The beginnings of the University of Mississippi Field Station can be traced to a spring-fed swampy area that was converted to a bait farm with several large rearing ponds. Ole Miss Fisheries Inc, was established in July 1947 and, after acquisition by the Herbert Kohn Corp. of Memphis was known as Minnows Inc.
The original bait-fish farm, with the exception of two acres where the Bay Springs Baptist Church is located, consisted of 165 acres purchased from the Hickey family. This fertile bottom land lies in the flood plain along the headwaters of the Bay Springs Branch of Puskus Creek. Bay Springs Branch and an unnamed creek that flows from the southwest converge at the eastern boundary of the fish farm to form Puskus Creek. Puskus Creek is a tributary of the Little Tallahatchie River drainage and receives runoff from the many seeps and springs found throughout the area.
While the farm was at its peak, between 3 and 4 million fish were produced annually, 80 percent of which were golden shiners, and the remainder goldfish. Most were sold in Mississippi because of the expensive $500 license required for transporting the fish out of state.
The fish-rearing operations stopped in the early 1980s and the facility was sold to the Weyerhaeuser Co. which owned adjoining forest land. The farm lay fallow for two or three years until the university began negotiations to purchase the land. During that interval, much of the open land area and most of the ponds became overgrown with alders, willows, other shrubs, blackberry vines and honeysuckle. The majority of the ponds were reclaimed as the property was converted to a research station. Efforts to bring the facility back into shape for teaching and research required concerted efforts of many individuals and organizations.The Field Station, dedicated in May 1985, was originally administered by the UM Department of Biology and was known as the Biological Field Station. Dr. Luther Knight was appointed the director and served until January 1991. Subsequent directors were Drs. John Rogers and Marjorie Holland. Dr. Ray Highsmith became director in 2005. In 1995, the station was transferred to the university's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. With the change in administration and usage by other disciplines, such as geology and environmental law, the property was renamed the UM Field Station.
Today the UM Field Station is a modern teaching and research facility with state-of-the-art buildings and labs. Many new projects are under way and we are excited about the possibilities the future holds! Dr. Charlie Cooper, former Supervisory Ecologist at the USDA Sedimentation Lab and a vital influence in the early days of the Field Station, said it best, "You have everything out here from wetlands to hills; the variety and versatility are a treasure."