The Aucilla Research Institute emerged in 2014 as a fact as well as a vision. The institute acquired and paid for its Incorporation and 501c3 Foundation status. A distinguished board of directors was put in place which included a number of eminent scientist and scholars. ARI’s current office, lab and research facility is in the Gerry Building at 555 N. Jefferson Street in Monticello, Florida.
ARI accomplished much in 2014 operating on a small budget of contributions and a line of credit from its parent corporation, Healthyways. The Jefferson County Business Community has also pledged $4000.00-$5000.00 on which the institute can draw. Our finances were adequate for 2014 circumstances, but are clearly not sufficient to fund our next phase of development.
The institute’s initial business plan guided us through 2014. We moved forward in every way to put flesh on our original vision and to develop adequate funding avenues. Our approach is one of attraction and promotion. ARI also sees the pursuit of grants and partnerships as an important part of its financial future.
Our focus is to identify and build long term relationships with individuals, foundations and organizations that can and will support the development of a major earth sciences research institute (an institute located close to the important Page-Ladson Pre-Clovis Archaeological site in Jefferson County Florida. The Page-Ladson Site – As noted in the January 2015 issue of National Geographic is one of only ten such sites in the Western Hemisphere). ARI is gaining important ground in the scientific community. In 2014 we assisted Dr. Jessie Halligan, Paleo-Archaeologist with the University of Wisconsin, with her on-going excavations at the Page-Ladson site. In June of last year David Ward and Jim Dunbar, ARI board members, supported the beginning effort of the University of Georgia to explore Archaic habitation sites offshore in Gulf of Mexico Econfina River Channels. The two week exploration was conducted by Professor Ervan Garrison and Doctoral candidate Jessica Cook-Hale.
Grants for two significant ARI projects in 2015 have already been submitted. A $175,000.00 grant will fund the investigation of Paleo- Indian, Mastodon and Seminole fur trading sites around Wakulla Springs. The Friends of Wakulla will give and additional $20,000.00 to this project and we may get some money from National Geographic.
Our LiDAR project is led by ARI board member Dr. George Cole. Many of the early archeological resources in the Big Bend of Florida date from when water levels were much lower and they lie in the numerous sinkholes and freshwater springs along the drowned river channels now located in the shallow margins of the Gulf of Mexico. The precise locations and characteristics of these offshore features are poorly defined. At best, those waters have been mapped using widely-spaced sounding lines. Further, the relatively shallow depths of this area restrict the use of multi-beam fathometers and other conventional means of hydrographic surveying used to better defining the bathymetric features of the area. Fortunately, tests of airborne LiDAR systems using green lasers by an ARI Board member have indicated a capability for precise, high resolution mapping of underwater features. We submitted application for a $40,000 grant from the National Park Service allow mapping of the underwater area offshore of the Aucilla and Wacissa Rivers. The resulting maps will provide a precise guide to investigations of the rich archeological resources in that area.
A project underway in ARI’s lab, in partnership with Florida State University (FSU) and using 3D scanning equipment on loan from MercyHurst University of Pennsylvania will catalog a local collection of Pre-Clovis artifacts. Included in this project will be interviewing the collector and filming the collection by a candidate for a Cultural Anthropology degree at FSU.
Much of the Aucilla area collections will be scanned by Herbert Maschner who received a multi-million dollar grant to scan the world’s most important collections, including The Fortifications of La Mancha Spain, Greek Syracuse in Sicily, The Hall of Evolution in Paris and the entire Saurid collection in the Naturkunde in Berlin. ARI is proud to have a small part in this project.
ARI is active on the public relations front as well. We have two planned events for 2015. First, we will lead a day-long event in February including Senator Bill Montford, Representative Halsey Beshears, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner and John Ladson. We will start at the Gerry Building with a presentation regarding ARI’s 25 year plan and 3D scanning lab. The second half of the day will include a hike of the Aucilla Sinks and a visit to the famed Page-Ladson site. Second, our board president, Dr. Glen Doran will make a major presentation regarding ARI, its mission and its progress to the second First Floridians First Americans conference in Monticello during the first week of October 2015.
In summary, ARI made outstanding progress in 2014, but we will have to do better in the coming year. As can be seen from this review, ARI is at a place where our opportunities are out-distancing our resources; therein lays our challenge for 2015. Looking forward it is clear that ARI must focus on and pursue funding activities that are specific and will move our twenty-five year plan forward. In short, we must acquire a piece of suitable property in 2015. We must find the money to build a storage and maintenance facility on that property. We must establish relationships that can and will help us establish an adequate operating budget.
We are on target for duplicating the progress of 2014 and looking forward to meeting the challenges.