Understanding our environment

KU Field Station: List of field reserves

Fitch Reservation gateway and Fitch Trail entrance.

The KU Field Station is made up of 11 distinct reserves in four different areas in Douglas, Jefferson and Anderson counties in Kansas. Each reserve, listed in the order it became part of the Field Station, is described below. (Those reserves noted as "contiguous tracts north of Lawrence" are part of the primary research and operations area about 15 minutes north of the City of Lawrence.)

Fitch Natural History Reservation (Contiguous tracts north of Lawrence)
The 590-acre Fitch Reservation was established in 1947 on land donated to KU in 1911 by Sara Robinson, widow of Charles Robinson, first governor of Kansas. Its purpose is to serve as a permanent location for studying native plants and animals, and the management policy for the reservation is to let nature take its course. Over the past 60 years numerous studies have provided a wealth of unique scientific knowledge related to succession, or how plant and animal communities change over time. Some areas of the reservation have been opened for school groups and the public to explore this special area. The reservation is named for Henry Fitch, KU herpetologist, who lived with his family there from 1948 until shortly before his death in 2009. Fitch conducted the longest-running herpetological study in the world, spanning more than 50 years, at the Field Station.

Rockefeller Experimental Tract (Contiguous tracts north of Lawrence)
In 1956, KU professors E. Raymond Hall and Henry S. Fitch received funding from John D. Rockefeller Jr. to purchase this 160-acre farm for the purpose of conserving a small native prairie and testing methods of prairie management. Prior to that, the 160-acre Rockefeller Experimental Tract was a farm typical of those in the region, with a varied land use history. In 1957, KU began a long-term prairie experiment that continues to this day, testing four methods of management: use of burning, grazing, mowing and no treatment. along with research and teaching programs.

John H. Nelson Environmental Study Area (Contiguous tracts north of Lawrence)
The 618-acre Nelson Environmental Study Area was enabled by a gift from John H. Nelson, former dean of the KU graduate school, and his wife, Kathryn, in 1970. This site is home to the Kansas Biological Survey's research, field operations and maintenance office, as well as the Kenneth and Katie Armitage Education Center. It serves many functions related to research and teaching and offers diverse habitats used for a variety of experimental and ecological studies. Research studies take place at the area's Frank B. Cross Reservoir; an experimental pond and wetland facility; a biotic succession/habitat fragmentation facility; soil biodiversity study areas; fenced enclosures for studies of small and large mammals; and a native plant garden.

Robinson Tract (North of Lawrence en route to contiguous tracts)
This 44-acre tract, another portion of the farm of Governor Robinson, was added in 1970. It provides, in addition to woodlands and grasslands for teaching and research, natural wetlands and wetland restored from previous disturbance.

Baldwin Woods Forest Preserve (Near Vinland and Baldwin City, Kansas) Brochure
Prior to Euro-American settlement, the Baldwin Woods area encompassed about 3,700 acres of closed forest and open savanna. However, development of rural areas for agriculture and, in recent years, for suburban housing has greatly reduced the extent of native woodland. In 1980, the entire Baldwin Woods area was designated as a National Natural Landmark because it is recognized as a “... significant example of the natural heritage of the Nation.” Scientific studies within the area are done with as little disturbance as possible so as not to damage the sensitive ecosystem. The KU Field Station preserves 456 contiguous acres of the Baldwin Woods ecosystem, in several tracts (Breidenthal, Rice, Wall and new lands acquired in 2016) in perpetuity.

Field Botany course at Breidenthal.

Breidenthal Biological Reserve (Baldwin Woods)
The 90-acre Breidenthal Biological Reserve consists of 70 acres purchased in 1965 by Kansas University Endowment Association, and subsequent purchases of 10 acres each in 1973 and 1974. The majority is relatively undisturbed eastern deciduous forest, although there are remnants of savanna habitats. A small headwater stream, a tributary of Coal Creek (Wakarusa River drainage), flows through the forest.

Rice Woodland (Baldwin Woods)
In 1972, the 80-acre Rice Woodland was purchased and deeded to The Nature Conservancy, which later transferred the title through restrictive deed to KU Endowment. The Ethel and Raymond F. Rice Foundation provided funds to secure this high-quality natural area. The majority of the Rice Woodland is relatively undisturbed eastern deciduous forest. Thirty-one species of trees and 21 species of shrubs and vines were recorded on the tract in a 1963 study — remarkably high species richness for native forests in the central United States.

