Since inception, Archbold Biological Station has prioritized the development and curation of an on-site, multi-taxon, specimen-based, natural history collection. The collection of specimens is necessary for research at the Station and for outside investigators, emphasizing two essential activities -- the identification of species and documentation of biodiversity. After 70 years of steady growth, as of 2009, the Archbold collection includes 230,757 well-preserved, and well-labeled specimens of plants, birds, fish, herptiles, mammals and arthropods. The Archbold collection is probably unrivalled in scope and size among biological field station collections in North America, and is likely one of the largest on-site collections encompassing the taxonomic diversity of a single (3,577-ha) site in the U.S.A. Our diverse natural history reference collection is a key component of the Station’s infrastructure, serving a broad community of staff researchers, visiting investigators and students, and supplying collection material and information to outside investigators. Plant specimens have been used in studies of community ecology, such as the response of vegetation to fire. The vertebrate collection was designed for studies of variation, growth patterns, life histories, and population dynamics of local vertebrates. The arthropod collection contributes to numerous studies needing insect identification, as well as providing large numbers of specimens with ecological data.
The Archbold collection is an important repository for scrub-associated species from the Station and the surrounding Lake Wales Ridge ecosystem, and includes some of the rarest species in North America. The Archbold collection also helps guide land management decisions for protected areas of Florida scrub habitat. Because the Station is used heavily for education programs, the collection is a source of ideas and study specimens for undergraduates/graduates from around the world and by college classes; it also provides interpretative materials for K-12 education and public outreach.
Despite the breadth and secure status of the Archbold collection, it is representative of many natural history collections recently reviewed by the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections (2009) and NSF (Skog et al. 2009) in still having a dearth of information from the collection available online, and limited interoperability of the data with regional, national or international collections. In July 2009, ABS submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation’s Biological Research Collections program to computerize the majority of the Archbold collection. If funded, this project will greatly improve user access to Archbold collection data via standard Internet protocols, leading to better collection management, enhanced research and conservation activities, and increased education and outreach. This will meet the science community’s high priority for projects that integrate collection information to provide resources for research.
Collections of local biological specimens have been an important component of the Station’s scientific facilities since its founding in 1941. Trained in museum traditions, Richard Archbold, founder of Archbold Biological Station, prioritized the development and curation of the secure on-site Archbold collection. His emphasis continues to this day. In the early years, the Archbold collection was built by founding staff with Richard Archbold taking an intense personal interest. The biological specimen collections grew at various rates during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s depending on the activities of resident staff and on donations (primarily insects) by visiting scientists. Station Botanist Leonard J. Brass founded the Herbarium in the mid-1940s and was its curator until he retired in 1967. Visiting Entomologists Stuart Frost gave the insect collection a big boost during the 1950s and 60s when he spent his winters at Archbold, and Karl Krombein, Smithsonian Institute helped build the Hymenoptera collection. Station Vertebrate Biologist Austin L. Rand started the bird and mammal collections in 1941. Richard Archbold was curator and collection manager of the animal collections until 1967 when the Station hired a zoologist, James N. Layne, as Scientific Director. Under Layne’s direction the vertebrate collections grew rapidly. Richard Archbold continued as collection manager for all the biological specimen collections until shortly before his death in 1976.
During 1976-1981, Fred E. Lohrer was collection manager for all the collections, and continued as manager of the vertebrate collections through 1991. In the early 1980s the Herbarium and Insect collections began to grow rapidly when new biologists were hired in those fields (plant ecologist Ronald L. Meyers and entomologist Mark A. Deyrup). During the 1990s, the arthropod collection increased rapidly; the herbarium, and herptile collections grew moderately; and the other collections grew slowly. Beginning in 1991, Glen Woolfenden was responsible for the burgeoning numbers of bird specimens, arranging a large significant accession in 1995 of Florida and Archbold-relevant species from the former University of Miami collection. The responsibilities for the bird collection were assumed by Reed Bowman after Glen’s Woolfenden’s passing in 2007.
Over the decades, the Station has committed staff and significant institutional support to defray annual operating expenses. Today, each collection is the responsibility of a Station Research Biologist in that field (Deyrup, Rothermel, Bowman, and Weekley). Hilary Swain, Executive Director, has overall responsibility as institutional administrator. The vascular plant and arthropod sections of the collection are integrated into the Plant Ecology and Entomology laboratories, respectively. Bird and mammal skeletons/skins are held in a dedicated collection room in the Rand Building, and the wet collection is housed in a separate room in the Annex.
