Weather, Weather, Weather Data


Main Weather Station at Archbold Biological Station. Photo by Kevin Main

Author: Kevin Main

Weather data have been collected at Archbold Biological Station for nearly 90 years,” said Kevin Main, Land Manager for Archbold. “We have daily high and low temperature, and daily rainfall going back to 1931. In 1982 additional sensors were added to measure humidity, soil temperatures, and evaporation, and in 2006 we got an automated system that records even more detailed weather data.” The Station currently records 15-minute data for temperature, rainfall, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, soil temperature and moisture (at three depths), barometric pressure, and light intensity. Archbold uses the data in conjunction with the many research projects that require precise information about weather conditions and trends.

“Weather data are also useful during prescribed fires,” Main said. “I can access the data from my smartphone and look at trends in humidity, wind speed and wind direction during the day, which helps me make decisions for managing the fire.”

The Archbold weather station happens to be located in a rather cold spot. “I have received several calls over the years questioning our low temperatures. It can be 5-10 degrees colder at the Archbold weather station than other locations just a few miles away, and it’s not because of a faulty temperature sensor. We have two professional grade sensors on site, and both are always within a degree of each other,” said Main. “The record low recorded at Archbold was 13 degrees Fahrenheit, on January 12, 1982 and January 5, 2001. The temperature has sunk into the teens 23 days in the last 50 years. Snow was recorded for one day, January 19th, 1977, when a “trace” of snow was recorded.

While Florida certainly feels hot in the summer, the actual temperature rarely gets above 100 degrees F. The highest temperature recorded at Archbold in the last 50 years was 103 degrees F, on July 3rd, 1998. The daily high temperature was 100 degrees F, or higher, just 24 times since 1969.

Hurricanes are a big driver of weather during the summer months. The weather station has recorded tropical winds and rain multiple times. The single largest rainfall event was caused by Hurricane How on October 2nd, 1951, when 12.15 inches of rain fell in a one-day period. The most recent hurricane to affect this area was Hurricane Irma, in 2017. Archbold received 8.89 inches of rain over a two-day period and had peak winds of 97 mph (which ended up being one of the highest reliable wind readings on the Florida peninsula during the passing of the storm).

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Hurricane Irma’s path across Florida. Archbold received heavy rains
and wind from the eastern eye wall of the storm. Photo credit: National Weather Service

Archbold’s weather data are provided to the National Weather Service through the Service’s Cooperative Observer Program. “We have been an observer station for the National Weather Service since 1969, and we recently received an award from them for 50 years of service,” said Main.

“The Archbold weather data are not currently publicly available online in real time from Archbold, although you can retrieve daily data from the National Weather Service”, says Hilary Swain, Archbold Director. “Data from private weather stations like Archbold can also be viewed on websites such as Weather Underground. Vivienne Sclater, who heads up data management at Archbold, is moving us over to a new data management system in the coming months and that should rectify some of the challenges of making more Archbold monitoring data available to the public in the future.” If you are interested in local weather, there are several other weather stations in this area that provide data. NOAA maintains a very extensive Climate Reference Network (CRN) station on Archbold property a little further south towards Venus with 15-minute data for many meteorological measurements. ( Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch has an extensive network of weather stations and data from the Ranch’s main weather station are streamed to the US Department of Agriculture for posting online. The Florida Agricultural Weather Network (FAWN) is another source of weather data locally, supporting a weather station in Sebring and another in Palmdale ( with publically accessible data.

The Bad Seed: A Tangled Tale


Dense stand of Tanglehead Grass along Old State Route 8 beside the Archbold Biological Station. Photo credit: Archbold Biological Station

Author: Mark Deyrup

As one approaches the Archbold Biological Station on Old State Route 8 both sides of the road are lined with dense even stands of knee-high grass. A distinctive feature of this grass is its clumps of messy blackish seed heads. The same grass can be found along many roads through Highlands County. While not unattractive to look at, woe betide anybody attempting to walk through this grass when it is producing seed, for they will end up with hundreds of sharp-pointed seeds working through socks and even through fabric running shoes. This plant is Tanglehead Grass (scientific name Heteropogon contortus). Tanglehead seeds also work their way into the fur of animals, and where tanglehead is abundant in other states it can prevent raising sheep because of the intense irritation caused by seeds penetrating the wool and lodging in skin.

