Field station expands college research efforts

IOANNIS PASHAKIS/Sun-Gazette Mel Zimmerman, professor emeritus of biology at Lycoming College, tours the college's new biology field station on 116 acres of land in Montoursville. The station is planned to be used in a variety of courses including aquatic biology, exology, plant science, vertebrate and invertebrate zoology and more.

Lycoming College’s recent acquisition of property to establish a biology field station will mean expanded hands-on research for students studying the environment, plant science and vertebrate and invertebrate zoology.

“I see the field station as a living laboratory for the advancement of knowledge through ecological research, education and stewardship of the natural world,” Dr. Mel Zimmerman, Lycoming College professor emeritus of biology and director of the Clean Water Institute, said. “The station will provide an opportunity for faculty and students to set up long-term field projects related to their independent research or practical projects. This kind of experiential learning is a top priority of biology, the CWI, and the Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences.”

The 116-acre parcel along Loyalsock Creek off Route 87 consists of two houses, a barn, several outbuildings, agricultural fields and riparian/upland forests.

Eleven student interns began their work at the field station this summer with the Clean Water Institute (CWI) by conducting water quality testing, identifying and evaluating tree diversity, assessing wetlands and starting to compile a complete plant and mammal inventory.

Sarah Musheno, a Lycoming College senior majoring in ecology with a minor in environmental science, said the field station opens up new opportunities for student research.

“Personally, I think it’s going to be a great asset to Lycoming,” she said. “You will have a greater opportunity for students to have hands-on work. It gives clean water interns a chance to get out in the field and work with professors one-on-one.”

Musheno said the work done this summer by her and other students included identifying trees and foliage at the site and plotting the terrain for upcoming research.

Emily Bohlin, Lycoming College biology lab manager and Clean Water Institute research associate, said the field station is a great addition to the school’s biology studies.

“One of the goals I am excited about is setting up long-term ecological monitors there,” she said. “We can study the environment over time. We are excited about that.”

Zimmerman is looking ahead to use of the property beyond the college community.

“A long range goal for the field station is to establish a location for interdisciplinary engagement and community outreach,” he said.

The facility also will be used for projects associated with the college’s Sustainability Committee, Outdoor Leadership and Education, the Center for Enhanced Energy and the Future, the CWI and the Lycoming Environmental Awareness Foundation along with partnerships with Inflection Energy, the state Game Commission, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association and other environmental groups.

Zimmerman said he couldn’t be more excited about the college having its own outdoors site for research.

“It’s something again that allows students to get out in the field,” he said. “It’s a station for longterm research. We hope to monitor water quality on Loyalsock Creek. We have been able to do a lot of different things on state lands and watersheds. But having your own property for long-term studies is a plus.”

The Lycoming Biology Field Station Inc. is a nonprofit corporation and wholly-owned subsidiary of Lycoming College.