Discoveries at Field Stations

Inspiring new technology

In 1938 at the Huyck Preserve and Biological Research Station in New York, Donald Griffin discovered that bats use echolocation to navigate and hunt. This finding quickly took on global implications, leading directly to the Allied Forces’ development of sonar and radar during World War II.

Image of a little brown bat.
Little brown bat. Photo courtesy of Brock Fenton.

Linking ecology and human health

Researchers at Sevilleta Field Station in New Mexico have drawn on the station’s long-term data sets to demonstrate that hantavirus outbreaks are linked to deer mice populations and El Niño weather patterns.

Deer Mouse. Photo courtesy of Mark Chapell.

Predicting the effects of climate change

Dozens of global climate change studies are underway at field stations across the country, from Stanford University’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve in California to the Harvard Forest in Massachusetts.

Together, these long-term studies have fundamentally altered our understanding of the impact global warming is having on natural systems.

Study plot of the JR global change experiment. Photo courtesy of JRBP.

Sparking new biomedical technology

Scientists studying a population of parasitic flies at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory in Texas discovered that the fly had a previously unknown acoustical organ. This finding has led to a groundbreaking design for innovative directional hearing aids.

Ormia ochracea. Photo courtesy of Binghamton University.

Observing and tracing environmental change

At Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire, researchers working on long-term waterquality studies noted a disturbing increase in the acidity of lakes and streams.

Further work linked “acid rain” with emissions from coal-fired power plants and industrial facilities, resulting in national emission standards that have substantially improved water quality.

Autumn forest and lake at HBEF.
Sulfur and acidity of precipitation and stream water at HBEF are directly related to emissions (Likens et al., Biogeochemistry 2002)