Learning in the Great Outdoors

Bohannan, Kraus Wilderness Preserves offer exciting field experiences

The Bohannan and Kraus Wilderness Preserves serve as outdoor teaching facilities for field trips and research. (Photos by Kristen Browne ’13)

If you take Ornithology, Introduction to Microbiology, Field Botany, or any number of other science courses at Ohio Wesleyan, you may be lucky enough to take a field trip to OWU’s two forested nature preserves: the 55-acre Bohannan Preserve and the 80-acre Kraus Wilderness Preserve. These preserves serve as outdoor teaching facilities for class field trips and student and faculty research. The Bohannan Preserve is less developed than other areas of the county and offers research opportunities in a less disturbed landscape. The Kraus Wilderness Preserve is located mostly in a suburban residential area and has two ponds and a field lab that is used for student-faculty research. This location facilitates research that focuses on the natural woodland, pond, and stream ecosystems, as well as the impacts of development on these ecosystems.

Many science classes at OWU visit these areas as part of the laboratory experience and conduct projects ranging from surveys of plants, microbes, birds, and invertebrates to carrying out experiments designed to test specific hypotheses. Students also conduct independent research at the preserves, and many have published their work in scientific journals. Some student project topics from past years include winter bird populations, amphibian species richness, soil nitrogen fixation, vegetation analysis, and water chemistry.

This semester, Daniel Fink, assistant professor of zoology, has taken his Organisms and Their Environment class to Bohannan for a two-part lab studying insect and plant diversity. To determine the effects of the Emerald ash borer beetle on the vegetation community in the preserve, Fink’s students have identified and measured the size of the trees and the extent of the herbaceous ground cover in the preserve.

“Students are learning how to effectively design experiments and how to interpret the data generated from an observational experiment using statistical methods,” says Fink. Learning on site outdoors is especially appealing to students, as well.

“My favorite part of the field labs has definitely been being able to be outside,” says Kristen Browne ’13, a zoology/pre-veterinary major and member of Fink’s class. “I think immersing oneself in an experience teaches in a way words never could.” The Bohannan and Kraus preserves give OWU students a unique opportunity to connect classroom learning to the real world.

Read more about the Ohio Wesleyan nature preserves.

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