lake Annie, a 67′ deep, 90-acre sinkhole lake located on the property of Archbold Biological Station. Lake Annie is celebrated by scientists worldwide for the data from the sediments at the bottom of the lake which document the history of Florida extending back nearly 40,000 years. The lake is also important scientifically for its long-term monitoring of many lake measures including water depth, temperature, pH, color, oxygen levels, and plankton communities. Continue reading

Dunes Thousands of Years Old

The natural areas of Highlands and Polk Counties are dominated by a sandy, shrubby landscape known as Florida scrub. There are many types of Florida scrub all defined by the plant species that inhabit them. One especially interesting type of Florida scrub is the rosemary scrub. Take a walk through a rosemary scrub habitat and you might notice some rather striking things. Bare white sand patches connect like a path, weaving in and out among a maze of large Florida Rosemary shrubs, the dominant plant species for which this unique habitat is named. Most populations of Florida Rosemary occur along coastal dune habitats from Florida north to South Carolina and west to Mississippi. Florida Rosemary are found in relict populations on remaining patches of Florida scrub occurring on the high dry sandy ridge that runs north-south through Highlands County, known as the Lake Wales Ridge. The Lake Wales Ridge dates back to a time, nearly a million years ago, when sea levels were much higher. Found at the top of these ancient rolling sand dunes, the rosemary scrub habitat looks like sandy islands in a sea of a dense vegetation. And yet, it is in this rosemary scrub habitat, along those open pathways between the Florida Rosemary plants, where most of the Lake Wales Ridge endangered plant species are found. Florida Rosemary itself is not endangered although it is listed as a threatened species in coastal Georgia, but rosemary scrub habitat has seen significant decline due to development, earlier conversion to agriculture, and hurricane damage along coastal populations. Continue reading