Lake Texoma

Because Life is Better at the Lake

The University of Oklahoma (OU) Biological Station

by
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This important biological and ecological research station sits west of where Buncombe Creek flows into Lake Texoma and embodies a rich history. Much of the property that constitutes the Biological Station is owned by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, and the station has a long-term no-cost lease. The Bio Station’s inception involved fishermen from OU faculty, a banker, the Oklahoma Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Oklahoma legislature and governor, and a set of serendipitous circumstances.

The major players who developed the Bio Station were Carl Riggs, instructor in OU’s Zoological Sciences, James Mayfield, director of University Book Exchange, Norman Brillhart, president of the First National Bank in Madill, Oklahoma, Bill Thompson of the Oklahoma Game and Fish Department, the Oklahoma State Senate finance chairman, Raymond Gary, and Governor Roy Turner. 

Carl studied ichthyology, a.k.a. fish. Carl and James became avid fishing buddies. They fished on Lloyd Noble’s ranch, Lake Murray, and Lake Texoma in 1948. They met Norman at Lloyd’s ranch. Carl began talking about plans for research on Lake Texoma in the summer of 1949 with this group and his university department. Bill and Carl gathered up a group of graduate students, and they made several trips to Lake Texoma.

Norman Brillhart’s bank had recently foreclosed on a developer’s unfilled dream of a partially built hotel/lodge/recreational area on a peninsula west of Buncombe Creek. At that time, the property consisted of a two-story building with a lobby, kitchen, dining hall, 24 rooms, storage room, and space for three apartments. Norman offered OU the property for a research facility early in 1949.

The future research facility would need financing. Madill resident and chairman of the Oklahoma senate appropriations committee, Raymond Gary, pushed through House Bill 31 for $110,000. Governor Turner signed it into law on May 25, 1949. The corps of engineers leased several hundred acres to the Bio Station. (1)

The OU Bio Station Today

I visited with Gary Wellborn, professor and director of the Bio Station. I wrote some scientifically uneducated interview questions and we ended up with a humorous interview. Gary studied small freshwater crustaceans, called amphipods, for many years, and discovered some new species of amphipods. When specialists worked to formally describe and name the species, one species was named Hyalella wellborni, in recognition of Gary’s scientific contributions to our understanding of these species.

The Bio Station is honorably described as one of the best freshwater biological stations in the U.S. The main purpose of the Bio Station is three-fold.

Education—it has offered classes for 70 years.

Research—It offers its facilities for research graduate students, plus undergraduate students assist in graduate research and gain field study experience.

Scientific Hospitality—It provides research outreach to scientific societal conferences with the use of all of the Bio Station's resources.

The Southwest Association of Parasitologist biologists that study parasites in animals has been meeting at the Bio Station for over 50 years. A team studying lakes in Minnesota revived a shrimp-like animal buried for 700 years and completed their research at the Bio Station. (2) Fish and game scientists will be visiting the Bio Station in a few weeks. Originally, research at the bio station studied the development of fish communities in the new lake.

Today, much of the research conducted at the Bio Station spans many areas of ecological and environmental science, including animal behavior and ecological interactions among species, including terrestrial species, such as ants, birds, mammals, and snakes, and aquatic species, like fish, crustaceans, aquatic mussels, and aquatic insects.

Fire Ant Assemblage

Gary informed me that there have been native ants here for a millennium, but the invasive fire ant can have big effects on the native ants. They compete with native ants and are much more aggressive. They don’t have natural predators here. They came from Brazil and were first found in Georgia in the 1940s. They eat other ants and insects and dead carcasses. They can have negative effects on amphibians like a frog under a log. (3)

Freshwater Mussels

Freshwater mussels and our bass in local streams have a beneficial symbiotic relationship. The mussels attract the bass with a bait-like appendage flowing out of their shell. The bass bites at it, and the mussel shoots microscopic baby clamp-like shells into the bass’s mouth. These end up clamped on to the bass gills where they grow a bit and then drop off to become adult mussels.

A study conducted at the Bio Station found that fish survival was higher in pools with freshwater mussels than pools lacking freshwater mussels; thus, the conservation of mussels might reduce the drought‐induced loss of fishes in rivers. (4)

Check Out the Fascinating Baby Freshwater Mussel Births in the Video Below this Aritcle!

