All basic requirements for life and civilization are inexorably linked to natural resources and the wellbeing of our environment. As the human population skyrockets toward 8 billion and beyond, our impacts soar, leading us into a multi-dimensional crisis. Much broader public understanding and engagement are necessary to overcome these mounting challenges. More than ever, extensive environmental data are urgently needed to guide local, regional, and global policies toward functional solutions.
Fortunately, field stations, strategically positioned across the globe, have for generations amassed and analyzed crucial information about our planet - its climate, endangered species, resource exploitation, environmental health, emergent diseases, and more - yielding many long-term data sets integral to developing practical approaches to modern struggles. Research stations are invaluable in situ hubs of exploration and discovery for the training of students and early career scientists in the fundamentals of diverse STEM disciplines. By affording access to wildlife observation, they also inspire innumerable planetary stewards and promote responsible ecotourism that, in turn, benefits both nature and local economies while spreading environmental awareness among employees, neighbors, and visitors.
Unfortunately, current circumstances, especially COVID-related travel restrictions, have truncated cash flow to field stations thereby debilitating their capacity to generate essential data, conduct outreach activities, and offer unique learning experiences. At a time when environmental issues demand heightened attention, we simply cannot risk undermining the continuum of scientific endeavors and education. Field stations and the courses they deliver are integral to scientific literacy and remain critical to the protection of Earth’s natural heritage and its life-sustaining ecosystem services.
We the undersigned hereby exhort governments, foundations, and universities to commit to supporting scientific research stations and their educational programming throughout current pandemic adversities and subsequently, to augment resources at a level commensurate with their expanding importance to science and society.
Authors: David Wagner1, Ian Billick2, Philippe Cohen3, Elizabeth Braker4, Kelly Swing5
1. Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-3043
2. Executive Director/Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, PO 519, Crested Butte, CO 81224
3. Executive Director Emeritus, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305
4. President and CEO, Organization for Tropical Studies, US, Costa Rica, South Africa; Professor of Biology, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA 90041
5. Founding Director, Tiputini Biodiversity Station, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador; Director, Boston University Tropical Ecology Program, Ecuador
Select to see list of Petition Signatories: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YFwABbPunkHCAEVT5XpEeBQFGj2Dp9m4hrBHPP3xNTg/edit?usp=sharing
Biosciences Viewpoint - Growing Threats to the Scientific and Educational Legacies of Research Stations and Field Courses: https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biaa166