Beginning in 1967, Richard Archbold created and maintained collection catalogs for all Station scientific specimens. The catalogs were retrospective from the beginning, and were typed on individual species 5x8 cards. In 1976, book-form catalogs (hand-written) were started for the vertebrate collections, but the species cards for plants and for insects were not maintained after Archbold’s death in 1976. Collection information management at Archbold is in transition. In 1999, the herbarium data were entered into Biota®, a "biodiversity database manager" for managing collections. To date, the book catalogs for vertebrates are still maintained, and the bird catalogue is in electronic format. The arthropods are not in a catalogue except for electronic database for Florida ants, and many flower visitor records. Archbold’s aim is to provide Internet access to specimen catalog information, and the Station is now exploring using Specify 6 for collections management software. Our goal is to computerize the majority of the collection data so that it is organized in a single database, readily searchable, directly accessible, and freely available via the Internet. We anticipate that completion of a database for the multi-taxon Archbold collection, and making it accessible via the Internet will enhance advances in biological sciences, promote benefits to conservation, and increase educational outreach.
As of 2009, the Archbold collection comprises 230,757 labeled, identified specimens, representing 9,485 species, nearly all of which have been authenticated by taxonomic experts (Archbold Collection Summary Table) Arthropods dominate (95%), and 44% of the remaining specimens are plants. About 70% of the specimens have been collected at the Station, an extraordinary record of biodiversity for a 3,577-ha site. The collection holds a specimen for virtually every species of plant and insect known from the Station; otherwise the geographic emphasis is Highlands County or Florida.
Herbarium is curated by Dr. Eric S. Menges. We now have over 4200 specimens of vascular plants representing over 1500 species. Most specimens (60%) were collected in Highlands County, including many endangered and threatened plants of the Lake Wales Ridge. About ¼ of the specimens were collected at Archbold, many by the late Archbold botanist Leonard J. Brass, for whom the herbarium was named. We also named the collection after Dorothy Mundell, who was instrumental in organizing the herbarium and entering digital data on each herbarium sheet. Separate collections include lichens, mosses, and seeds. Click here for the Station's vascular plant list, which is based entirely on voucher specimens. In 2014, all vascular plant records were photographed and digitized in an effort spearheaded by Archbold staff along with Gil Nelson (Florida State University) and Joanna McCaffrey (iDigBio). We used high resolution photography to digitize about 150 specimens per hour.
Click here to access this online herbarium
You can view Archbold Biological Station specimens by selecting ARCH. The database is searchable on many fields including plant name, collector, locality, and year collected. The Archbold herbarium data is linked to data from multiple herbaria across the United States into one large database accessible to all. Using these data, one can map species distributions and shifts across decades, hone searches for new or extirpated populations of rare species, and create checklists for geographic areas. The digitization of herbaria means less handling of individual specimens thus securing the longevity of the specimen.
Arthropod. Curator, Mark A. Deyrup. The insect collection numbers an estimated 218,000 pinned specimens, and is focused on the Station and the nearby southern end of the Lake Wales Ridge, except for the ant collection, which is statewide in scope. Loans are available. The Station arthropod collection is still growing rapidly. Our goal is to make selected families, or orders, become accessible in digital format as funding becomes available. Priorities for cataloguing and making collection information available over the Internet are:
Fishes, Amphibians, and Reptiles. Curator, Betsie Rothermel. A moderately sized collection of preserved specimens of fishes and herptiles is available at Archbold Biological Station. All specimens were collected in Florida, with the vast majority from Highlands County in general, and Archbold Biological Station in particular. The fish collection consists of 2,248 specimens, with ¼ of the specimens from Lake Annie. Approximately 2,068 specimens of amphibians and reptiles are in the collection. Additional specimens were sent to the American Museum of Natural History in earlier decades. The amphibian and reptile collection consists of some of the largest series of local, endemic species such as sand skinks (Plestiodon [Neoseps] reynoldsi) and blue-tailed mole skinks (Eumeces egregius lividus). In addition, large series are available of some introduced species of amphibians and reptiles, such as the Indopacific gecko (Hemidactylus garnotii). Fish, amphibians, and reptiles are preserved in 70% Ethanol.
The fish and herptile collections are available for examination. Visiting courses and researchers may find the collections useful for teaching and reference purposes. Biologists studying vertebrates in central Florida may find the specimens useful for studies of geographic distribution, ecology, genetics, and general natural history. Any interested parties should contact Betsie Rothermel for access to the specimens. In certain cases the specimens may be loaned to individuals at institutions with museum facilities.
