Weigle-Roslien woodland, a 10.31-acre tract of land, was donated to the college by Luther emeriti professors James Weigle and Dave Roslein. When Luther received this 10-acre land donation a couple of years ago, professor of biology Beth Lynch was puzzled. The Weigle-Roslien woodland contained an old sugar maple forest, which Lynch says is rare for Iowa. “I’m a forest ecologist, and this particular woodland represents a real enigma. In this area, if you find sugar maples and basswoods and other fire-sensitive species, they’re going to be on a steep north-facing slope, where it’s moist and protected from fire, and this one is on a flat upland. I was immediately attracted to it because it’s so strange.”
Lynch saw a great opportunity to use this unusual, never-researched land to teach her ecology students how to set up permanent research plots and how to design and carry out original, independent small-group research projects. The students spent the first few weeks of their fall ecology course staking out the plots, then conducting thorough surveys of the trees and understory within the plots. Lynch plans to contribute this data to the Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN), a collaborative project between several colleges that generates and shares publishable data.
Says senior Matthew Peterson, “I found it interesting to be a part of setting up permanent plots. I’ve never done that before, and I’ll look back on that and think it’s cool to have initiated a project.”