Wall Woods (Baldwin Woods)
The 32-acre Roy and Eleanor Wall Woods was acquired in 1974 by Roy and Eleanor Wall on behalf of The Nature Conservancy; a restrictive deed for the property was subsequently acquired by KU Endowment. The tract is high quality woodland.

New Forest Preserve lands (Baldwin Woods)
In 2016, an additional 202 acres was added to the Baldwin Woods Forest Preserve when local landowners, working cooperatively with the Kansas Biological Survey, sold acreage below market value for the expressed purpose of preserving it as part of the KU Field Station. The acquisition of these lands was made possible through the assistance of several organizations. The Conservation Fund worked in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which provided access to mitigation funds from Enbridge Pipelines L.L.C. and TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP. The Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council provided funding through a grant. The Kansas Land Trust provided technical support. KU Endowment holds a portion of the land in protection in perpetuity. The rest, which was identified by the Kansas Forest Service as having exceptional conservation value, was chosen as the first Legacy Forest in Kansas by the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Legacy Program is funded by Congress through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Hall Nature Reserve (West of Lawrence)
This 116-acre reserve was donated to KU Endowment in 1999 by Hubert "Hub" Hall and Kathleen McBride Hall on behalf of the Hall family. Hub Hall's father was E. Raymond Hall, former director of the KU Natural History Museum. The Hall Reserve is used for studies of the natural recovery processes associated with new approaches to land restoration.

Anderson County Prairie Preserve (Five miles south of Garnett, Kansas)
The Nature Conservancy acquired this 1,450-acre preserve in 1996 and turned management over to the Kansas Biological Survey in 2006. The preserve lies within a large functional landscape of 125,000 acres in the Unglaciated Tallgrass Prairie. This area is of critical importance as the easternmost protected large block of unbroken prairie east of the Flint Hills in Kansas. The goal for the preserve is to maintain and enhance native biodiversity within an imperiled tallgrass prairie ecosystem, protect rare plants and animals, and accommodate research, education and outreach. The preserve is open to all researchers whose interests are consistent with these goals. Likewise, teachers and resource professionals — with prior approval from the Survey — are welcome to use the preserve for classes, workshops, demonstrations or informal visits.

Suzanne Ecke McColl Nature Reserve (Contiguous tracts north of Lawrence)
This 160-acre tract was purchased by KU Endowment 2007 with funds provided through gifts from Robert and Suzanne Ecke McColl and many other donors. This land helps to secure and protect other core portions of the Field Station's northern tracts, the Fitch Natural History Reservation, adjacent to the east, and the Rockefeller Experimental Tract and Native Prairie, adjacent to the north. The McColl Reserve provides additional and contiguous habitats reserved for wildlife, as well as valuable and important land useful for conservation and habitat restoration research. The McColl Reserve also has become a key focus area for public outreach and education initiatives, and teaching activities, and to aid these purposes several public nature trails traverse selected portions of the property. Native plant and pollinator gardens, interpretive stations, ecological restorations and research demonstrations are among other amenities either under development or being planned to help educate visitors about the work conducted at the Field Station, as well as the area’s rich natural heritage. 

Native Medicinal Plant Research Garden (North of Lawrence en route to contiguous tracts)
The five-acre research garden site was established in 2010 through the Native Medicinal Plant Research Program, on land held by KU Endowment near the Lawrence Municipal Airport. Because of its location just north of Highway 24/40, south of the northern contiguous tracts and fronting East 1600 Road, it is highly visible and accessible, and it serves as a gateway to the northern tracts. The garden site draws hundreds of visitors each year. It includes a research area, a demonstration/show garden of medicinal plants and the KU Student Farm. The research area is made up of wide rows, each 50 feet long, where about 25 native medicinal species are grown each year. The demonstration/show garden, surrounding a large shade structure of recycled lumber, is just inside the front gate; it includes seven themed beds holding about 70 species of medicinal plants, each with an informational sign. The KU Student Farm is made up of two sections of individual plots where KU students, faculty and staff grow their own vegetables. Public tours of the research garden site are held twice a year, in summer and fall. More about the garden here.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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