The Queen's University Biological Station is centred on the shores of Lake Opinicon, one of the lakes of the Rideau Canal, approximately 50 km north of Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
The main facility consists of some 32 buildings, including the Operations Centre (pictured at right), a library, conference rooms, 12 separate laboratory areas, a workshop, an aquarium house and a variety of accommodation, ranging from one-person sleeping cabins to large cottages and dormitory space. The Operations 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 to provide comfortable accommodations for up to 80 people. The Station now boasts a fleet of boats, reference collections, audiovisual equipment, computer rooms, and optical and electronic equipment, including an automated weather station.
Astride 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 real estate purchases and gifts to Queen's have expanded the facility to more than 3200 hectares, including six small lakes and 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.
From the beginning the station has had a dual mandate — teaching and research. In the early years, students served as research assistants, and received training in field biology while working for various professors on established studies. This type of training continues today. But as often as not, students now work on their own projects. They do field work as part of the requirements for an advanced degree — an Honours BSc, Master's, or Doctorate. For these students, the distinction between research, teaching, and training often becomes fuzzy. We are expanding that mandate to include an active outreach component to engage students of all levels, public through high school, and the public at large, in outdoor and nature activities.
Part of the success of QUBS is the admixture of researchers from a variety of institutions. On a regular basis, the field station hosts researchers from many universities including Queen's, Carleton University (Ottawa), University of Ottawa, University of Toronto (both St. George and Erindale campuses), Illinois Natural History Survey (Champaign, Ill.), Ithaca College (Ithaca, N.Y.), University of Western Ontario (UWO in London), and the University of Windsor. In addition, many international researchers also make use of QUBS from institutions in Western Europe, China and Middle and South America. The interaction between researchers from various universities, pursuing myriad research questions, makes the field station a lively, challenging and interesting place to conduct field work.
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.