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Cornell @ Archbold

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50 Years of Field Ecology

In 2018, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology will be celebrating its commitment to field teaching -- help us celebrate! Since 1968, BioEE 6602, better known as the “Florida field course," has enriched the academic and personal lives of our faculty and graduate students. Courses like BioEE 6602 provide fledgling graduate students with an array of immersive field experiences, and showcase our department's mission to sustain field study within our academic program. Join us on Facebook, and learn about fund-raising efforts to support future graduate student expeditions to the heartland of Florida. 

A Little History

In 1968, Assistant Professor Dick Root first visited Archbold with a handful of Cornell graduate students. The Station’s annual report notes that “The purpose of Dr. Root’s visit was to determine the feasibility of carrying out intensive investigations during the winter on the arthropod faunae associated with Asclepias spp. and various crucifers. Recently arrived Director of Research, Jim Layne (also from Cornell) was greatly impressed with Root, and encouraged him to think about the Station's potential for research and Cornell field courses.”

Root forged and solidified the initial connection to Archbold and, for the next 50 years, he and subsequent faculty carried on the tradition by bringing students to the station for hands-on field study, where immersion in the natural world sprouts forth boundless opportunities for scientific exploration and discovery.

Nearly every Ecology and Evolutionary Biology faculty member has had the good fortune with interaction with alumni from this course. Invariably at national meetings a person notices your name badge, stops you in the hall and goes on to tell you that they had taken the Florida course! This is often followed by comments like “the most important thing I did in graduate school” or “helped me to understand what I loved about science”.  Humbled by these comments, the current instructors of this course are dedicated to ensuring that this course continues in perpetuity and on a firm financial footing.

Present and Future Field Courses

Building upon Dr. Root's quest, we continue to offer our graduate students the opportunity to define and design their own field investigations at Archbold. The station, located in South Central Florida, provides a perfect venue for field study across the disciplines of ecology and evolutionary biology in one of the most distinctive natural habitats in the United States.

Funding for field study such as the Florida field course is at best variable, and, at worst, often terminated during uncertain financial times on campus. We have successfully fought to keep this course a reality for 50 years, but we need YOUR help! Support from alumni of the course and fellow Cornellians can secure the financial future of this program; lets work together to establish and grow the newly created Root-Marks Fund for Field Teaching. As part of this effort, the Department has already crowd-sourced $16,320 to cover housing, transportation, field equipment, field trips, and lab fees for 2018 running of the Florida field course! An overall $200K fund-raising campaign will endow all future field courses offered by the department.

During a recent course, the folks at Archbold asked our department what the pilgrimage to Florida means to our students and faculty; we invite you to watch the video below for a glimpse into how we tell our story (you can also follow this link to view the video).