Caption: Board of Trustees Minutes - 1896
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U N I Y E K S I T Y OF I L L I N O I S .
carried on, and interesting improvements in special apparatus have resulted from the effort to overcome our peculiar difficulties. A paper on our plankton methods and apparatus is now in course of preparation by the Superintendent of the Station, Dr. C. A. Kofoid, to whom this department of the work has been assigned. As our work progresses, and special problems are taken up for separate and continuous investigation, the experimental ^method will necessarily come prominently into use. The object of biological experimentation is the interpretation of nature, and, like all intelligent experimental work, it must be suggested and guided by observation and hypothesis. With us it is the cecological field in which experiment is especially called for. Given certain phenomena of local distribution, of relative abundance, of association, of habit, of variation, and the like, whose causes it is desirable to ascertain, it is incumbent upon us, by a critical and exhaustive study of the environment, to find the materials for rational hypotheses as to such causes, and to test such hypotheses by experimental procedure. It is thus always the field observation, or the laboratory observation made under conditions which involve the least practicable departure from natural conditions actually existing, which must precede and suggest the experiment. The method and the general object of this work resemble thus more closely, on the whole, those of the agricultural experiment station—which is, indeed, a biological station under another name and devoted to a special end— than those of the laboratory of experimental physiology; and it is because ours is to be in the end and in its final objects a station for the solution, by experimental methods, of both special and general problems in the field of oecology that it was christened by its official board of control the Biological Experiment Station of the University.
The main features of our present equipment are the laboratory boat and its contents, the steam launch, a number of skiffs, and the apparatus and belongings of the Illinois State Laboratory of Natural History and of the biological departments of the University of Illinois, both of which are placed, without restriction, at the service of the Station force.
THE FLOATING LABORATORY.
Our ultimate objects do not limit "us to any single field, but will eventually compel us to transfer at least a part of our operations to other points for purposes of comparison and contrast. Indeed, the Illinois River work is but a convenient point of departure for an investigation of the whole Mississippi River system. These facts have made necessary for us a movable construction of considerable size, carefully designed and thoroughly equipped for our work. Furthermore, the great changes of water level and the enormous expansion of the area covered at flood in the region over which we operate, would make a location on shore oftentimes extremely inconvenient as working quarters for our Station force. There is a great advantage also in a position