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Field research sites in Miami's own backyard

02/25/2013

Written by Susan Meikle

Students in Mike Vanni's limnology class work with the mesocosms (experimental water enclosures) at the Ecology Research Center (photo by Tracy Chappelow)
Students in Mike Vanni's limnology class work with the mesocosms (experimental water enclosures) at the Ecology Research Center (photo by Tracy Chappelow)
While Miami undergraduate and graduate students conduct field research in faraway places like Antarctica, the Rocky Mountains and the Chilean Andes, they don’t have to go far for fabulous field research experience, according to Doug Meikle, chair and professor of zoology.

Students taking natural science classes or conducting research use Miami’s facilities in and near Oxford to support terrestrial and aquatic field research. Facilities include:

Ecology Research Center: two miles from Miami’s Oxford campus

The Ecology Research Center (ERC) is the focal point for ecological field research at Miami. This nearly 200-acre field station contains a diversity of field sites and facilities, including six experimental ponds; 16 quarter-acre outdoor small mammal enclosures; aquatic amphibian habitats; a prairie ecosystem; and a classroom and laboratory.

A seismic station has recently been established at the ERC, with the installation last summer of the EarthScope Transportable Array Seismic Station.

Hundreds of undergraduate students, along with graduate students and faculty, use the facilities at the ERC for lab classes and research.
Students in Craig Williamson's and David Gorchov's field ecology class at Acton Lake (photo by Scott Kissell)
Students in Craig Williamson's and David Gorchov's field ecology class at Acton Lake (photo by Scott Kissell)

Directed by Ann Rypstra, distinguished professor of zoology, the ERC is used by members of many different departments. It falls under the umbrella of Miami’s Institute for the Environment and Sustainability (IES).

Acton Lake and Hueston Woods State Park: five miles from campus

The department of zoology maintains a 24-foot pontoon boat and 16-foot fiberglass boat for use on Acton Lake, a 630-acre reservoir in the heart of Hueston Woods State Park located five miles north of Oxford.

The lake is used by several departments for field courses, and many students are involved in research on the ecology of lakes and watersheds with faculty such as Mike Vanni, professor of zoology and director of the Center for Aquatic and Watershed Sciences.

Center for Aquatic and Watershed Sciences

One of many Miami researchers who use Miami's Natural Areas, zoologist Paul Schaeffer uses the bird blind in his studies of seasonal changes in energy use of the northern cardinal. Schaeffer also has research sites in Panama and Brazil (photo courtesy Jim Reid)
One of many Miami researchers who use Miami's Natural Areas, zoologist Paul Schaeffer uses the bird blind in his studies of seasonal changes in energy use of the northern cardinal. Schaeffer also has research sites in Panama and Brazil (photo courtesy Jim Reid)
The Center for Aquatic and Watershed Sciences (CAWS) promotes research and education on the linkages between watersheds and aquatic ecosystems. CAWS brings together faculty, students and staff from several departments to address these and other questions.

Miami University Natural Areas: on campus
Miami's Natural Areas provide more than 1,000 acres (and 15 miles of hiking trails) - literally in Miami’s own backyard - for use as a field laboratory. They are used extensively for undergraduate and graduate courses in the natural sciences. Several thousand area K-12 students also use the natural areas each year, according to field manager Jim Reid.

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