UF Logo

Environmental Monitoring

The focus of the OSBS’s Long-term Monitoring Program is to:

  1. Collect and maintain a wide range of biotic/abiotic data at a high spatial and temporal resolution at OSBS to support conservation, research, and education efforts.
  2. Contribute towards regional, national and international environmental monitoring networks.

Regional and National Monitoring Networks Utilizing OSBS

The Station participates in several state-wide, regional, and national environmental monitoring networks. Data collection is done by a combination of OSBS staff and agency personnel.

  • UF/IFAS Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN)
  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection – Surface water quality
  • Florida Natural Areas Inventory – Distribution and occurrence of species/natural communities
  • St. John River Water Management District - Ground water levels
  • Jacksonville Energy Authority (JEA) - Ground water levels
  • Florida Forest Service (FFS) – Fine fuel moisture
  • UF/IFAS Florida Lakewatch Program
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) - Selected species monitoring and surveys
  • National Weather Service – Meteorological data
  • National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)

OSBS Environmental Monitoring Projects

Meteorological Conditions

Weather Station Network

OSBS Weather Station
The use of long-term meteorological data is important for all aspects of ecological research and conservation management. An automated network of five weather stations has been established across the OSBS. One of these met stations is part of the UF/IFAS Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN). The following data is collected:
  • Ambient air temperature 6ft & 30ft
  • Humidity
  • Dew point
  • Soil temperature
  • Precipitation
  • Wind speed & Direction
  • 10Hr fuel moisture & temperature


The Station collects data related to hydrology such as surface water quality, ground water levels, and lake levels to monitor environmental changes over time and provide researchers a reference base to include in their research projects.

Surface Water Quality

Processing of lake water samples Since 2001, the water quality sampling has been conducted on 8 of the Stations lakes (4 clastic, 4 sandhill). The data has allowed managers and researchers to follow long-term water quality trends on the Station as well as to provide a benchmark data set for comparison to other lakes in Florida. The following data are collected and follow the Lake Watch sampling protocol:
  • TP ug/L
  • TN ug/L
  • CHL ug/l
  • pH
  • Temp. (C)
  • Secchi Depth (ft)
  • Total Depth (ft)

Ground Water

Automated groundwater well In 2012, three groundwater wells were installed along the Mill Creek Swamp and the northern edge of Harry Prairie. The wells are maintained and operated by JEA (Jacksonville Energy Authority) in cooperation with the SJRWMD as part of a project to monitor the water withdrawals from the Florida Aquifer from the Jacksonville metro area. Additional wells have been installed in the Keystone Heights area. This project is scheduled to run for 20 years.

Additional research monitoring wells have been installed around Lakes Barco and Suggs in conjunction with NEON project. This data is accessible through the NEON data portal.

Lake Level Change

Staff gauge in Lake Barco Lake level change is monitoring at eight lakes on OSBS, four clastic upland lakes (connected) and four sandhill upland lakes (disconnected). This effort began in 2008 and coincides with water quality monitoring on those same lakes. Staff gauges are read on a weekly basis.

Ecosystem Management

Fire History & Effects

Fire effects data is collected on each prescribed fire at OSBS Prescribed fire or control burning and wildfires have been an important ecological process on the lands that encompass OSBS. UF has maintained this important practice in order to support the pyrogenic habitats and their species found on OSBS. GIS records of what management units, when, and extent has been documented back to the facilities inception. As prescribed fire is applied across the Station, objectives and desired results are identified for each burn. Fire effect measurements and photos are taken pre & post burns to determine if we have met our objectives and desired results.

Live Fuel Moisture

Fuel Moisture Map The Florida Forest Service (FFS) in cooperation with the University of Florida, Archbold Biological Station, and National Park Service (Everglades and Big Cypress) is collecting Live Fuel Moisture data statewide. OSBS serves as one of the collection sites. Live fuel moisture is the amount of water contained in a living plant expressed as a percent as opposed to the moisture of dead plant material (usually found on the forest floor). The amount of moisture in a living plant plays a pivotal role in how well a plant will burn OR will not. Most of Florida’s native species also have oils and resins that contribute to their tendency to burn so this along with the fuel moisture is a consideration. All of this is dictated by how much rain you have had OR not. This information is also used in the Fire Danger Calculations and the ERC (Energy Release Component) values. True live fuel moisture values vs. calculated can be very useful in keeping the ERC value that is used in the fire danger calculation accurate or at least close.

For more information, please visit the FFS Live Fuel Moisture data site

Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI)

The Station calculates onsite Keetch-Byram drought index (KBDI) to assist with fire management. KBDI is a continuous reference scale for estimating the dryness of the soil and duff layers. The index increases for each day without rain (the amount of increase depends on the daily high temperature) and decreases when it rains. The scale ranges from 0 (no moisture deficit) to 800. The range of the index is determined by assuming that there is 8 inches of moisture in a saturated soil that is readily available to the vegetation.

High values of the KBDI are an indication that conditions are favorable for the occurrence and spread of wildfires, but drought is not by itself a prerequisite for wildfires. Other weather factors, such as wind, temperature, relative humidity and atmospheric stability, play a major role in determining the actual fire danger.

Tower Monitoring Cameras

OSBS has established two high resolution video cameras centrally located on our 100’ radio repeater tower for the purpose of monitoring smoke management, wildlfire scouting, and documenting forest canopy change over time. The camera system is accessible and controllable over the internet. Fire managers can utilize a mobile app on their phones to access the cameras in real-time while they are conducting prescribed fires in order monitor smoke impacts and fire behavior. The video data is stored in the Station server and can be downloaded and reviewed with burn operation notes and fire effects monitoring. Access to the video cameras is currently limited to OSBS staff, but may be broadened in the future as this system matures.

Sandhill Vegetation Reference Plots

Data being collected in sandhill reference plot Beginning in 2008, OSBS began establishing long-term vegetation monitoring plots based on the Robert Peet’s methodology which can be found at the Vegetation Survey website. The method allows for a flexible protocol for recording vegetation composition and structure. The objective of this project is to maintain reference plots to track the changes of prescribed fire on the landscape over time as well provide forest inventory reference plots for researchers.

Time Series Photo Plots

A series panoramic photoplots have been established across the station. Some are based on water and wetlands sites while others are associated with Sandhill Vegetation Reference Plots. The lake/wetland images are taken every 4 months and serve as a historical photo reference source to document changes in these systems over a year as well as decades.

Exotic/Invasive Species

Exotic/Invasive Species at OSBS The land managers at OSBS monitor and document occurrences of exotic species and the treatments to control their impact at the station. Due to the long history of the Station’s lands being under few owners as well as good resource management practices, exotic plant species have not been a major problem. As in most conservation lands, efforts to scout, map, and control unwanted species are ongoing.

Field Reference Plants

Finding plant species in the field to use as reference plants for management, research and education efforts can be a challenge. In 2015 efforts to identify and map field reference plants that coincide with the Station's herbarium collection began. The project's objective is to locate and map 4 replicates sites of each plant species found at OSBS. Coordinate data for plant locations are managed through a GIS with each record referenced to its herbarium voucher specimen in the GIS attribute table. Location data can be imported to a GPS unit to find the plant in the field.
Copyright 2000-2023, Ordway-Swisher Biological Station
Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611
Contact UsContent Last Revised: September 24, 2023