Arkansas State University awarded a planning grant for the development of a strategic plan for enhancing and managing the newly acquired George Harp Environmental Field Station on the Buffalo National River, America's first national river. The field station, administered by ASU under a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service, provides a unique opportunity to support upland, wetland, speleological and riverine research in the Arkansas Ozarks. Three workshops are planned to include state and regional university researchers, local K-12 teachers and administrators, conservation NGOs, and faculty and administrators of Arkansas 2-year colleges. These workshops, designed to raise awareness and solicit ideas from stakeholders, will provide direction, emphases and support for the development of the Station. Additionally, visits to three regional university field stations will allow solicitation of ideas, insights and direction for Station development, enhancement, and identification of research, teaching, funding and outreach opportunities.

The George Harp Environmental Field Station is a house and several outbuildings on 40 acres of land strategically located on a 150-foot bluff overlooking the lower Buffalo National River near the mining ghost town of Rush, Arkansas. The Buffalo National River, encompassing an 800,000 acre watershed, originates in the Boston Mountain peaks and flows 150 miles through the heartland of the Ozark Highlands, where it is considered one of the nation?s most prodigious free flowing rivers. Moving through a complex convergence of physiographic regions, the Springfield and Salem Plateaus, the Buffalo flows through the only unglaciated highland region in mid-continental North America, where it confluences with the White River. The union of eastern and western savanna, glade and woodland ecotones provides a unique integration of habitats, coalesced with renowned geologic antiquity; creating a landscape supporting a high level of biodiversity and endemism, with more than 200 endemic species documented from the region.

Project Report

The Buffalo National River originates in the Boston Mountains of Arkansas and flows 130 miles through the heartland of the Ozark Highlands, where it is considered one of the nation’s most prodigious free flowing rivers. Moving within a complex convergence of physiographic regions, the Buffalo flows through the only unglaciated highland region in mid-continental North America. The union of eastern and western savanna, glade and woodland ecotones provides a unique integration of habitats, coalesced with renowned geologic antiquity; creating a landscape supporting a high level of biodiversity and endemism (>200 endemic species documented). The convergence of northern and southern ecosystems, assimilation of western species and fire adapted glade, savanna and woodland habitats, creates an area recognized locally, nationally, and globally as a center of biodiversity. An agreement was executed between the Buffalo National River (BNR), a unit of the National Park Service (NPS), and Arkansas State University (AState) for the purpose of mutual assistance in conducting environmental educational endeavors, research, and other studies and educational activities pertaining to the natural and cultural resources of BNR. Under this agreement, AState has taken the lead in administration of the "George Harp Environmental Field Station", an NPS property located on a bluff overlooking the BNF near Rush, Arkansas. Existing structures include a 3000 ft2, four bedroom home in excellent condition that contains a large living room, and basement, a 500 ft2 breezeway/garage, and large attic space. Astate was awarded a Field Station Planning Grant to explore ways to provide additional capacity to the Harp Field Station to host research and to export the gained scientific knowledge to the public with an emphasis on Arkansas and Ozark ecoregion teachers, university faculty and students, and public school pupils. The grant funded activities in two areas: 1) organization of workshops to solicit devopment ideas from potential user groups (Astate faculty, faculty from other state and regional universities, NGOs, and local school districts, and 2) provide support for visits to other field stations to solicit ideas and recommendations on how to best develop the Harp Field Station. Three workshops were attended by faculty/personnel from the University of Central Arkansas, Arkansas Tech, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Southern Missouri University, Hendrix College, Henderson State University, Williams Baptist College, University of Southern Arkansas, University of Arkansas-Monticello, Arkansas Audubon Society, National Park Service, Yelleville and Highland School Districts, and Astate faculty. Field stations visited include the Hancock Biological Station, Murray State University, Kentucky; Black Rock Forest Consortium, New York; Pinelands Field Station, Rutgers University, New Jersey; Bull Shoals Field Station, University of Southern Missouri Virgin Islands Environmental Resources Station, Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Southern California; and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station. Using information obtained from the workshops and field station visits, the following tentative outline of a master plan was developed in two major categories: Infrastructure changes and organization of the Station. Tentative Infrastructure Changes - A barn site will be repurposed into a field kitchen/bathhouse to allow simultaneous use of the field station by at least two different groups totaling 40 people. - Establish 6 – 8 non-permanent dwellings (development of permanent dwelling is rarely allowed on National Park Service land) for visiting groups and resident graduate students These will probably be yurts (please see ) - Move the bunk beds in the main house to yurts and convert the bedrooms to offices - Convert the attached garage into a wet laboratory with research equipment - Use the large garage for storage of boats and field equipment - Convert the basement into a temporary classroom while initiating a request to the National Park Service to construct a classroom /student projects building. Tentative Organization of the Station - Hire a Field Station Manager (part-time initially, then full-time resident as use increases). This manager would oversee all operations of the field station, including coordination of users, setting and collecting use fees, scheduling maintenance and repair and up-grades, coordinating with Friends of the Station group - Hire an Assistant Manager – the primary duties would be to organize college-level courses taught by Astate or guest faculty at the Station, develop and implement educational programs, and help the Manager in seeking funding support. - Develop a "Friends of the Station: group – This group, developed from local educators, business people, and others with an interest in supporting growth of the field station, could provide monetary support, solicit monetary support from other individuals and organizations, serve as oversight committee for maintenance and development of the Station. - Develop a Graduate Student Advisory Committee – This group would be composed of current or recently completed Arkansas State University students and one outside graduate student that uses the Station. This committee would provide input for Station operations/maintenance/and repair, short- and long-term planning for research needs, assist with educational outreach.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Program Officer
Peter H. McCartney
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Arkansas State University Main Campus
United States
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