Pollinator Meadow

It is not new news that the monarch butterfly is facing extinction. Dr. Priscilla Crawford, biological conservationist at OU, created a pollinator meadow for monarch butterflies at the Bio Station three years ago. Last spring she observed 17 species of butterflies in the meadow. Milkweed is a crucial element in attracting monarchs, but other classes of plants are important and planted by students in Dr. Crawford’s meadow. Gary told me that the monarch habitat in Mexico is degrading and that the Bio Station sees some monarchs, but their resources are being rapidly depleted. (5)

Can We Save the Horned Lizard (Horny Toads)

About 20 years ago at the Ft. Worth Stock Show, I learned that horned lizards were disappearing. Although this research is not being conducted at the Bio Station, we used to see horned lizards in Texomland. They are disappearing into extinction. Samuel Eliades, a third-year ecology and evolutionary biology Ph.D. student at the University of Oklahoma and researcher at the Sam Noble Museum, is leading a National Science Foundation-funded study to improve the horned lizard’s species survival rates.

Eliades reports: “Horny toads in Oklahoma are in the midst of a silent extinction. This was a species so common that – until they started vanishing – no one bothered to study them. We are still playing catch up to try to understand this complex and interesting lizard.”  (6)

University of Oklahoma Biological Station (UOBS) Programs

Graduate Summer Research Scholar Programs 2020

Graduate students must enrolled in a research-based MS or Ph.D. program at an accredited university to be awarded a scholarship of $3,000. Research may focus on field or laboratory studies involving ecological systems, including studies of natural history, evolution, ecology, population biology, genetics of natural populations, and other biological or environmental topics. Propose research must involve work conducted at UOBS. Facilities include housing, research facilities, a large ecological research area, and more. Students are responsible for food and other living expenses.

Undergraduate Summer Research Internships 2020

Undergraduate students in biology-related degree programs conduct research under the mentorship of faculty or graduate student researchers in ecological and environmental biology. Specific dates and work schedules are determined by the needs of both apprentices and researchers. Apprentices should anticipate working for five weeks during the summer, with a work schedule of 40 hours per week. Interns receive $2,000 deposited into their bursar account. Dorm-style housing is provided at no cost. Apprentices are responsible for their meals. Housing units include meal preparation units.

Spring Intercession 2020

 

Session I: May 11 – 22

Arthropod Vector Surveillance & Management

Senior Seminar – Biology as a foundation for a professional path in healthcare and bioethics

Aquatic Insect Biology

Field Mammalogy

Session II: May 26 – June 5

Field Herpetology

Field Studies in Biological Conservation

Research in Ecology

Wetlands Ecology

Financial Support

Friends of the University of Oklahoma Biological Station (FUOBS) are alumni who attended UOBS sessions many years ago and recently that actively support the Bio Station. They provide the scholarships that pay the students and furnish necessities like laboratory equipment.

The (FUOBS) was established under the umbrella of the University of Oklahoma Alumni Association. On July 14, 2001, the first meeting of this organization was held, officers were elected, and a constitution adopted. The purpose of this organization is to promote and support the Biological Station and to promote connection with its friends and alumni.

Gary Wellborn accommodated me with extremely interesting information. I want to thank Gary for his time and also his patience with my scientific ignorance!

Sources

Pictures

1. Hyalella wellborni
2. Lab Students at Work in the Bio Station Laboratory
3. Pollinator Meadow at OU Bio Station
4. Pennisula on OU Bio Station Property
5. Students Having Fun at Ou Bio Station
6. FUOBS BioBlitz celebrating the UOBS




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Lake Texoma Weather Forecast

Thursday

Sunny

Hi: 58

Thursday Night

Clear

Lo: 38

Friday

Sunny

Hi: 65

Friday Night

Clear

Lo: 41

Saturday

Mostly Sunny

Hi: 70

Saturday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 52

Sunday

Partly Sunny

Hi: 73

Sunday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 60


Lake Texoma Water Level (last 30 days)


Water Level on 2/27: 616.30 (-0.70)



Lake Texoma Fishing Report from TPWD (Feb. 26)

FAIR. Water stained; 49-52 degrees; 0.13’ high. Striped bass are fair using live bait and shad imitations. Largemouth bass are good fishing plastics and crankbaits. Crappie are fair on minnows and jigs by boathouses, submerged vegetation, and timber. Catfish are fair on cut bait and minnows in the river near structure.