The Brackenridge Field Laboratory


George Washington Brackenridge had big plans for the 500-acres of Colorado Riverfront property he purchased.  It was downriver from the future site of the Austin Dam; the Austin Dam which would be built with stone quarried from his property and that was expected to generate the power needed to jumpstart industrial development in Austin.  Brackenridge planned to sell sites along the river to the cotton mills that were sure to come. But the Colorado River never provided the steady power needed to light the growing city of Austin, much less drive mills. Then in 1900 the dam spectacularly broke and attempts to rebuild it failed twice.  So Brackenridge, a regent at the University of Texas, donated the tract to the University in 1910 with the hope of moving the campus there where it would become known as “The University on the Lake.” Again his hopes were dashed when his longtime rival, George Littlefield, donated a million dollars to the University with the stipulation that the campus never be moved.

Amazingly, Brackenridge’s tract of now extremely-valuable riverfront property is still owned by UT. Most of the land was used for housing but in 1966, a biological field station was established on 82 acres of the land.  It was named the Brackenridge Field Lab (BFL). Fast forward to the present: for fifty years, data has been continuously collected on the BFL’s four main habitats: the Upper Terrace, the Old Quarry, the Pasture and the River Terrace.  There have been 1200 species of Lepidoptera, over 160 species of birds, 370 species of plants and 200 species of native bees documented on the BFL.  More than 500 students take courses every year at BFL and do research in its 18,000 square-foot laboratory. Research conducted at BFL has led to successful biocontrol measures against invasive fire ants (RIFA) with phorid flies and against Arundo donax with wasps. 

CAMN has entered into a partnership with BLF to provide assistance with field research, resource management and public outreach.  CAMN members conduct flora and fauna surveys to document arrivals, departures and behaviors related to seasonal changes. Decades of urban landscaping resulted in significant encroachment of invasive species which CAMN members are helping to mitigate.  CAMN members also plan to develop guided hikes curriculum to introduce the public to the wonders of this hidden urban ecological gem.  
 BFL is a unique site in Texas to study and observe how habitats, plants and animals respond to environmental changes and urban disturbance.  If you would like to be a part of this unique opportunity, check out the volunteer opportunities in the volunteer section.