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A Big Batch of Beetles


The Gray Blister Beetle Epicauta heterodera visiting flowers of Palafoxia for nectar and pollenPhoto Credit: Archbold Biological Station

Author: Mark Deyrup

The living world may be richer and more interesting than we imagine, so much so that it is a major challenge to formally assess this wealth. At the Archbold Biological Station scientists have recently measured one dimension of this rich living heritage. After much patient work in the field and laboratory, Archbold staff and visiting researchers have recorded and collected specimens over decades allowing compilation of a mammoth list of 1,709 different species of beetles that that have been documented on the Station. There is probably no other site in North America with such a comprehensive specimen-based catalog of beetles.

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Spiders at Archbold: What Has Been Learned in Past 70 Years

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Female Workman’s Jumping Spider found on low growing shrubs in dry, open scrub and sandhill habitats on the Lake Wales Ridge. Notice bright green jaws.
Photo by: Giff Beaton

Author: Jim Carrel

In the past three years information about every spider species archived in the museum collection at the Archbold Biological Station has been computerized. Each listing for 482 preserved individuals includes the spider’s scientific name (taxonomic family, genus, and species), latitude and longitude for where it was collected, as well as the month and year it was found. This information recently became available free-of-charge to anyone in the world at the web site Global Biodiversity Information Facility (

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Helping Rare Plants Survive

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From left to right: Angela Soto, Megan Verner-Crist, and Lexi Siegle-Bates wrap up the project.
Photo Credit: Katherine Charton

Author: Lexi Siegle

This summer, biologists with the Plant Ecology Program at Archbold Biological Station were on a mission: to bolster a newly discovered population of a rare mint plant called  Scrub Balm (Dicerandra frutescens). The property where the new population was found is near Lake Placid and managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. It was recently surveyed for rare plants. When the previously undocumented population of Scrub Balm was found, biologists were excited about the discovery since only a dozen populations of this rare plant were already known. There were, however, very few plants in the newly discovered population, meaning it was vulnerable to extirpation. Thus began a plan to augment the population.

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To Move or Not to Move, That’s the Frog’s Question

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Adult Gopher Frog following capture. Photo by Garrett Lawson

Author: Garret Lawson

Habitat alteration is one of the greatest threats facing wildlife species that have specialized food and shelter preferences. Discovering whether—and how—native species use human-modified habitats is an important part of understanding their likelihood of persisting in changing landscapes. This is an especially interesting question for amphibians that use both aquatic and terrestrial habitats, like the Gopher Frog.

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Archbold Students Disperse Far and Wide

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Rachel King (left) discusses her research poster with Jennifer Jones at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.
Photo Credit: Eric Menges

Author: Dr. Eric Menges

Over the years, hundreds of students and scientists get training and research experience at Archbold Biological Station. What happens to all these bright minds? Many things, it turns out. Some are graduate students, some professors, some work for government agencies, and others for non-profits. But they never forget their Archbold roots. This August, thousands of ecologists gathered for the largest such conference, The Ecological Society of America’s  Annual Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. Among them were over a dozen Archbold alumni.

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Archbold joins Ranch to Ridge Expedition traversing Highlands and Polk Counties


The route of the 2019 Ranch to Ridge Expedition from Highlands Hammock Park to the Tiger Creek Preserve. Photo Credit: Florida Wildlife Corridor

Author: Hilary Swain

On Saturday, October 19, three intrepid Florida Wildlife Corridor explorers, Carlton Ward Jr., Mallory Dimmitt, and Joe Guthrie completed the final day of their 7-day 2019 expedition south to north through Highlands, Hardee, and Polk County. Joe Guthrie described their route: “We started in Highlands Hammock State Park, going west of the Ridge, turning north to traverse private ranches and public lands on foot and horseback, then trekked east across US 27 near the Frostproof junction into a conservation bank and state and federal lands, and ended up on paddleboards at The Nature Conservancy’s Tiger Creek Preserve on the Ridge near Lake Wales.”

