Biology and sustainability graduate, Claire Watts ’17, of Medina, records water quality data at one of two lakes on the Richfield Preserve property.

A new community partnership opens up a habitat rich in biodiversity as a living laboratory for BW students and faculty.

BW establishes field station at Richfield Heritage Preserve

October 24, 2017

A new community partnership has opened up a habitat rich in biodiversity as a living laboratory for Baldwin Wallace University students.

BW and the Richfield Joint Recreation District (RJRD) have signed an agreement to establish a BW field station at the 336-acre Richfield Heritage Preserve, site of the former Crowell-Hilaka Girl Scout Camp, where students and faculty will conduct class activities and research.

"The site offers experiential opportunities for students in a range of disciplines, but is especially useful in our new environmental science program," said biology professor Dr. Chris Stanton. "The partnership also aims to help everyone in the region better understand the local environment as well as the pathways to effective management of our natural resources."

Nature as teacher

Chagrin Valley Cabin will serve as the classroom and laboratory for the BW field station.Along with fields, forest, streams and lakes, the agreement grants BW the use of two buildings. The current vision calls for the use of Coach House as an office, meeting space and library, while Chagrin Valley Cabin will serve as a classroom and laboratory, eventually equipped with microscopes, aquaria, nets, waders and more. 

Future plans also call for the buildings to host educational activities and programs that will be open to the public.

"We are pleased to add BW to the growing list of Richfield Heritage Preserve’s partner groups," said board chair Bob Becker. "Baldwin Wallace has worked on several projects and studies that have already benefited the residents and our efforts to preserve this hidden treasure. Our goal is that group collaboration will greatly enrich the experience for everyone."

BW research: coyotes, cicadas and more

The upper lake (also known as Lake Linnea) at Richfield Heritage Preserve.The Richfield Heritage Preserve is located between Broadview Road and Oviatt Road, north of Route 303, and is part of the headwaters of the Rocky River.

Several research projects are already underway or completed as students from the BW Department of Biology and Geology:

  • use trail cameras to monitor mammal activity, especially the movement of coyotes,
  • track lake water quality by monitoring oxygen levels and water temperature,
  • map soils and water features to identify environmental issues such as erosion and chemical contamination, and
  • document the diversity of reptiles, amphibians and insects such as 17-year cicadas and bumble bees.

Biodiverse bonanza

A BW student found a rare blue-eyed cicada on the preserve property."Because this ecosystem is more complete, we’re able to observe more species than in many other park habitats in the region," Stanton noted. "There are nesting American bald eagles, beavers and rare salamander species, just to name a few."

With two dams, lakes, a wastewater treatment plant and active barns on site, the preserve also holds potential for engineering student projects, as well as inspiration and possible subjects for students of the arts, history and more. 

Support to equip and maintain buildings

Maintenance and improvements to the BW field station buildings will be shared by BW and the RJRD. "We are seeking partners and donors to support our efforts to make the buildings more handicapped accessible and functional," said Stanton. 

For more information on partnership opportunities, contact Dr. Stanton at CStanton@bw.edu.

  • Biology and sustainability graduate, Claire Watts ’17, of Medina, records water quality data at one of two lakes on the Richfield Preserve property.

    Biology and sustainability graduate Claire Watts '17 of Medina, Ohio, records water quality data at one of two lakes on the Richfield Heritage Preserve property.

  • Biology professor and Richfield naturalist, Dr. Chris Stanton, at one of the Richfield Heritage Preserve’s picturesque streams.

    Biology professor and Richfield naturalist Dr. Chris Stanton at one of the Richfield Heritage Preserve's picturesque streams.

  • BW student Katie Swanson doing research in wooded area

    As a BW Summer Scholar, Katie Swanson '18 studied the life cycle, behaviors and preferred habitat of cicadas at the Richfield site.

  • Coach House, one of two buildings that will support BW field station activities.

    Coach House, one of two buildings that will support BW field station activities.

  • A group of BW geology students measure a stream cross-section to determine erosion hazards within the Richfield Heritage Preserve.

    A group of BW geology students measures a stream cross-section to determine erosion hazards within the Richfield Heritage Preserve.

  • Senior biology major, Erica Morgan ’18, of Brook Park removes videos of deer from a camera in the forest of the Richfield Heritage Preserve.

    Senior biology major Erica Morgan '18 of Brook Park, Ohio, removes videos of deer from a camera in the forest of the Richfield Heritage Preserve.