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UF/IFAS Ordway-Swisher Biological Station

UF/IFAS Ordway-Swisher Biological Station

Teaching at OSBS


OSBS provides a high quality year-around learning environment and the opportunity to provide valuable field experiences to students. The Station’s education mission is to serve as a teaching and training platform for students of all ages to gain hands-on experience in research processes, Florida’s natural history, resource management, and conservation.

Education activities include a mix of college level field courses and field trips from UF and other academic institutions, professional training, extension workshops, and visits from K-12 schools. Although most courses are natural resource based, the station is available to accommodate a variety of education activities and experiences.

Teaching & Extension Use Requests

Teaching Use Applications apply to college courses, extension workshops, and K-12 visits.

  • Contact the Assistant Director to discuss your interest in using OSBS before submitting a new teaching application.
  • A Project Portal account will need to be established before an application can be started/submitted.
  • Returning courses. When your course application is approved, you will NOT need to resubmit a new application for future visits. Returning instructors can update their teaching use permit for their approved course in the Project Portal with new visit dates, classroom use, resources, and instructor support.
  • Faculty are required to complete an application for student class projects.

College Course Visits

OSBS serves an extraordinary outdoor classroom for college students that are working on a degree that focusses on ecology and the natural resources. The station assists instructors to challenge students to observe natural processes, formulate questions, and think critically about environmental issues. College students have a chance to apply the information they've learned in classrooms and books to real world scenarios.

Academic courses visiting OSBS have the opportunity to:

  • Gain hands-on experience with natural resources such as flora, fauna, water, soils, plant communities
  • Engage in ongoing resource management processes such as prescribed fire, exotic-invasive species, and habitat restoration.
  • Provide an environment for students to conduct independent study projects
  • Provide instructors a safe and secure facility to bring their students
  • Utilize data sets to enhance the teaching experience
  • Interact with researchers and resource management professionals

Trainings & Workshops

Continuing education and training for natural resource professionals is critical in order to address the changes and challenges of our environment. OSBS has served as a facilitator and training platform for agencies, private firms, and students since its inception. The Station is well suited for classroom-based workshops mixed with field training opportunities.

The southeast US has a diverse array of natural communities and unique environmental conditions. Fire is one of the primary natural disturbances that shapes many of the plant communities found in this region. Because OSBS has many pyrogenic systems, wildland fire training has been ongoing at the facility for several decades. National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) wildland fire courses are taught each year in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy. The Natural Areas Training Academy (NATA) utilizes OSBS for workshops and training. In the winter and spring months, agency participants from the National Interagency Prescribed Fire Training Center (PFTC) visit the Station and partake in live fire exercise trainings to gain experience in conducting prescribed fires.

OSBS can provide training courses and workshops:

  • Classroom and field environments for use
  • Hands-on field experience
  • Access to natural resources such as flora, fauna, water, soils, plant communities to enhance the training focus.
  • Interactivity with resource management processes such as prescribed fire, exotic-invasive species, and habitat restoration.
  • Long-term data sets to supplement course exercises

K-12 Visits

OSBS staff can provide interpretive nature-science based tours of the Station to public & private K-12 schools. These 2-3 hour tours will include traveling through the facility on a covered tour trailer and stopping to talk about aquatic systems, wildlife, habitat management, and the various research projects that are ongoing at OSBS. Teachers wanting a class field trip to OSBS should contact the Assistant Director to discuss their interests. There is no charge for field trips.

Things that should be considered before visiting OSBS:

  • Class sizes need to be no larger than 25-28.
  • Liability waivers will need to be signed before the visit and provided to Station staff when you arrive.
  • Students that may have allergic reactions to stinging & biting insects need to be identified to tour leaders before embarking.
  • OSBS does not have food services onsite. Classes should be prepared to bring any food they may need. Water is available on the tour trailer.

Overnight Class Visits

For classes needing to stay overnight for a field trip, we have a primitive campground area next to our classroom building that is ideal for tent camping. There are picnic tables, potable water, charcoal grills, and a common fire pit. Access to the classroom, kitchen and bathrooms are included. One of the bathrooms has a shower. Outdoor WiFi is available as well. Students are required to stay with the class and not permitted to roam the station independently without supervision.