Center for Field Biology

Mission Statement

The Center for Field Biology's goal at its inception was the establishment of a common database of information about the faunistics and floristics of the Tennessee Valley Authority's Land Between the Lakes. However, after having been designated as an Accomplished Center, its focus has expanded to include problems in experimental ecology which identify the impacts of various disturbances upon the composition of communities within the Land Between the Lakes, Tennessee, and adjacent eco-regions, as well as experimental programs which contribute to the development of general ecological theory and applied biology.

Goals and Objectives

  • To establish a common database of information about the faunistics and floristics of the Land Between the Lakes region.
  • To identify the impacts of various disturbances upon communities within the Land Between the Lakes.
  • To provide a setting for undergraduate and graduate students to obtain hands-on experience under the leadership of professionals in the field.
  • To engage area science teachers in summer research projects.


The Center for Field Biology at Austin Peay State University (APSU) brings together scholars from various biological disciplines to conduct research on biotic communities within the Land Between the Lakes (LBL), Tennessee, and adjacent eco-regions. These include inventories of community structure; endangered, threatened and rare species; and the environment. The center's primary focus is providing research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate research assistants, principal investigators from Austin Peay State University and faculty from other institutions.

Educational Scholarly Activities

Since its inception, the Center for Field Biology has provided research experiences and financial support for 35 undergraduate and graduate students annually. While involved in externally funded research projects, students attain cultural and educational enrichment as well as practical experience.

Center-sponsored researchers have contributed to over 250 regional and national publications, and international refereed journals. They have also made over 200 presentations to professional and scientific societies. These activities and levels of scholarship have contributed immeasurably to the professional image of APSU's biology faculty and students and toward achievement of the center's primary mission.

Professional Symposia

The Center for Field Biology has also sponsored five symposia entitled The Natural History of Lower Tennessee and Cumberland River Valleys. These ongoing symposia Provide a forum for documenting and presenting observations of the natural history of LBL and the entire lower Cumberland and Tennessee River Valley. These symposia have featured topics of special interest in field biology. They have promoted greater awareness of environmental issues throughout Tennessee and the Southeast and have attracted an average of 130 individuals each, representing some 40 institutions and governmental agencies.
Center for Field Biology students conduct biotic inventories and ecological research studies.
The center has published five volumes of proceedings from the symposia, which collectively represent 168 presentations and articles related to the region's natural history. Two volumes of these proceedings were published in special issues of the Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science, providing national and international exposure.

General Audience Publications

The Center for Field Biology's Miscellaneous Publications series makes educational, scientific and technical information available for the general public. These publications, which are not appropriate for scientific journals or as part of the symposia proceedings, generally relate to the natural history of the lower Cumberland and Tennessee River valleys of Kentucky and Tennessee.

These publications include reference guides and indexes relating to the LBL, teachers' curriculum guides and historical information about the LBL and area. Reference guides and indexes to the LBL are available about nut trees, vascular plants, birds, amphibians and reptiles, and pond-dwelling vertebrates. An atlas of vascular plants in Tennessee is also available.

Teachers' curriculum guides about woodland ecology, ferns and fern allies in the LBL are also available. Historical reference books include an overview of the LBL's history and a Tennessee farmer's lifelong observation about enjoying nature. Many of these publications are illustrated.


During evaluation of the center for accomplished status, an external evaluator wrote, "A successful university field research program involving resident and nonresident faculty, research associates from other institutions, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as community college faculty and secondary school teachers, is an extraordinary phenomenon. The State of Tennessee and Austin Peay State University are to be congratulated for fostering the development of this fine center for biological field research and for emphasizing the importance of significant participation by undergraduates." The Center for Field Biology at Austin Peay State University continues to uphold this standard of excellence.