Laguna Madre Field Station

Field Station

The Laguna Madre Field Station as viewed from the front. This new facility was built entirely by volunteer labor by faculty, students, and friends. The water of the often hypersaline Laguna Madre can be seen in the fore and background.

Marine Botany Students

The Laguna Madre Field Station as viewed from the SE side. Dr. Roy Lehman leads a group of Marine Botany students in the study and identification of halophytic plants.

ariel view of field station

The LMFS is located on a dredge reclamation island near Intracoastal Waterway Marker 83 (about five miles south of the JFK Causeway). It has been leased since the mid-1970's from the Texas General Land Office under a unique Educational Facility Lease (the only one!).

boating to the field station

The university owns and maintains a fleet of shallow draft boats which provide access to the facility.

Background information on the Field Research Facility

Faculty, undergraduate and graduate students for both research and educational endeavors have used the island site. Graduate students use the island and structure as headquarters while completing research in the surrounding Laguna Madre.

checking sea grass samples

Allison and Ryan collect seagrass samples in the Laguna Madre for an ongoing research project concerned with the health of seagrasses in nearby Emmord’s Hole.

Over the years, the original structure “cabin” became so weathered by the harsh coastal environment that repair was no longer an option and a new facility was needed. A proposal to the Texas General Land Office was submitted (summer 1999) and approved for the construction of the new structure along with plans for future expansion. The new building was constructed beginning in the winter of 1999-2000.

Students, staff and faculty donated their time and expertise to make the new facility a reality. The Laguna Madre Field Station (LMFS) is now a complex (1,728 sq. ft.) of three main building with four rooms dedicated to the following: 1) a Classroom building with Meeting/Kitchen/Dining Room areas, 2) a Research/Teaching Laboratory, and 3) two Dormitories that can accommodate 20 students/researchers. The LMFS has propane and electrical (generator & solar) utilities, a rainwater collection and freshwater storage system (2,500 gallons) with showers, and a restroom facility with two composting toilets. The site is currently functional and is being used by field science classes and researchers.

dormitories in the field station

Two dormitories provide comfortable living/sleeping quarters for 20 students/researchers.

Mission Statement:

The Laguna Madre Field Station provides a site and facilities for field training, education and research in coastal environmental and ecological studies. The mission of the LMFS is to increase, through field research and education, understanding of the Laguna Madre, adjacent bays, estuaries and the Gulf of Mexico ecosystems and to foster ecosystem stewardship through training, education, research and outreach.

snorkeling to collect samples

Students from university classes snorkel to collect and identify specimens from the Laguna Madre.

Vision Statement:

The facility and programs are designed to provide the research, field instruction, and educational network necessary for assessing and measuring results critical to the health of the central and lower Texas coast and similar ecosystems. The facility provides research and monitoring laboratory space to students, agencies and research organizations, facilitating and expediting data collection and analysis critical in monitoring ecological and biological changes.

Purpose of the Project:

1. To develop a field educational facility with appropriate programs designed to provide classroom, laboratory and field training in environmental, coastal and ecological studies for students, pre-teachers, teachers and interested community groups,

2. To provide an optimum learning environment for interdisciplinary environmental studies for students, teachers and members of public agencies and organizations,

3. To establish a coalition of science faculty from higher education and science teachers from public/private schools to study techniques and processes which would better assure mastery and application of environmental science content.

Goals of the Project:

1. To provide students, teachers, and civic/community groups on-site, hands-on environmental field and laboratory investigations of coastal ecosystems,

2. To provide a site for collection of scientific data while developing activities and techniques which best facilitate the learning of environmental science content,

3. To provide a physical environment that allows students to experience the entire process of investigating current and local environmental problems while promoting a positive attitude towards science and mathematics curricula,

4. To prepare and guide students into completing elective science/mathematics college preparatory coursework while in high school and to motivate them to select science and mathematics degree programs at institutions of higher learning,

5. To focus public awareness on issues related to the coastal environment of south Texas and to present opportunities for life-long learning experiences, and

6. To influence in a positive manner the attitudes of teachers, students and community groups concerning environmental problems and solutions.

Environmental education requires a strong commitment by teachers who must develop and/or utilize situations where learning can best flourish. A basic approach is to relocate students out of the classroom in order to study the diverse environments that surround them. First-hand experiences provide an opportunity for students to use all of their senses in observing and investigating environmental concerns, and furnish opportunities to stimulate questions and to seek out answers.

This field facility provides a site for a "complete" educational experience. Public school teachers have found it difficult to find methods that will allow students to experience the "real" world of a scientist. The lack of funding for field trips, transportation, scientific equipment and other problems have made it practically impossible to conduct learning experiences in the field, especially if the students need to travel a distance from the school or spend multiple days in study. This facility located adjacent to environmental and ecological study areas provides a site for training, lodging and meals. The program provides a safe environment for study at a cost that should be within the budget of most students. The program (under development) will invite groups of approximately 15 students/faculty for workshops in environmental science. During the school year, individuals will attend a two-day weekend workshop that will cover a core curriculum of general ecological and environmental science, laboratory experiences and field trips to local wetland and coastal areas. A summer learning opportunity for teachers and students is also being developed.

FOCUS GROUPS

1. Junior and Senior High School Students
    a. Environmental Science Students
    b. Biology Students
    c. Physical Sciences & Astronomy Students
    d. Earth Science (Oceanography, Meteorology, Geology) Students
    e. Chemistry Students
2. College Students - Studies for groups on environmental field trips
3. Youth Groups (4H, Boy & Girl Scouts, FFA, etc.)
4. Teachers - In-service/Practice Teaching/Curriculum Development
5. Professional Meeting Groups

field station logo

For more information, contact Dr. Roy Lehman