When pioneering ecologist Alton Lindsey founded the Ross Biological Reserve at Purdue University in 1949, he envisioned a “living laboratory” where time-extensive ecological studies could be carried out and flourish. Every decade since then, researchers at the 37-hectare (92-acre) reserve in Indiana diligently measured tree growth and mortality to study changing forest dynamics.
That continued until 2019, when the departure of faculty member Kerry Rabenold left the study’s future in jeopardy. Gordon McNickel, an assistant professor of plant ecology, took it upon himself to maintain the 70-year study. After an unsuccessful attempt at a grant through the National Science Foundation (NSF), McNickel decided to try a distinctly 21st-century model to raise capital: crowdfunding.