The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) meets at Archbold
Biological Station, 30 January 1998. L-R: Robert E. Ricklefs, Richard B. Root, Gary K.
Meffe. SAB member not present in this photo in Frances C. James. Photo by Nancy
- More than 84 visiting
scientists from 34 colleges and universities, 6 museums and botanical gardens, 6
government agencies, and 2 private organizations, and 5 independent scientists, conducted
over 96 projects at Archbold.
- Thirteen federal grants/contracts
totaling $824,033 were funded for endangered species and other research in central
- Nineteen state or private grants
provided $785,126 for research, monitoring, and biological inventory.
- With financial support from the National Science Foundation
we completed a 100 mbps fiber optic computer
network, linking all labs and facilities at the Station and the Ranch.
Executive Director: Hilary M. Swain
A recurring theme at scientific meetings and among funding agencies is the need for
more interdisciplinary research, work at the interfaces of disciplinary boundaries, which
represents some of the most exciting new frontiers in science. At a field station such as
Archbold, meeting the goal of interdisciplinary research seems not only feasible but, in
some ways, almost inevitable. This may seem unexpectedour science often thrives
while advancing along meandering pathways. We are driven mainly by curiosity and a keen
sense of scientific adventure. But during 199798 we have achieved success in
interdisciplinary research by capitalizing on some systematic advantages:
Working at One Location. Whether dealing with research
at the Station (58 yr, 19411998), or at the Ranch (11 yr, 19881998) our myriad
data and thoughts are placed in interdisciplinary context by working largely at one
location with a long history. Understanding the spatial aspects of biological processes,
now extensively driven by integrated GIS coverages for Station and Ranch, and recognizing
the importance of the temporal scale, helps us grasp the ecological complexity of these
systems. The accumulating facts from different taxa and disciplines continually add
information to the unfinished scene; the comprehensive picture does not go unrecognized.
Thus Eric Menges, plant ecologist, in his
presentation at our 1998 Current Research Symposium,
combined data on Florida scrub-jays with data concerning fire histories and life history
strategies of plants, to argue for the ecological importance of "pyrodiversity"
the variable frequency, intensity, and seasonality of burn cycles in scrub
communities. Having staff and visitors conduct much of their work together at one location
heightens common awareness of the natural integration of biotic and abiotic factors.
Focused Research Programs. Archbolds mission
statements for the Station and the Ranch narrow the geographic range of what we
dofield ecology, preferably long-termon either the scrub habitats of the
Station and other sites along the Lake Wales Ridge,
or on the prairies of the Kissimmee Valley ranchlands. However these geographical
constraints do not narrow interest in the multitude of questions concerning these
habitats. Rather they allow us to focus, with greater depth and breadth, on these two
ecosystems. This in turn enables us to compare detailed data collected here with data from
other regionssuch as Eric Menges synthesis on the ecology and
conservation of the Florida scrub in a recent book, "Savannas, Barrens, and Rock
Outcrop Plant Communities of North America" (in press).
Our best interdisciplinary research ideas stem from the
strong disciplinary research programs of individual labs. The recent finding by Mark Deyrup and Tom Eisner, a new species of
pygmy mole cricket from the Florida scrub browsing on a delicate layer of blue-green algae
about 3mm down in the sand, has spawned a whole new dimension of work by Christine
Hawkes in the Plant Lab, examining the role of cryptobiotic soil crusts in nutrient
cycling. Analyses of long-term data on acorn production by Warren
Abrahamson, and Jim Layne, as well as Bob
Curry and the Bird Lab, link the research programs of the plant ecology, vertebrate,
and bird laboratories. Extensive data on the distribution, seasonality, and host
preferences of our insect fauna tie together interdisciplinary studies of pollination
biology and relationships between scrub-jays and their insect prey.
Most scientists rely on judgement by colleagues in their
direct fieldbut one of the rewarding aspects of research at a field station is the
degree to which we rely on peer review from colleagues in widely disparate fields.
As any participant to our 199798 research seminars (Appendix G) will attest, interdisciplinary peer review
is the order of the day. Our peers are not only experts in our specialized fields, but
also those able to contribute substantially because they know the sites and the systems so
well. This cycle has promoted awareness of, and opportunities for, interdisciplinary
Our scientific programs at Archbold are strongly linked to
real-world problems. There is no gulf between scientists and land managers at
Archboldthey are the same people. At the Station our research helps guide
stewardship for our own and other publicly managed scrub properties. This is epitomized by
data on Florida scrub-jay genetics, metapopulation structure, and responses to fire
collected by Glen Woolfenden, John Fitzpatrick, and Reed Bowman. These data have helped define the
parameters for selecting and managing protected areas along the Lake Wales Ridge and
elsewhere in Florida. At the Ranch, solutions to questions of
sustainability in agro-ecosystems will come from the interface between our ecological and
economic research programs, rather than either discipline working in isolation. Real world
problems provide a tremendous purpose for our work; interfaces between disciplines are
very relevant to help solve these problems and enhance our ability to understand levels of
organization across a range of biological and socio-economic factors.
Interdisciplinary research has been further supported in
199798 by strengthening complementary and supportive sciences and facilities.
The new Local Area Network, an Internet connection with T1 line, Web site, and computer information center (see page 30), has
complemented our existing technical support expertise in GIS, reference collections,
library, long-term monitoring data such as detailed climate information (see page 27), as well as
information management. Easier access to technology and data on site has facilitated
interdisciplinary researchwhether it is an intern in the Plant Lab identifying a
pollinating insect, or a visiting class using satellite imagery via the Internet to help
plan the design of their field experiment.
A Legacy of Interdisciplinary Research. We inherit and
are enriched by our predecessors ways of asking. Archbold is fortunate to have been
favored by many scientists whose research and writings have had a tradition of reaching
out to other fields, merging different perspectives, and creating new fields. This is
epitomized by Research Associate Tom Eisners
work in chemical ecology, which we celebrated in fall 1998 when he presented the library
with two bound volumes of 114 papers stemming from his work to date here at the Station.
He credits many of these findings from Archbold as helping to launch the interdisciplinary
field of chemical ecology.
In conclusion, all our research programs in
199798, from those that could be defined as disciplinarily narrow to those that are
broadly interdisciplinary, leave us with an increased appetite to further advance our
understanding of this special place. We would encourage you to read through the pages of
this report to join us in this scientific adventure.
Biennial Contents | Top
© Archbold Biological Station, 2000 March, revised
21 July 2000.
Webmaster: Fred E.
Archbold Biological Station, P.O. Box 2057, Lake Placid,
Florida 33862 USA
Phone: 863-465-2571, FAX: 863-699-1927, email