University Park, IL,
15:13 PM

GSU's Backyard, a Secret Source for Biology Research

One of GSU’s best kept secrets is in its own backyard, and it starts with a grass path that looks like it leads to nowhere. Actually, this path will lead you into the depths of GSU’s Biological Field Station, which is both a source of samples as well as a lab for students and professors.

Walking through the Field Station, you’ll see three ponds covered in beautiful lotus during the spring and summer months. One of the ponds, Mendelson Pond, has supplied Dr. John Yunger, Professor of Biology, with 20 years’ worth of data for long-term population dynamics of aquatic species.

Undergraduate students take boats into the ponds with a dredge to see critters living in the soil and to monitor variations in the water, including water temperature and dissolved oxygen levels. Across from Mendelson Pond is a small house that is used for onsite lectures and research. Research is conducted in the lower level where students carry in over 180 pounds of dirt every fall for analysis.

At least 8 different courses have projects throughout the field station allowing students from a variety of disciplines to experience the joys of nature and handson research experience.

Another project taking place within the Field Station is prairie restoration. Dr. Mary Carrington, Professor of Biology, is a botanist who has created 64 different plots to distinguish the effects of invasive species. She and her students are also trying to get a count of the different plant species.

Plant species can spread by the wind, animals, or even people walking; when these species are dispersed to locations they are not native to, they become invasive. Dr. Carrington is working to figure out exactly how invasive some of the plants are.

Hundreds of plants and animals call the Field Station home, making it a beautiful and serene place to study or take a stroll. Close to the water’s edge, visitors can see beaver lodges and spaces where they stash food supplies for winter. These resourceful animals make their way to and from the trees to carry wood and they create runways to make their work more efficient.

To catch a glimpse of beaver activity, come out after 6 pm; they are most active in the evening. These beavers, along with hundreds of other animals, are waiting for you at the Biological Field Station.

Students studying science venture into the Biological Field Station to take their own samples for research and analysis.


Special thanks to 2018 GSU alum Taylor Smith who researched and wrote this story for the student-produced CAS Newsmagazine 2017- 2018.