Meet the UM Field Station: “The Best Kept Secret on Campus”

Did you know the University of Mississippi has a 740 acre research and educational facility located just 11 miles from campus?

The UM Field Station is a fantastic resource for our campus community, both for education and research as well as recreation.

We decided to ask the UM Field Station’s very own director, Dr. Scott Knight, and senior staff assistant, Kim Yarborough, for more information about this hidden gem of campus.

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Dr. Scott Knight speaks to students as a part of Green is the New Pink, an initiative to engage girls in STEM fields.

First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your relationship to the UM Field Station?

Scott: Well, the Field Station began as a minnow farm called Minnows Inc., and has always had a close association with the Department of Biology. My father, Dr. Luther Knight, was both a student and professor in the Department during this time so I came to know the property through him. Eventually the University acquired the minnow farm and it became the University of Mississippi Field Station and my father was made the first director. I followed in my father’s footsteps in a number of ways, first as a biologist and eventually as Director of the Station.

My personal history is a bit convoluted. I left Oxford after receiving my undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Mississippi. I did stints of graduate school at Mississippi State University and Auburn in fisheries management and worked briefly for the US Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg before returning to Oxford as an applied aquatic ecologist with the National Sedimentation Laboratory. I planned to retire from the Lab after 30 years of service when I saw that the University was looking for a new Director of the Field Station.

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Kim Yarborough with an American Goldfinch.

Kim: My career started with banking right out of high school and worked through 5 different bank mergers. I thought baking would always be my career because I loved it. But, not as much as I love my job now. Things changed when my daughter was a Junior in High School. She set her sights on getting a degree from the University of Mississippi. So to help my daughter reach her goal, I applied and thankfully was offered a job here. My daughter will graduate in August with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics.

I have been with the University for 5 years and have worked at the Field Station for 3 years as Senior Staff Assistant.

 

What is the field station?

Photo by Robert Jordan
The UM Field Station is a 740 acre site dedicated to research and education.

Scott: The Field Station is a living laboratory and class room among other things. We support a mission of education, research and outreach. The property is about 10 miles from the center of campus, sits on 800 acres of mixed forest, pasture and wetlands and has approximately 220 ponds of various sizes. We have a greenhouse, laboratory space, auditorium and class rooms.

 

What are the benefits of having a resource like this for our university?

Scott: First and foremost, we can support a wide and varied range of research. I suppose the most unique thing we provide is a change in scale.   We can take bench top experiments and move them to intermediate “mesocosms” (small pools), ponds or plots, or to large landscape scale areas like ponds, fields or watersheds. We also provide educational workshops for adults, ecology day camp for kids as well as education opportunities the folks in between. We routinely conduct tours and demonstrations for groups of school kids k-12. Additionally, we host faculty and departmental retreats. And, for the University community at large we provide a place to hike, bike, picnic and fish.

Kim: Besides the research, we host a lot of retreats throughout the year. It’s a great resource for anyone wanting to get away from traffic, lights & concrete.

 

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A pond at dusk at the UM Field Station

Can students come to the field station over the summer?

Scott: Yes! During the week we open the gates at 8:00 and close at 5:00, please stop by the office to let us know you are here. If you wish to fish you must have a Mississippi Fishing license and a permit from the Field Station.

Kim: Yes, we love to see students!

Can you tell us about a research project that has been/is being conducted at the field station that you find particularly interesting?

Scott: I find all the research interesting! Dr. Susan Balenger has perhaps the most visible research, in that she is working with blue birds and they are everywhere on the Station. She has more than 70 blue bird houses here and is interested in movement of an avian disease among our bird community. I’m hard pressed to think of one particularly interesting project because we’re pretty diverse in the research we support, from learning about the initial electromagnetic changes that occur before lightning strikes to researching the interplay of phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon in ponds and their effects on phytoplankton to the extent of airborne mercury in differing riparian habitats.

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Students participating in Ecology Day Camp.

How can students, faculty, staff and community utilize this resource? 

Kim: Well, of course through research, but it’s also a beautiful and serene place for the community to visit and recharge. It’s perfect if someone is looking for a new place to meditate, hike, bird watching and just to get out into nature. It’s so important for us all to spend time outdoors.

Scott: Our camps are done in collaboration with the Outreach and Continuing Ed. so go to their website at http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/ to get the latest information. For retreats contact Kim at 915-5479 Kfyarbor@olemiss.edu If you wish to do research just contact Ms. Yarborough or me by phone or e-mail at 915-6507 or sknight@olemiss.edu. If you are interested in hiking or fishing come by the office during the work week from 8:00 to 5:00.

What is one thing you would like for others to know about the UM field station?

Kim: The beauty! We have planted over 300,000 wildflower seeds to help with pollinating animals. Dr. Knight has several walking trails under construction right now and will be beautiful once completed.

Scott: I guess the most important thing is that we are here and available! We seem to be the best kept secret on campus.

How can we keep up to date about events and programming at the UM field station?

Scott: We try to keep our website up to date as best we can with our limited staff, so that should be your first stop. We also hope to start an e-mail based newsletter.

 

The UM Field Station’s website can be found at fieldstation.olemiss.edu. The UM Field Station is located at 15 County Road 2078. 

For more questions about the UM Field Station, contact Kim at kfyarbor@olemiss.edu.

 

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