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October 2022

Science is the life blood of UMBS, and supporting researchers is critical to maintaining our data-rich and place-based understanding of ecological systems.

How do we support researchers at UMBS? In so many ways: from Adam Schubel helping find quality field sites and supporting data collection, to Jason Tallant supporting collaborative science through existing and new data, to Helen Habicht puzzling out how best to assess samples, to Scott Haley, Renee Kinney, and Eareckson Myers making sure the facilities are operational and safe, to Sherry Webster providing a unique suite of supplies for field and lab projects, to Laurie Brooke and Sharon Armock making sure we have excellent food to fuel our long field days… I could go on.

As a staff, we love to hear the science stories that emerge from research. We are also keenly aware that the knowledge scientists generate at UMBS helps recruit new scientists who generate new knowledge – a positive feedback loop and a core goal.

That said, most researchers will tell you that garnering the support needed to start new science activities can be tough. If a scientist is new to an ecosystem, starting work in a new field, hoping to take their program in a unique direction, or their work is deemed “too risky”, it can seem impossible to find support – especially in the current landscape in which science funding is only becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.

Field stations like UMBS are uniquely positioned to step in and help bridge that gap. Over the next decade, we hope to build funds to help support our scientific research community at critical times in their careers, and in support of new and “risky” science ideas. Last summer, we used some existing funds to support three research scientists – each at a different point in their careers, and each with a different scientific need.

One of these scientists, Dr. Fernanda Santos, provides a lovely example of how existing science infrastructure and knowledge – coupled with critical financial support – can encourage a scientist to start a UMBS-based research program that will, in turn, create new knowledge and recruit new researchers. Dr. Santos is just starting her scientific career as a staff scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Meanwhile at UMBS – twelve years ago, soil cores were inserted into an existing experiment to understand how roots can help soils hold on to carbon. Funding cycles typically run in three year increments and money for the project had run out, so the cores were just waiting to be harvested. Dr. Santos received a grant from ORNL that would enable her to analyze the cores, but didn’t cover costs of her trip to northern Michigan. As a new mom, she also needed support for her family to travel to and stay at UMBS – expenses not typically supported by grant funding. Thanks to a generous gift from several UMBS alumni, the Station was able to support both Dr. Santos’ work and her family this summer. We are all excited to see the results of her project. Stay tuned!

Dr. JP Lessard, an Associate Professor at Concordia University, and was looking for an engaging and collaborative ecological research community in which to explore novel questions around the impacts of climate on insects and herbivory. He heard about UMBS and thought it would be the perfect place to develop work in a new area – linking climate change, herbivory, and ecosystem function. With support from the UMBS Alfred H. Stockard Family Endowment, Dr. Lessard was able to collect preliminary data for a grant he will submit to the Canadian Research Counsel. And as the ultimate endorsement of his time at UMBS, he is now pursuing teaching a field ecology course on site next year!

Dr. Brian Scholtens, a Professor at the College of Charleston, was also supported by the Alfred H. Stockard Family Endowment. Dr. Scholtens was able to complete a long-term survey of moths and butterflies around UMBS. Given declining insect populations worldwide, systemic work and surveys are incredibly important, but also difficult to fund with grant support. Dr. Sholtens collected and identified hundreds of leaf mining insects, flies, and beetles to complete an extensive survey first started by Dr. Ed Voss.

As ever, UMBS staff remains committed to supporting research like this, and we look forward to seeing how this work spurs new questions, observations, and ideas in the UMBS community and beyond. We’ll keep you posted.

Dr. Aimée Classen

UMBS Director