Dawn S. Wilson, Ph.D., Director
Founded in 1955 with funding from beetle enthusiast David Rockefeller, the Southwestern Research Station provides an unparalleled setting for basic research into the ecology, behavior, evolution, and taxonomy of animals and plants in their natural environments.
Southwestern Research Station
The Station is located at 5,400-feet elevation in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona. This "Sky Island Region" has the highest biodiversity of any area in the United States and has been called the "Biological Grand Canyon" of North America. The high biodiversity is due to elevational changes encompassing five of the life zones of the western United States, and to the region's biogeographic location. The mountains form an archipelago of islands in a sea of desert between the northern Rocky Mountains and the southern Sierra Madre Occidental of western Mexico. At low elevations, there is mixing of flora and fauna between the warmer Sonoran Desert to the west and the Chihuahuan Desert to the east. Thus the climatic parameters of the present and the past, and their influences on the evolution of distinct biotas, converge in this region. The result is a superb climate for field studies.
These studies in turn have produced over 1,000 scientific publications. Scientists working at the Station bring new understanding to our concepts of how the natural world functions and the evolutionary processes that created the complexities of life on our planet. The longest-term study, over three decades, has traced the evolution of "helping behavior" at the nest in Mexican jays. This work has created new insights into social behavior in groups and has clarified the genetic basis for the evolution of other bird and mammal social systems that exhibit altruistic behaviors.
The station is open year-round to research scientists from across the country and around the world. Facilities include 90 acres of land surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of the Coronado National Forest, 17 housing units, the Osborn Memorial Laboratory, the Technical Equipment Laboratory, the Animal Behavior Observatory, the Live Animal Holding Facility, a Computer Room, a Library/Collections Addition, and a Main House social area with a central kitchen, dining room, conference center, and laundry facilities. Facility growth over the last decade or so has been assisted by five grants from the National Science Foundation.
Visitors to the Station include research scientists and their assistants, university and college classes, professional conferences, naturalists (including birdwatchers), and 30 to 40 volunteers per year. Many research projects are those of graduate students pursuing doctoral and master degrees at universities. The Station's Student Support Fund provides some graduate research grants through competitive applications.