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Wild Inspiration

University labs usually conjure images of beakers, white coats, and a controlled environment. But the U’s Bonderman Field Station at Rio Mesa, a 400-acre property some 50 miles outside of Moab, Utah, offers faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students a different study opportunity. From dietary adaptations of rodent populations to wildfire impacts on bird migration to the water consumption of tamarisk trees, the research prospects are immense, says Zach Lundeen PhD’12, the field station’s director and a research assistant professor of geography. 

“But the field station provides so much more than biology research opportunities. Each year we have hundreds of students from different disciplines stay for a few days—not to mention the community programs and other outreach initiatives,” he adds. For example, arts and humanities students use the remote location for inspiration. Architecture students can learn about aspects of sustainable building design and biomimicry. Undergraduate research in anthropology has even turned into graduate and postdoc studies on the propagation of wild onions by Indigenous populations. “You’d be surprised what removing cell service and introducing stunning landscapes can do for creativity,” says Lundeen.


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