William H. Renwick

A field of dirt compressed by tire tracks surrounded by a forest
A field of dirt compressed by tire tracks surrounded by a forest

Geography Chair and Professor

"The Natural Areas are a wonderful resource for teaching."

Miami is primarily and educational institution and the Natural Areas contribute importantly to our teaching in many ways. Our research will help explain what is there and why it looks the way it does. We use the Natural Areas when we teach physical geography because they are within a 10-minute walk from our classrooms. With out them we would have to do it “virtually” or drive in a van to the location, increasing time and cost.

Geography classes frequently use the Natural Areas as outdoor classrooms where students learn about the environment. Among the topics we study are the ecology of forests, stream erosion and flooding, and the lasting impacts of past and present human activities on the environment.

Although we call the undeveloped lands adjacent to the Miami campus “natural” areas, in fact they have been dramatically altered over the 200+ years of European settlement. The forests were cleared to make way for agriculture and provide wood for building or for fuel. Some areas were farmed, some were pastures, and still others were used as dumps for trash.

These natural areas demonstrate very well that, while we may not notice such things in casual observation, humans have profoundly changed our environment.