Sr. Mary Jo Hummeldorf and Sr. Mary Bezold attended the grand opening of the NKU Research and Education Field Station at the site of the St. Anne Wetlands off Anderson Road in Melbourne on Friday, May 19, 2017.
What began in 2006 with an education team formed by Sr. Mary Jo has certainly grown and developed over the years. That early team of men and women who represented the Forestry Department, Northern Kentucky University, Campbell County Extension Office, Thomas More College and Xavier University dreamed about a field station and opportunities for local students to explore and research the veritable virgin wetlands and woodlands once owned by the Sisters of Divine Providence. The St. Anne Woods and Wetlands are now under the stewardship of the Campbell County Conservation District and will be preserved in perpetuity. One of the very few parcels of undeveloped waterfront along the Ohio River, the 100 acre wetlands that stretches from the river to Route 8 is an excellent site for education research. In 2007 a grant of $25,000 to Northern Kentucky University enabled the development of forty acres of the wetlands so it could be opened to the public. Boy scouts, NKU professors and students as well as Duke Energy were originally involved in the construction of pathways, kiosks and bridges. Since then an additional 60 acres north of the railroad tracks to the river has been divided into six smaller wetlands for further research. Each of these wetlands is deep or shallow depending on wildlife and species and is fenced and locked to provide an undisturbed area for research. The purchase of a former residence adjacent to this parcel provides necessary shelter and an operations base for scholars and students. The locked gate in front of the station and parking area leads right into the wetlands for convenient access.
During the dedication ceremony Richard D. Durtsche, Ph. D., Professor and Curator of Zoological Collections, Department of Biological Sciences, Director of the Field Station and one of those original education team members thanked Sr. Mary Jo for her inspiration and the Sisters of Divine Providence for their foresight and stewardship. He said that the field station is a “vision come true.” The REFS will enable a wide range of field research and offers students across disciplines opportunities for field-oriented curricula, independent research, and close interactions with professionals. It also serves as a center for the community to connect and learn about the environment.
“When you’re standing in the middle of the wetlands, it’s very hard to believe that you’re only 10 miles from downtown Cincinnati. Everyone needs a place to connect with nature and a facility to learn,” said Dr. Durtsche. “This is what Northern Kentucky has been missing, and now the Field Station and associated St. Anne Woods and Wetlands provide that experience close by. It’s a 15 minute drive from campus, and the natural areas offer an enjoyable place to spend an afternoon with the family.”
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