Fern Valley Field Station

*see caption
Late winter scene along a small stream at Fern Valley Field Station

The Fern Valley Field Station is the College of Wooster’s outdoor facility to encourage scientific research, environmental education, and nature study. Graciously donated to the College by Betty and David Wilkin in 2012, Fern Valley is a 56 acre tract of wooded land in northern Holmes Co., Ohio and has already hosted visits from hundreds of students, faculty and researchers. Classes from the Biology and Geology Departments at the College frequently visit the site for field experience.

The property is located in a primarily agricultural landscape and one with many Amish neighbors. One of the primary features of the property is a second-order stream and several smaller streams that feed into it. The hilltops, valleys and ravines associated with these streams provide much of the topography associated with the property.

The forest is older second growth with an unusually high number of Ohio Buckeyes (Aesculus glabra). Other common trees include: Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) and Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis).

Facilities and Resources

The short access road leads to a small parking area. Nearby is a small cabin (constructed in 2015) that can be used for research or educational purposes. Basic field equipment and facilities for collecting and processing samples are available on site. Long-term data on climate at the Station and water flow in the streams are regularly collected. A list of known woody plants and vertebrate species from Fern Valley is also regularly updated. A number of established and marked trails are available (with more under development)

View searchable archive of photos from Fern Valley.

Ongoing Research at Fern Valley

To date, seventeen undergraduate theses at the College of Wooster have been conducted in whole or in part at the Fern Valley Field Station (listed below):

  • Croft, Caden. (2021). Title: How do we fight climate change? A study of the impact of carbon sequestration using a small scale reforestation technique.
  • Daugherty, Oria. (2021). Title: If a tree falls in a forest: the impacts of coarse woody debris on biodiversity and species abundance in areas of ongoing reforestation.
  • Lorbach, Sally. (2020). Title: Exploratory analysis of salamander abundance and body condition in early successional, mature and old growth forests.
  • Weston Gray. (2019). Title: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) Population in Ohio over Time with a Focus on the Melanistic Color Morph.
  • Austin Russell. (2019). Title: A Comparison of Salamander Community Composition in Early Successional and Mature Forests.
  • Haley Hartman (2018). Title: Investigating the Impact of Invasive Plant Species on Native Plethodontid Salamander Populations.
  • Alexa Rojas (2018). Title: An Examination of Salamander Abundance and Behavior in Response to Invasive Plants.
  • Blake Marlowe (2017). Title: An Experimental Analysis of Invasive Plant Effects on Salamander Abundance.
  • Mallorey Stack (2017). Title: Effects of the invasive plant species, Rosa multiflora and Alliaria petiolata, and deer browsing on native plant species in a Ohioan second growth forest.
  • Dabney Gottman (2015). Title: Effects on Beetle and Ant Populations at a Temperate Deciduous Forest and Agricultural Edge.
  • Elizabeth Ross (2015). Title: Neophobic behavior but not aggression differs between urban and rural chickadee flocks (Poecile atricapilus and Poecile carolinenesis).
  • Jason Ziegler (2014). Title: Assessing the Effects of Forest Fragmentation on Moths Using Island Biogeography Theory and Tree Species Richness.
  • Philip Bauerle (2010). Title: The Effects of Competition on Radishes, Raphanus sativus, Grown at High and Low Densities as Well as Grown with a Different Cultivar Neighbor.
  • Hilary Edgington (2010) Title: Characterization of Hybridization in Two Species of Plethodontid Salamanders, with a Discussion of the Impact of Hybridization on Species Concepts.
  • Emmy Cassagnol (2009) Title: DNA Sequence Variation Indicates Hybridization between Plethodon electromorphus and Plethodon cinereus.
  • Kimberly Skully (2009). Title: Decomposition and Macroinvertebrate Colonization of Single and Mixed Species Leaf Litter in Two First-Order Temperate Streams.
  • Justin Baker (2006) Title: Phylogeography of two closely related darter species, Etheostoma nigrum and Etheostoma blennioides, in Ohio 

Three peer-reviewed scientific publications have thus far resulted from research at Fern Valley.

  • Lehtinen, R.M., B.M. Carlson, A.R. Hamm, A.G. Riley, M.M. Mullen, and W.J. Gray. 2020. Dispatches from the neighborhood watch: Using citizen science and field survey data to document color morph frequency in space and time. Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6006
  • Lehtinen, R.M., A.F. Steratore, M.M. Eyre, E.S. Cassagnol, M.L. Stern and H.K. Edgington. 2016. Identification of widespread hybridization between two terrestrial salamanders using morphology, image analysis and molecular markers. Copeia 104:132-139.
  • Goss, Charles W., P. Charles Goebel, S. Mažeika P. Sullivan. 2014. Shifts in attributes along agriculture-forest transitions of two streams in central Ohio, USA. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 197: 106–117.

Ongoing long-term research from faculty in the Biology and Earth Sciences Departments at the College of Wooster include general biodiversity surveys, studies of salamander ecology, invasive plant impacts, and the effects of deer browsing.

Parties interested in visiting or conducting scientific research at the Fern Valley Field Station should contact the Director, Dr. Rick Lehtinen.