The Organization of Biological Field Stations at Fifty

The study of ecology has resulted in major advances in human understanding of complex ecosystems, yet its central focus has drifted over time away from organismal and natural history research toward theoretical and modeling approaches (Barrows et al. 2016). Despite this shift, vibrant, field‐based science education and research is occurring across the globe via integrated, transformative, hands‐on activities at field stations (Billick et al. 2013). Field stations facilitate observation and tracking of environmental change, link ecology and human health, spark new biomedical technology, and create a collaborative learning community. Field station studies range from molecular to organismal, from simple experiments to high‐tech genomic and isotopic work, from micro‐ to macro‐landscapes.

Field stations are centers for research, teaching, and engagement that provide environmental information and education around the globe (Tydecks et al. 2016). Field stations provide a physical and intellectual space for at least four societal functions, including (1) observation of environmental change, (2) training the next generation of scientists and continuing training of practicing educators and natural resource professionals, (3) engaging the public in science and discovery of the natural world, and (4) space to test new technologies and methods (NRC 2014). Field stations also are important repositories of long‐term data sets and plant and animal collections. These data sets are especially valuable in the face of local to global changes in temperature, precipitation, storm intensity, phenology, and other factors associated with changing climate and land use.

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