Plummers’ Island is the most thoroughly studied island in North America, but it is still the site of active research. Members as well as recipients of funded proposals complete research on the island and in adjacent areas annually.
One of the principal objectives of the Club has been a thorough biological survey of the island and mainland property, and a less complete study, for comparative purposes, of much of the nearby territory. The first Committee on Fauna and Flora was appointed on October 2, 1902. Collecting and study have been carried on by this committee in earlier years, and more recently by individual Club members, guests, or by grantees of research awards from the Club. Some remarkable results have been obtained. Several formal lists of flora and fauna as well as contributions on life history, behavior, and ecology have been published as a series under the title “The Natural History of Plummers Island” in series publications of the Biological Society of Washington (see pp. 26-27). Many other papers have been published that have treated to some extent the flora and fauna of Plummers Island. Indeed, it can truthfully be said that Plummers Island, among systematic biologists at least, has become one of the world’s most famous collecting spots and type localities. Great extensions of ranges have been noted; several species heretofore known only from such areas as Texas and Mexico, and in one or two instances even from Europe, have been collected on the property. These discoveries show both the great need for intensive local studies and the great rewards in the way of new knowledge that await enthusiastic natural-history collectors and investigators.
Part of the cleared land on the mainland property was used under lease for a nominal sum from time to time for agricultural purposes by persons resident in the house at Lock 11. Club members attempted a little gardening during war years. A proposed project to establish an Arboretum Columbianum on the mainland property resulted in the transplanting of a number of the rarer shrubs, trees, and vines of the region, but no such transplanting has been done in recent years. Only a very few of the rarest, as hemlock, white and table mountain pines, and rhododendron, have been planted on the island itself, where the Club intends that nature shall take its course so far as possible unmolested. Records are kept of all introductions.
The Club in 1961 approved the appointment of a Research Grants Committee to pass on requests for grants to assist biological research, including publication on the fauna and flora of Plummers Island and environs. The grants are made to both members and nonmembers from interest realized from investment of the compensation received from the US Government for the Club’s mainland property and normally range upward to $2,500. A brochure was prepared subsequently bringing the research grants program to the attention of the biological community in area universities and other institutions. Many of the following listed publications subsequent to 1961 have been assisted by grants for field research and/or publication of the results.
Water-level records of the Potomac River were kept from 1933 to 1950, and detailed precipitation and maximum-minimum temperatures were recorded from 1966 to 1969 by means of a rain gauge and a 7-day recording thermometer.