The Importance of Field Stations

Field stations vary in mandate, governance, institutional affiliation, size, and geographic and environmental context. With such marked diversity it is challenging to encapsulate the value of individual field stations within a single document. Nevertheless, it is easy to capture the collective value of field stations to science and society as they provide:

  • Venues for intensive field courses and teaching workshops using both “natural laboratories” and state-of-the-art instrumentation (e.g. climate monitoring instrumentation, telemetry, eddy flux covariance towers).
  • Locales for sustained and leading-edge research in ecology and evolutionary biology, physiology, environmental studies, civil engineering, geography, geology, and myriad other disciplines with secure and predictable research environments.
  • Repositories of long-term datasets that (i) facilitate comparisons of populations and ecosystems over time, (ii) allow tracking of temporal environmental change, and (iii) provide inspiration, data or specimens for new studies.
  • Locales where researchers from multiple disciplines, institutions and cultures will meet, exchange ideas, and often serendipitously arrive at new ways of thinking or lines of research.
  • Conservation of biological, landscape and cultural diversity.
  • Pristine, ‘undisturbed’ reference sites for large-scale studies of human impacts.
  • Opportunities for school and public outreach in science, natural history, outdoor education, and environmental and conservation issues.