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Students looking at plants

Sawmill Slough Preserve – Research and Creative Projects

The Institute of Environmental Research and Education (IERE) has made it a priority to connect faculty and students to the Sawmill Slough Preserve (SSP). The expansive natural area is a tremendous asset to the University and serves as a living laboratory for research and education. IERE supports multiple ongoing research and creative projects that document the biological diversity and history of the SSP. The Preserve Digital Archive was developed to archive the results of the research and serve as a scientific, cultural and historical archive for the SSP.


Students interested in assisting with research in the SSP should contact the IERE.

About the Sawmill Slough Preserve

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 SSP 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 SSP is a great place to appreciate nature, for a quiet hike or to view wildlife. The best way to experience the SSP 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. Students can check out recreational equipment, including kayaks and paddle boards, from Eco Adventure to paddle Lake Oneida.

Research and Creative Projects

Beetle on a leaf

Campus Natural Assets Inventory

The SSP contains at least eight distinct natural communities that support an abundant diversity of flora and fauna. The goal of the Campus Natural Assets Inventory is to document the diversity found within the SSP. The results of the inventory are curated in an open digital collection available for research and teaching.

Men shaking hands

Historical Research and Interpretation

In addition to a rich biodiversity, the SSP has a meaningful place in the history and culture of UNF. The SSP has been a hub of student activity since the University’s founding in 1972. The very first club at UNF was the Sawmill Slough Conservation Club and still today students use the SSP for recreation, relaxation and to reconnect with nature. Students and faculty have been compiling historical documents, photos and interviews related to the SSP. The artifacts are cataloged and archived with help of the Thomas Library G. Carpenter Library.
Painting of scrub jay

Pre[serve] Art Exhibition

The Pre[serve] Art Exhibition is a student and alumni juried exhibition featuring works inspired by SSP, a 382-acre nature preserve located on the UNF campus. The SSP has been a focal point of campus life since the university's founding, and students have played an integral role in its preservation. This art show continues that tradition encouraging artists to venture into the SSP to find 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 SSP.


Artwork credit: Meredith Sullivan, 2019

Hiking trail

Digital Trail Interpretation

The Digital Trail experience gives virtual hiking tour of the Robert W. Loftin Nature Trails. The series of Story Maps provides more information on habitats, representative flora and fauna, and management practices.