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Teaming Up for Global Grasslands


Dr. Betsey Boughton, Agroecology Research Director at Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch, monitoring plant species composition in the grassland experiment.
Photo Credit: Research Intern, Jessica Patterson

Author: Dr. Betsey Boughton

Grasslands make up more than 40 percent of the world’s ice-free land. Grasslands are important because they have sustained humanity and thousands of other species for centuries. But today, those grasslands are shifting beneath our feet. Global change—which includes climate change, pollution and other widespread environmental alterations—is transforming the plant species growing in grasslands, and not always in the ways scientists expected. Continue reading

How Flowering Responds to Climate

Author: Eric Menges

Since the 1980s, Archbold Biological Station has provided a post-baccalaureate internship program (offered to individuals after they have completed their undergraduate degree). Over the years this has provided hands-on research experience to more than 500 college graduates. “Interns benefit from living at a biological field station, being trained in field research, and completing their independent research project,” explains Dr. Hilary Swain, Executive Director. “It is one of only a few programs nationwide that allows recent graduates to gain research experience before they commit to a graduate program or choose another career path.”

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A Look at Archbold’s Library

Author: Joe Gentili

Libraries have had a place in all societies with written works for thousands of years. They come in many shapes and sizes and each is designed to serve a different function and a different base of users. Many people are exposed to libraries in the form of their local public branch or perhaps a library in their school. For over seven decades, employees at Archbold Biological Station have had access to a different kind of library, one with the specialized materials and resources that scientists need to do the research they are engaged in.

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Post-doc Student Working at Archbold: Searching for Hidden Drivers of Florida’s Rarest Plants

By Maya Bell, University of Miami

There is a new collaboration growing at Archbold Biological Station, but it is so small, you can’t even see it. Over the last month, post-doctoral researcher Daniel Revillini from the University of Miami has been planting thousands of seeds—some smaller than a speck of dust, others the size of a grain of rice—into hundreds of tiny pots in a makeshift grow house in the basement of the university’s Cox Science Building. The goal is to find out if soil microorganisms, too small to see, affect the fates of these seeds.

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Exploring novel objects, novel places, and novel technology

Author: Dr. Angela Tringali

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.

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Children Imagine their Science Futures in an Archbold Art Project

Author: Dustin Angell

What did you want to be when you were a child? Did you ever dress up and pretend to be an astronaut, police officer, or maybe the President? This summer, campers at Archbold Biological Station in Venus, Florida pictured their future science careers during an original arts project called #MyScienceFuture. For more than 100 children attending Archbold’s Ecology Summer Camp sessions, this multi-day project culminated in professional photo shoots and messages they wrote for themselves, their families, and the public. #MyScienceFuture combines photography appreciation, imaginative play, drawing, and creative writing as tools for learning about nature and science.

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Intern to Professor Trajectory began at Archbold

Author: Dr. Jennifer Schafer

The first time Dr. Jennifer Schafer drove down Old State Road 8 and past the Spanish moss-covered oaks along the driveway into Archbold Biological Station, it was October 2001 and she was excited about her first job outside the Midwest. It did not take long for her to fall in love with the Florida scrub—the views from the Florida rosemary scrub patches, the sunsets over pines and palmettos, and the high level of endemism—species not seen anywhere else in the world. Eighteen years later, she is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Winthrop University in South Carolina and a Research Affiliate at Archbold, focusing on studies of plant ecology. And now, when she drives down Old State Road 8, she feels like she’s coming home.

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Hitchhiking Lizards

Author: Amanda West

Florida’s warm winters make it an ideal place for non-native reptiles to survive when transplanted here.  When a new species gains a foothold in south Florida, it may continue spreading northward, a process known as ‘secondary dispersal’.  In March, Archbold Biological Station researchers caught a small lizard making just such a move.
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Minty Fresh Conservation

Author: Stephanie Koontz

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.

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Citizen Scientists in Highlands County

This week many people across the country are celebrating ‘Citizen Science’.  What is citizen science? Are there local citizen science programs? Who do you contact if you want to become a citizen scientist?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines citizen science as: “scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions.”  “Many citizen science projects are aimed at improving our understanding of life of Earth and how ecosystems are changing over time” says Dr. Hilary Swain, Director at Archbold Biological Station. In the era of ‘big data’, the Internet and ‘real time data’, citizen science is undergoing a revolution. Professional scientists only have their eyes and ears directly on a few places at any one time, limiting the number of places at which scientific data are collected and how often data can be collected. By adding the observations of well-trained citizens, science is expanding its reach. Scientists including those at Archbold, now engage the general public by developing straightforward protocols, providing training, and using powerful computer analytical tools to verify the quality of the data submitted.
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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