On September 22-23, 2014, I attended the joint annual meeting of the Organization of Biological Field Stations (OBFS) and the National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML) at Marine Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole. Field station and lab directors from across the country gathered together to discuss potential funding opportunities, infrastructure and equipment, research initiatives, the national policy landscape, the importance of these facilities in providing people with a connection to nature, and best practices for effectively communicating science. Much of the conversation focused on environmental monitoring networks and collaborative research: if field stations are able to link or install compatible environmental sensors and implement similar data collection protocols at each site, the data can be used both to answer questions at both a local and regional spatial scale. Additionally, collaboration between field stations will allow us all to capitalize on the strengths each facility has to tackle complex environmental problems and develop creative solutions. The group acknowledged that the funding landscape is changing and becoming more challenging as the Federal Government continues to reduce funds allocated to research; however, opportunities do exist for creative partnerships and funding models to continue the important scientific and educational work being done at field stations.
Jerry Schubel from the Aquarium of the Pacific and Chair of the Committee on Value and Sustainability of Biological Field Stations, Marine Laboratories, and Nature Reserves in 21st Century Science, Education, and Public Outreach gave a public briefing about a report recently released by the National Research Council of the National Academies entitled "Enhancing the Value and Sustainability of Field Stations and Marine Laboratories in the 21st Century," in which the committee provided recommendations to field stations and marine labs for innovative solutions to overcome current challenges. They also created a short video to promote the value of field stations, which you can view here.
It is always helpful to hear the perspectives of directors and researchers at other field stations, and I look forward to continuing to network and collaborate with the Gulf of Maine field stations as we form the Hurricane Island field research station.