On-Campus Forest Now a Student-Faculty Research Preserve

Students gather measurements in the Wood Thrush Research Preserve

Not many people know that on the north side of Lebanon Valley College’s campus, behind the facilities services barn, lies a 20-acre forest that has served as an academic resource for students and faculty. 

Home to various wildlife including flying squirrels, coyotes, and whitetail deer, students use this woodlot to conduct forest vegetation samplings, survey animal communities, and determine the impacts of invasive species, for both individual and class-related purposes. 

Previously known as the Rohland Woods, the on-campus woodlot is an example of a “biological island,” meaning that it is not connected to a larger forest. More importantly, it provides a home for species that are unable to live in fields, parking lots, or other nearby environments. To preserve and protect the biodiversity of this ecosystem as well as continue to let it serve as a resource for LVC students and faculty, the Biology Department worked with the Sustainability Advisory Committee to get its conservation approved, officially renaming it the Wood Thrush Research Preserve at Rohland Farm. 

This new feature will help set LVC apart from other schools with similar curricula, because unlike most, LVC’s research preserve is conveniently located within walking distance from campus. The preserve provides opportunities for students and faculty to conduct field research right in LVC’s backyard, and with the recent addition of the environmental science major, even more students will benefit from this living laboratory. 

“I am most excited about how the preserve will strengthen LVC’s new environmental science major,” said Dr. Rebecca Urban, associate professor of biology. “While other colleges and universities have field sites, few are so conveniently located near campus.   Students don’t need to worry about finding transportation to take them to a field site for independent research, and they can also enjoy a relaxing walk in the woods between classes.”

In addition to providing academic opportunities, the Wood Thrush Research Preserve will aid in furthering LVC’s environmental initiatives. 

“The preserve will help conserve the biodiversity of an eastern deciduous forest ecosystem,” Urban added. “The woods are dominated by oak, hickory, white ash, tulip poplar, and American beech, which all help provide habitat for a variety of animal life.”

The area’s official preservation will open up even more opportunities for future classes, individual research, and environmental initiatives. The woodlot will be monitored by the Biology Department, but it will continue to be available as a resource for the larger LVC community.