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The Founding: Richard Archbold, the colorful aviator-explorer, founded the Station in 1941. After more than a decade of exploration in Madagascar and New Guinea, Archbold obtained the original 1,000-acre "Red Hill" Estate as a gift from John A. Roebling, II, grandson of the Brooklyn Bridge designer. The land contained an unusual diversity of natural habitats, a cluster of well-constructed buildings, and other improvements ideally suited for an ecological field station. Early research was dominated by botanical and entomological explorations, and many scientists developed long-term projects that became milestones in their fields. Several of these scientists continue to visit the Station regularly even today.
Leadership: Richard Archbold was Resident Director from 1941 until his death in 1976. Dr Austin L Rand was the first Resident Biologist in 1941 and 1942. Dr. Leonard J. Brass was Resident Biologist from 1945 to his retirement in 1966. In 1967 Dr. James N. Layne became the first Director of Research. Layne began many long-term monitoring programs that are now part of the Station's permanent regime. He was named Executive Director shortly after Mr. Archbold's death in 1976. Layne assumed a full-time research post in 1985, Dr. James L. Wolfe served as Executive Director from 1985 through 1988, and Dr. John W. Fitzpatrick served as Executive Director from 1988 to 1995. Dr. Hilary M. Swain became Executive Director in 1995.
Growth, 1970s - 1980s: The Station grew substantially during the 1970s and 80s, adding important new property (including Lake Annie), three full-time Research Biologists, a librarian, a business manager, four Research Associates, a machine shop building, renovated laboratory space, a fleet of 4-wheel drive vehicles, and other vital research equipment. In 1986, with NSF support, an Annex was added to the Main Building to house research collections, lab and computer space, and an auditorium.
Growth, 1990s: In 1990, a full Geographic Information System (GIS) was installed in the Annex, and a GIS Manager was hired. In 1995, one of the original 1930s Roebling masonry buildings, the garages, was converted to 1,520 square feet of office and collections space, and named the Austin L. Rand Building to honor Rand's important scientific contributions to the three Archbold Expeditions of the 1930s and to the founding of the Station. In 1997, with NSF support, a fiber-optic, institution-wide computer system was installed with Windows NT as the operating software and a Computer Systems Manager was hired. In 1997 Station housing was augmented with a new 3-bedroom cottage (Pine Cottage) , and in 1997-98 metal roofing was installed on 4 existing cottages.
Agro-ecology: In November 1988, the Station became manager of the 10,300-acre (4,170 ha) Buck Island Ranch, under a long-term lease from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The Ranch, maintained as a full-scale working ranch and citrus grove, is the location of the Agro-ecology Research Center.