Origin of the R.B. Miller Field Station

The Beginnings of the Kananaskis Field Stations

"Early in May of 1950, Mac and I, in Gertrude II, laden with lumber, tools, and tents, set out for the location we had chosen late the previous fall. This was Gorge Creek…"

In his book, A Cool Curving World, Richard Birnie Miller, founder of the University of Calgary's R.B. Miller Station, describes the beginnings of a world-class ecological research institution during the spring of 1950.

Born in Weyburn, Sask., Miller graduated from the University of Toronto to become a permanent staff member at the University of Alberta. He called himself "a biologist who has chosen the out-of-doors as his principal laboratory." His pioneering trout research led to important realizations about the survival of hatchery-raised fish in streams and to the development of one of Canada's oldest field stations.

"We did select a stream and we did learn what happened to the hatchery fish; thus the Alberta Biological Station was born."

"We did select a stream and we did learn what happened to the hatchery fish; thus the Alberta Biological Station was born."

Richard Birnie Miller, A Cool Curving World

It began with a search for the ideal location to study hatchery-raised trout for a collaborative project with the Department of Lands and Forests of Alberta. Miller chose the pristine and isolated Gorge Creek, nestled inside the Sheep River Wildlife Sanctuary just 30 km west of Turner Valley.

With only a few tents and tarps and a crude dirt road, he and a handful of other researchers began using the campsite as a station for continuous field study of animal behavior and ecological systems. The site became the Alberta Biological Station and was renamed the R.B. Miller Station in 1965 following his death in 1959.

Operation of the R.B. Miller Station was originally shared by University of Alberta and University of Calgary until 1991 when it was fully transferred to UCalgary. Now it and the Barrier Lake Field Station in the Kananaskis Valley comprise the university's Kananasksis Field Stations.

No longer a tent and tarp campsite, the cozy cabins and trailer of today's R.B. Miller Station continues to be favoured by researchers for its isolated location and proximity to large animal populations. Over the past 50 years, many long-term studies have been done on trout, Columbian ground squirrels, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, pikas, songbirds and blue and ruffed grouse.

Originally posted July 25, 2000 Research Communications news release