Birds. Curator, Reed Bowman. The bird collections at Archbold contains study skins and skeletal specimens. Over 75% of all birds known from Florida are represented by study skins from Florida (through the efforts of Curator Glen E. Woolfenden, 1991-2007). For most species we have only a very few study skins, but for a few we have lengthy series. We have many skins of Florida Scrub-Jays and Blue Jays, species studied extensively at Archbold, and short series for a few other species of specific research interest, such as the Short-eared Owl for example. The skeletal collection also has representatives of almost all of the birds of Florida. The collection is used for reference regularly by members of the Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee and other researchers. Anyone can work with the collection. Permission must be obtained from Reed Bowman in the Avian Ecology Lab. We will respond to inquires as to what we have in the collection.
Mammals.Curator, Reed Bowman. The mammal collection consists of 73 study skins and associated skulls. Some series of skulls are also available, for example the collection includes 51 opossum (Didelphis virginianus) skulls collected in Highlands County, Florida. A long series of mouse species especially Peromyscus floridanus were donated to the Florida Museum of Natural History and additional specimens to the American Museum of Natural History. The mammal collection is available for examination. Visiting courses and researchers may find the collection useful for teaching and reference purposes. Biologists studying vertebrates in central Florida may find the specimens useful for studies of geographic distribution, ecology, genetics and general natural history. Any interested parties should contact Reed Bowman for access to the specimens. In certain cases the specimens may be loaned to individuals at institutions with museum facilities.
Archbold’s natural history collection contains a unique record of life in the Florida scrub and surrounding environs that is irreplaceable and notable for its depth of ecological and distributional information on native, introduced, and rare (threatened and endangered) species. Our specimens are especially rich in associated ecological data because they reflect the collecting perspective of ecologists with strong taxonomic abilities, often drawn to collecting specimens with useful and interesting natural history observations.
Of 260 Archbold publications during 2004-2008, information and materials from the collection have contributed directly to 37 peer-reviewed journal articles and eight other publications. Most publications relate to systematics, descriptions of new species, distribution information for regional endemics, as well as exotics. Others address topics in evolutionary biology, invasion biology, conservation biology and behavioral ecology. We illustrate the range of impact with five examples of publications, some by staff scientists and others by visiting investigators.
The Archbold collection has contributed to the appreciation of scrub biodiversity, and has served many functions in addition to providing materials essential to biological research. First, it provides resources to train students. Many graduate students who conduct research at Archbold as well as undergrad/ post-baccalaureate students in the Station research experience program received training in the use of the collection. Archbold is used for teaching by many colleges and universities. Visiting classes can consult the collection under curator supervision. Archbold’s K-12 Ecology program hosts 2,000-3,000 3rd-5th grade and middle school children annually and the 3rd-5th grade curricula material is derived extensively from Station research, and uses surplus collection specimens as teaching material for classroom activities.
Archbold hosts a large number of regional and national conferences and workshops, including meetings focused on taxonomic collections (e.g., annual Black Fly Society, NSF Scarab Beetle Research Coordination Network 2005, Florida’s Exotic Plant Pest Council). Station facilities are used frequently by agencies for mid-career training; e.g. we have provided access to the collection for the Lake Wales Ridge Ecosystem Working Group (land managers from 11 state, federal, and local agencies) so they can identify scrub species on the sites they manage. Similarly, citizen science programs such as “Ridge Rangers” have used the collection for volunteer training to identify scrub plants. The Archbold collection has been key to training parataxonomists such as the Records Committee of the Florida Ornithological Society, and amateur entomologists such as Vince Golia, whose skills have added a considerable number of specimens to our Coleoptera collection.
The Archbold collection has been a source of inspiration and materials for many visiting artists, such as Turid Forsyth and Mollie Doctrow. Mark Deyrup, ABS entomologist, is a skillful illustrator, speaker, and author. His exquisite drawings of ants entice public eyes towards the beauty and excitement of the collection. Likewise, his literary contributions (also stemming from the collection) such as the immensely popular coffee table book “Florida’s Fabulous Insects”
(Deyrup et al. 2000) expose many to science and nature. Scientific Illustrator Nancy Lowe offered a 2009 class at ABS for high school students and undergraduates and was thrilled to have them draw from the teaching collection of skulls and seeds
The Archbold Collection Policies provides detailed guidelines for use of the collection. In summary: loans are available but preference is given to investigators that justify the need for an Archbold specimen (ex. for edge of range data). New accessions will be primarily Station, Lake Wales Ridge, or research project-related. We have no plans for de-accessions except discarded specimens to our teaching collection. We require staff and visitors to provide copies of collecting permits. Although there are no fees for use of the collection, we have a $10/day Station use fee and we require users pay shipping expenses for loans. Once it is available we will provide unlimited Internet-based access to collection data, but we will request users to credit Archbold in acknowledgements, and inform us of publications from their work to add to our online publication database.