Brackenridge Field Laboratory is a unique research unit because of the breadth and interdisciplinary nature of research it supports, its strong role in undergraduate teaching programs in the life sciences, and its value as a magnet attracting top faculty and graduate students to UT Austin. The field laboratory is a focus for faculty and research students interested in phenomena and processes that arise from the interaction of organisms in nature.
BFL and its satellite, Stengl Station, provide facilities and resources for experimental studies of microevolution, evolutionary systematics and phylogenetics, ethology, population biology, physiological ecology and ecosystem dynamics. Although these specialties are often lumped as "environmental biology", the National Science Foundation has developed at least six sub-panels to review proposals from such diverse subdisciplines.
BFL provides a benchmark against which change can be scientifically evaluated. UT Austin thus provides a unique opportunity for ecological research within an urban context and contributes to management and conservation of our ecological systems. For example, documentations of the native ant communities at BFL prior to arrival of imported fire ants placed BFL in a unique position to become a center of research on this pest species. Over recent years, the number of Botany, Zoology, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, and Psychology faculty members utilizing BFL has averaged 20, and the number of their graduate students doing at least some aspects of their research projects there has averaged slightly over 30. With funds for "high risk," longterm and/or exploratory studies scarce, BFL provides a setting for low-budget, yet sophisticated studies.