Forestry students assess the West Campus landscape

Last semester, the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) offered two landscape management courses that focused on the West Campus grounds — "Ecological Urbanism" and "Management Plans for Protected Areas."

The management plan seminar, taught by Professor Mark Ashton, had four F&ES students walking and closely observing the West Campus grounds — documenting land use, researching land history, zoning and mapping. They assessed soils, vegetation, wildlife habitat and surveyed West Campus faculty, staff and students. After collecting and analyzing all their data, the students developed a land management plan for the forest, adjacent undeveloped green areas and some developed areas (i.e., parking lots) at West Campus.

Their assessment took several months and began with a walking tour of the entire campus. They then met with key stakeholders to understand the different perspectives and goals for the property. Next they gathered input from West Campus administration, community education and grounds maintenance.

Part of the overall land assessment included separating the property into "stands." To do this, they identified tracts of land that have commonalities. The students said they were surprised by the ecological diversity of the campus.

"For instance, one stand is a very young forest (20 years old), whereas another stand is a very old forest. Another younger stand had very few trees, and instead had mainly herbaceous species and shrubs. Yet another stand was a wetland," says Andrew Breck, a graduate student at F&ES. The distinctions are based on: soils, hydrology, vegetation, past land use and topography.

In mid-December, the students presented their findings and offered over 20 recommendations for land use and storm water management. A few of their top recommendations include: maintaining and enhancing the wild meadows and scrub lands on West Campus; designating minimally maintained lawn areas (i.e., no-mow zones); increasing the number of picnic tables and outdoor community spaces; and extending the current trail system.

The students will present their land management plan at a West Campus Brown Bag Lunch to be announced.

— By Lisa Maloney, West Campus