Celebrating 125 Years at FLBS

Celebrating 125 Years at FLBS

UM Bio Station to Celebrate 125th Anniversary Keeping Watch Over Montana Waters in 2024

The year 2024 will be momentous on the shores of Flathead Lake. Starting in January, the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station will celebrate the 125th anniversary of its founding in 1899.

The Flathead Lake Biological Station (FLBS) will commemorate this milestone with a multi-year celebration called FLBS125: An Anniversary Initiative. Throughout the initiative, the Bio Station will reflect on its scientific legacy and accomplishments over the past 125 years while also announcing new ambitions that will advance innovative FLBS aquatic science, monitoring, education, and outreach programs in the century to come.



“For well over a century, FLBS has maintained its deep commitment to the idea that discovery and learning go hand in hand with conservation and protection,” said FLBS Director Jim Elser. “It’s a privilege to be able to execute this commitment in such a remarkable place, so deeply immersed in the ecosystems we all love. We are inspired by the wonderful support of our community, and are eager to continue serving future generations in the Flathead and beyond.” 

For over a century, FLBS has been recognized as Sentinel of the Flathead Watershed, fulfilling its mission to serve the region, the state of Montana, the nation, and the world by advancing cutting-edge research, monitoring, education, and outreach platforms for limnology, ecology, and environmental science from its facility at Yellow Bay.

The Bio Station is the second oldest field station in the country. It was first established in Bigfork in 1899 by University of Montana’s first Professor of Biology, Morton J. Elrod. The Bio Station was ultimately moved Yellow Bay in 1908, where it stands today.

Since opening in 1899, students from around the country and all over the world have come to the Bio Station to learn firsthand about biology. Among the earliest students at FLBS, Elrod mentored some of UM’s most distinguished alums, including Jessie Bierman and Jeannette Rankin.

By 1968, year-round research was being conducted onsite in the Morton J. Elrod Laboratory, and 1977 marked the start of an ambitious long-term monitoring program in the Flathead Watershed that has resulted in one of the best continuous freshwater datasets in the world.  

In 1981, the construction of the state-of-the-art Schoonover Freshwater Research Laboratory added the ability to conduct onsite chemical water analyses to FLBS’s suite of research tools, vaulting it into its position as one of the finest freshwater research facilities in the world.  Today, the Bio Station is comprised of 60 buildings on its 80-acre Yellow Bay campus, can house over 100 people, and employs nearly 40 people year-round.

FLBS125 will feature ways in which FLBS works to accelerate world-renowned research in aquatic ecology, sustain and expand environmental monitoring of Flathead Lake and its watershed, broaden educational opportunities for students and educators at all levels, and empower local communities to keep Montana’s waters clean and blue for future generations.



The coming year will offer special FLBS125-themed events, products, apparel, and storytelling that are all made possible through the generous partnership of local and regional businesses and our community. Additionally, FLBS125 will provide fundraising priorities and opportunities that will give anyone who is passionate about the Flathead Watershed the chance to make a powerful impact and leave a lasting legacy for future generations and Montana’s waters.

“What’s exciting for me about FLBS125 is that it reminds me that every time I walk around the station grounds or take a boat into Yellow Bay, that I am retracing the paths of thousands of researchers, students, teachers, and caretakers who came before,” said Elser. “Major figures like Morton Elrod, Jeannette Rankin, and Jessie Bierman stood right here, and I’m excited to celebrate this momentous occasion and keep their legacy alive and moving forward.”

To learn more about FLBS125: An Anniversary Initiative and get additional information regarding FLBS news and events, follow FLBS on social media or visit the FLBS website at https://flbs.umt.edu. We also invite you to contact FLBS directly by email at flbs@flbs.umt.edu or phone at 406-872-4500.