Backyard Biodiversity

May 13, 2013

Established in 1966, Denison University’s Biological Reserve offers students, faculty, staff and community members the opportunity for research and to snuggle up to nature.

With 80 percent of the land covered by dense 200-year-old forest, biodiversity abounds. According to Whitney Stocker, the Bio Reserve’s caretaker, the land is home to more than 50 species of birds, some of which are specific to the central Ohio area.

In addition to species that soar the skies, the Bio Reserve is home to multiple species of ground and water-dwellers, including wood frogs, grey tree frogs, American toads, red-backed salamanders and spotted salamanders. These amphibians call the Bio Reserve’s ponds and wooded landscapes home for breeding, development and growth.

The ponds host a diverse range of invertebrate animals, such as insects, snails, and leeches, some of which serve as food for amphibians and fish. Some ponds at the Bio Reserve contain fish, such as mosquitofish and sunfish, while others are fish-free. Because of the presence and absence of fish in different ponds, each environment has a distinctive community of invertebrates. The ponds also are home to a few reptiles including painted turtles, water snakes and an occasional snapping turtle. The reserve’s streams accommodate fish, invertebrate animals and a few salamanders.

Denison classes frequently take place there — regardless of season or temperature —watching birds, collecting soil samples, gathering data on amphibians or examining rocks.

A natural laboratory for learning beyond the classroom, the Bio Reserve serves several academic departments, including biology, environmental studies and geology.

And the Bio Reserve is more than a place for experiments and research — its 350 acres sport 14 trails where students, including Denison’s men’s and women’s cross country teams, as well as Granville residents, often walk or run as well. In total, the trails cover 8.5 miles across, around and through the property.

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