A new report from the National Research Council on the future of field stations and marine labs highlights the value of field observations and offers ways to improve the management of these institutions.

“Often out of sight, field stations are quietly providing essential insights to ecosystems that support life on earth,” said Mark Stromberg, who served on the committee that authored the report. Stromberg is retired from the University of California, Berkeley Hastings Reserve and University of California Natural Reserve System. Despite their importance, everyone is not aware of the value of these institutions. “Field stations must step forward to explain their value to society and in understanding our natural world.”

“We are excited to see the National Academy of Sciences articulate the critical role that field stations, marine laboratories, and nature reserves play in understanding our changing natural world and for creating a scientifically literate workforce capable of competing globally,” said Sarah Oktay, president of the Organization of Biological Field Stations and director of the University of Massachusetts Nantucket Field Station. “Given the large investment in these institutions the report provides useful recommendations in how to best utilize these facilities for the greatest benefit to society. The Organization of Biological Field Stations appreciates the hard work that went into the report and is enthusiastic to explore the mechanisms proposed to ensure we are realizing the full value of these institutions during this period of rapid environmental change.”

Among the report’s recommendations are improved financial management of field stations and better planning for future costs, like equipment replacement. Field stations should also assess cyber-infrastructure needs to facilitate broader networking.

The role of field stations and marine labs in science education was noted, especially given that about three-quarters of U.S. institutions are affiliated with a university. Citizen science programs were recommended as a way to engage the public.

“Enhancing the Value and Sustainability of Field Stations and Marine Laboratories in the 21st Century” is available for free at http://dels.nas.edu/Report/Enhancing-Value-Sustainability/18806.


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