The COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for the Ozark Research Field Station’s scheduled programming, so in spring 2020, we opened our grounds to faculty and staff as a socially distanced respite with hiking, canoeing, kayaking or just getting some space outdoors to relax and refresh.
We also successfully hosted the first courses that allowed students to return to in-person learning. Field Ecology, Vegetation of the Ozarks and Wildlife Management all met in our socially distanced outdoor setting in August. Enhanced hygiene and meal preparation standards allowed us to maintain high standards of safety for all students and faculty involved.
This past fall, we started a new national collaboration with Los Alamos Laboratories, the University of Viriginia and Wilkes College to examine acorn dispersal and germination across eastern oak forests. We’re excited to share the first-year results this spring when OURE student Dylan Johnson presents his work at the S&T Undergraduate Research Conference.
We have an exciting research agenda lined up for 2021. Freshman Rhys Timpe will conduct plant flammability trials later this spring for his FYRE project. Five student researchers from across the country will join station director Robin Verble’s first cohort of entomology research fellows this summer for a 6-week intensive survey of insects at Fort Leonard Wood. And researchers from universities across the region will use the station as a home base while conducting research in the Ozarks.
Our community continues to be an integral part of our mission. Omega Sigma students crafted gourd birdhouses for the field station, and a senior seminar team installed informational signage to enhance the site. We’re planning a community clean-up in 2021, and we’ll be working with additional senior seminar teams to continue to make the field station an inviting and inclusive place.