From the beginning the Queen's University Biological Station has had a dual mandate of teaching and research. In the early years, students often served as research assistants, and received training in field biology while working for various professors on established studies. While this continues, most students now work on their own projects as part of their degrees — Honours BSc, Master's, or Doctorate. Research spans many disciplines including limnology (and paleolimnology), ecotoxicology, fisheries, conservation biology, GIS, ecology and evolutionary biology.
The main facility at Opinicon consists of some 32 buildings, including the Raleigh J. Robertson Biodiversity Centre, a library, conference rooms, 12 separate laboratories for research, a workshop, an aquarium building, and a variety of accommodations, ranging from one-person sleeping cabins to large cottages and dormitory space. The Biodiversity Centre includes year-round kitchen and dining room, washrooms, conference room/classroom, administrative offices, computer rooms, a technical lab, storage areas, laundry and an interpretive area. Although several of the Station's buildings are original, dating back to the late 1940's, others have been added more recently to provide comfortable accommodations for up to 80 people. Opinicon boasts a fleet of boats, reference collections including a herbarium and other natural history collections, a GIS lab and data archive, and a network of satellite-linked climate stations that track water, soil and air temperatures, relative humidity, precipitation, wind speed and direction, and solar irradiance.
Our Elbow Lake Environmental Education Centre campus has 14 core buildings including a central pavilion and 10 hexagonal 2-bedroom cabins. Together, these buildings can accommodate groups of 30-40 people comfortably for meetings, small conferences and public outreach events. Elbow Lake is the outreach arm of QUBS offering outreach programs in environmental and conservation science and natural history to school groups and the public.
Situated within the Frontenac Axis (an extension of the Canadian Shield into the sedimentary rocks that surround the Great Lakes Basin), QUBS provides access to a wide variety of habitats. Lakes of various types and sizes are close by. So, too, are landscapes with a range of human influence and alteration, a varied topography, specialized environments, and high biodiversity. The area offers a fascinating juxtaposition of northern and southern flora and fauna.
A series of property additions via donations and partnerships have expanded the facility to more than 3400 hectares, including nine small lakes plus extensive shoreline on Lake Opinicon and Hart Lake, and habitats ranging from abandoned farmland to mature second-growth forest. In the face of continuing development, these additions have provided crucial long-term security for study sites. For many species of plants and animals, especially those with large home ranges or particular requirements, the conservation value of the QUBS property is substantial.
Part of the success of QUBS is the unique mix of researchers and students from many institutions from Ontario, across Canada and many other countries. The field station often hosts researchers from Queen's, Carleton University (Ottawa), University of Ottawa, University of Toronto, Illinois Natural History Survey (Champaign, Ill.), Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA), Ithaca College (Ithaca, NY), Western University (London), and the University of Windsor. Many international researchers also make use of QUBS from institutions in Western Europe, China and Latin America. The interaction among researchers from many universities, pursuing myriad research questions, makes the field station a lively, challenging and interesting place to conduct fieldwork.
For almost 70 years, the Queen's University Biological Station has drawn energy and motivation from generations of youthful, creative, inquisitive students. Whether enrolled in field courses, pursuing their own research initiatives, assisting with established studies or on short-term outings as part of regular curriculum courses, their field experience is the measure of success of the Biological Station. The continued and increasing importance of hands-on exposure to biological principles will set the course of the field station for the future.