Sawmill Slough Preserve Projects
The Sawmill Slough Preserve is a 382-acre natural area located on the University of North Florida campus. The area was was designated as preserve in 2006 by President John A. Delaney and the Board of Trustees, after years of continued requests from the university community. The Preserve includes a wetland habitat stretching through the western portion of the campus and additional small areas of drier habitat, including some longleaf pine-turkey oak woodlands.
In addition to providing habitat for wildlife, the Sawmill Slough Preserve is a great place to appreciate nature, for a quiet hike or to view wildlife. The best way to experience the Preserve is by hiking the Robert W. Loftin Nature Trails, named after the distinguished UNF professor. There are approximately 5-miles of trails and they are open to the general public sunrise to sunset.
The Environmental Center has made it a priority to utilize the Sawmill Slough Preserve as a living laboratory for research and education. Below are some of the current and past projects supported by the Environmental Center.
Preserve Digital Archive
The Preserve Digital Archive was designed to be a a scientific, cultural and historical archive of the Sawmill Slough Preserve. The database was developed by Dr. Stuart Chalk, Professor of Chemistry.
Campus Natural Assets Inventory
The Sawmill Slough Preserve consists of at least 8 distinct natural communities and supports a range of flora and fauna. In an effort to document its rich biodiversity, the Preserve Curator Chuck Hubbuch began compiling an inventory of the native plants and animals located within the Preserve. The Environmental Center helped expand the effort and launched the Campus Natural Assets Inventory (CNAI) with the goal of creating a public inventory of flora and fauna that could be used as a resource for teaching and research.
In addition to a rich biodiversity, the Sawmill Slough Preserve also has a meaningful place in the history of the university. Students, faculty and staff have been drawn to the Preserve since the university opened in 1972. The very first club at UNF was the Sawmill Slough Conservation Club, which purchased canoes for students to check out and objected to the development projects that impacted the Preserve. In 2006, that dream finally became a reality when President John A. Delaney designated 382-acres of the campus as the Sawmill Slough Preserve.
The Environmental Center, with help from the Department of History and Thomas G. Carpenter Library, have been compiling historical documents related to the Sawmill Slough Preserve. The artifacts, which include documents, images, videos and interviews, are cataloged into the Special Collections section of the Library. Students and faculty are then able to utilize the resources to create interpretive projects that are housed in the Preserve Digital Archive.
Digital Trail Interpretation
Hiking the Robert W. Loftin Nature Trails is the best way to experience the Sawmill Slough Preserve, but the Environmental Center has created a series of digital trail interpretations using Story Maps. These online maps provide an opportunity for anyone to experience the Preserve and learn about the flora, fauna, habitats and management practices taking place within the Preserve. As of now, only one trail has been completed.
The map of the Gopher Tortoise Ridge
Ecological Research and Natural Areas Management
As a mechanism to further build the Campus Natural Assets Inventory, the Environmental Center created an ecologist position to conduct on-going research in the Sawmill Slough Preserve and assist the preserve curator with management activities. Through the efforts of Dr. Radha Pyati, former Environmental Center Director and Associate Professor of Chemistry, and Chuck Hubbuch, Preserve Curator, the Ecologist position was successfully funded by the Cummer Family Foundation and Blaudow Foundation in 2013. Justin Lemmons, M.S., filled the ecologist position at the Environmental Center until funding expired in 2015. Learn more about research and natural areas management completed by the ecologist.
Pre[serve] Art Exhibition
The Pre[serve] Art Exhibition is a student and alumni juried exhibition featuring works inspired by Sawmill Slough Preserve. This program encourages artists to venture into the Sawmill Slough Preserve to find their inspiration. The works are displayed in an on-campus exhibition as a way to highlight the importance of conservation. In addition to the exhibition, there are a series of workshops that are meant to educate students about artistic techniques and the native flora and fauna found in the Sawmill Slough Preserve.