week306aPhoto by: Haoyu Li

Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch hosts Environmental Stewardship Field Day

Author: Karen Rice-David

Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch held its first Environmental Stewardship Field Day this past November. The goal of Environmental Stewardship Field Day is to share the research findings from Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch with the community to promote stewardship practices, while also gaining insight into the type of information and knowledge the community wants to receive from Archbold.

Archbold researchers, staff, and interns hosted more than 30 attendees from a range of backgrounds, including local ranches, agroindustry, non-profits, and government agencies. The Field Day started at the Frances Hufty Learning Center at Archbold Biological Station. Information booths with posters, handouts, and interactive displays allowed participants to meet informally to discover mutual interests and share ideas. Karen Rice-David, Archbold Agroecology Research Assistant, reflected on her experience, “This event connected me with other researchers and agencies who were also researching the use of cover crops. We had the opportunity to share experiences and give advice to each other. We agreed that we are all working towards the same goal and want to go forward sharing information as we work towards solutions to improve soil health in Florida. Furthermore, by having local ranchers at this event, and not just other researchers, we also learned about questions and concerns producers have about our research. This can shape what questions we ask in our research and make the work we do something that will truly benefit real people in our community.”

Three presentations finished off the morning session. Participants heard from Archbold and University of Florida scientists about managing non-native grasses through grazing, mapping soil legacy phosphorous for remediation, and understanding the carbon footprint of a ranch. The group then caravanned to Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch for a steak lunch, provided by Buckhead Meat. One attendee wrote to organizers after the event, “As a lifelong Floridian, it’s very encouraging to see so many scientists working to help find solutions to Florida’s ongoing ecological crises. I felt very privileged to be included so I could learn more about the vital work you and your colleagues are engaged in. In spite of the rain, the highlight of the day was the tour of Buck Island Ranch. I was able to meet and talk to some other attendees at lunch and learn a bit about their involvement with Buck Island.”

week306bPhoto by: Haoyu Li

The Field Day finished up with a swamp buggy tour of the different experimental pastures at Buck Island Ranch. For instance, participants saw pastures planted with different grasses to produce different qualities of hay. Later on the tour, the group got out of the buggies to walk around a pasture planted with cover crops. The swamp buggies drove past different pasture types, allowing the group to visually compare a mostly Bahia Grass planted pasture with a semi-native pasture. Dr. Betsey Boughton, Archbold Agroecology Director, remarked, “It was a privilege to share our science and receive feedback from a diverse group of people from industry, state, and federal agencies, scientists, non-profit environmental groups, and ranchers. It was inspiring to be surrounded by people committed to sustaining working grasslands for our future generations.”