LAKE PLACID –– It was an evening of numbers.
First there was 1941, “the year Richard Archbold, famed aviator and explorer, founded Archbold Biological Station, an ancient scrub ridge in the headwaters of the Everglades.”
Then there was 271,000. That’s the number of Florida plant, arthropod, bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian and fish specimens in Archbold’s Natural History Collection. It is one of the largest of any field station in the world.
There was 487. “The number of student interns who have completed research at Archbold,” meeting and working alongside leading scientists in the field.
But the number that everyone came to celebrate was 75.
Archbold Biological Station marked its 75th anniversary Thursday afternoon (Feb. 11) with an intimate gathering of friends, interns, scientists, researchers and volunteers.
Richard Archbold’s nephew, Jack Hufty, was there for the celebration. Archbold’s great-niece, Schellie Archbold, flew in from New York for the event.
Dr. Hilary Swain, the Station’s executive director, welcomed those who gathered, saying one of the things that Richard Archbold used to say is that one will “fall in love with the area and never really leave. They just never really sever that umbilical cord.”
Swain had members of the audience raise their hands to note the decade in which they first visited the Station. They ranged from David Rinald, who lived at the Station with his parents back in the 1940s, to the 20 or so interns who arrived just this year. Former interns also flew in from as far away as Texas and California to help celebrate the Station’s diamond anniversary.
Several from the staff stepped up and shared even more numbers with the crowd.
Dr. Reed Bowman, associate research biologist and director of the Avian Ecology Program, talked about the 20-year long scrub jay project and the more than 200 research papers his team has written.
There was talk of the palm trees that have been on the property for more than 5,000 years and the 19 federally listed threatened and endangered species found at Archbold, and the 88 new species described by Station scientists.
“This is one of the most precious areas in the nation, not just in Florida. Every day we learn something new. We have not only been good for the past 75 years, but we are going to be great for the next 75 years,” Swain said.
She closed the celebration with an invitation for visitors to share in the anniversary cake and take a behind-the-scenes tour of the labs. Even then, she reminded the crowd that the “real lab is out there,” pointing to the scrub area.