Labs in the Field? Rocky Mountain Biological Stations in the Early Twentieth Century

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27 Scopus citations


Biological field stations proliferated in the Rocky Mountains region of the western United States during the early decades of the twentieth century. This essay examines these Rocky Mountain field stations as hybrid lab-field sites from the perspective of the field side of the dichotomy: as field sites with raised walls rather than as laboratories whose walls with the natural world have been lowered. Not only were these field stations transformed to be more like laboratories, but they were also embedded within the particular regional environmental and institutional context of the Rocky Mountains. Using the University of Colorado's Mountain Laboratory at Tolland and other contemporaneous sites as examples, this essay analyzes key features of these sites, including their location within transportation networks, buildings, equipment, personnel, scheduling, recreational and social activities, and other material and social practices on the ground. Considering both the distinctive and shared characteristics of the Rocky Mountain field stations in comparison to other types of field stations provides a more complete picture of the diversity and range of lab-field hybrid sites in the biological sciences in the early twentieth-century United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-611
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of the History of Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Francis Ramaley
  • Rocky Mountains
  • University of Colorado Mountain Laboratory
  • field stations
  • lab-field distinction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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