BFL is a haven for undergraduate biology education and tool for attracting top graduate students. Over 500 undergraduates per year use the field lab in their classes. Hands-on research experience is key to a healthy and broad science education, which is especially important in a era of declining science and math competitiveness in the U.S. BFL’s proximity to main campus, security and various facilities provide an excellent space for students to learn the rigors of scientific research. Multiple classes, such as entomology, native plants, limnology and field biology, utilize BFL. Students can easily access the lab and pursue independent research projects in a secure environment.
Graduate students find BFL a perfect resource for many of their research projects. They can perform year-round experiments without venturing far from campus, where they maintain offices and teaching assistantships. Even students whose research is conducted in other parts of the world frequently utilize BFL for comparative study or for additional projects that enhance their careers.
Key to a healthy and broad science education is the ability to gain hands-on research experience. BFL provides an excellent space for students to learn the rigors of scientific research. Undergraduates work with faculty and graduate students to develop their own research projects, some of which lead to published papers in peer-reviewed journals. The BFL experience prepares students for graduate school and future careers in academia, private consulting and the government.
BFL’s history of data collection, and its plant and animal collections, are key aspects of the lab’s research and educational value. With a well-documented history, ecologists can learn about changes in the environment—how plants and insects have changed over the past 40 years—and make predictions about what might happen in the future. History cannot be repeated or relocated. Students, too, can tap into this history. Within a short semester, they make meaningful contributions to research occurring on a much longer time scale. They step into a continuum of research that has gone on for years before them and will occur years after they have graduated.
BFL’s proximity to the university’s main campus is essential and one of the most important qualities of the lab as it contributes to the university’s larger mission to provide first class education and support world-changing research. Students easily commute to the field lab as part of their daily course schedule. It’s a short ride away on a campus bus route. And because the field lab is secure, they can feel comfortable working alone on independent research projects in the field.
Many undergraduates have their capstone experience at BFL, where they integrate all of the various parts of science that they have been learning throughout their undergraduate studies. BFL provides unusual and highly used opportunities for a variety of courses set in a natural area for observation, experiment and lecture demonstration. Classes such as field ecology, applied aquatic entomology, field entomology, general entomology, ecology, native plants, and animal communication make use of this resource. In addition, classes from St. Edward’s University, Concordia University, and Texas A & M University also make use of Brackenridge Field Laboratory.