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News from the Friends of The Bernard Biological Field Station of the Claremont Colleges

"A tour of the property readily convinces visitors of the importance of keeping such a beautiful expanse of land, shrubs, and trees for scientific purposes"      An Unfinished Dream, 1981, Robert J. Bernard, Guide of the Claremont Colleges Group Plan

The Decorative Vine on this Newsletter

    Wild cucumber, Marah macrocarpus, is a perennial vine which begins growth in January, then dies back in May or June. The shoots can grow as long as 25 feet and can be seen at the Station hanging in dense sheets from oak trees and covering the ground like a blanket.

    The enormous roots store food and water so the plant can remain dormant during the hot, dry summer. This storage capacity also allows the plant to be among the first to reappear after a fire when its lush, green shoots contrast boldly with the blackened earth.

    Stems of small, creamy, male flowers with a female flower at the base appear in spring. The ovary develops into a four- inch, oval, bright-green fruit covered with vicious prickles. Indians used the large, black seeds as beads. In spite of its common name, wild cucumber tastes extremely nasty to human beings and was given its botanical name in allusion to the bitter waters of Marah mentioned in the Bible.


What is a Field Station?

     A field station is an area set aside for the scientific study of natural processes. It is a real-world laboratory. The land is not manicured but is left in its natural state. The plants have seeded themselves and are those that have evolved to cope with the normal conditions of the site. All of the animals that have evolved with the plants are welcome too. These thousands of organisms depend on each other and form a complex set of interactions whose study is fascinating and important to the preservation of the world around us.

    Its usefulness as a serious teaching and research tool depends on its size since, in small areas, populations canfluctuate widely, causing extinctions and obscuring relationships. The Station's 85 acres are just enough.

History of the Station

     The station is named after Robert J. Bernard who guided the growth of the Claremont Colleges for many years.

     In 1926, Ellen Browning Scripps made a considerable gift of land for educational use as part of the ClaremontGroup Plan. Much of this land has been used for colleges, some was sold to the School of Theology, and some to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Some of the remaining land has been rented out as a golf course.

     There were several proposals for the 85 acres of land at the corner of Foothill and Mills. It was suggested in 1976 that the land be sold for development. Donald McKenna arranged for the donation to Claremont University Center of the money to buy this land from the Scripps Trust. It was decided to use it as a field station so it would be in educational use and therefore tax-free.

     Robert J. Bernard, in his history of the Claremont Colleges, says "They (the trustees) were delighted withsuch an outcome: it would insure such a facility for all the colleges and the region."

     This wonderful gift has afforded students an opportunity rare among undergraduate biology programs since fieldstations are usually far from a campus. The nearness of the BFS allows it to be included in all levels of undergraduate education and the fence makes it a safer place for students and equipment. It has also enhanced the education of many Claremont school children.

Who uses it?

     The Station is used by both College and community groups. Claremont Colleges faculty and students, andcollege classes which come from as far away as Long Beach, work at the BFS. Many members of the public and many Claremont schoolchildren visit the Station each year as well. Thousands of user-days a year are logged in the guest book.

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