Press Release for Monday, March 2, 2015
UNF Environmental Center Launches Sawmill Slough Preserve Digital Archive
Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Director
Department of Public Relations
The University of North Florida Environmental Center has launched a digital archive of the Sawmill Slough Preserve, a 382-acre natural area on the western portion of the UNF campus, in order to serve as a scientific, cultural and historical archive of the Preserve, featuring more than 500 types of plants and hundreds of animals, some even threatened or endangered.
“The digital archive allows us to take historical information from the Sawmill Slough Conversation Club and show the social and political perspectives on protecting natural resources,” said Dr. Stuart Chalk, UNF associate professor of chemistry who developed the archive idea six years ago. “The digital preserve is a way to enhance the ‘living laboratory’ nature of the area by showing off its beauty and diversity to faculty, staff, students and the community.”
Nature enthusiasts can view the Preserve digital archive, https://preserve.unf.edu, and examine its history, species inventories and scientific research, as well as its management plan and practices. Species inventories were originally created by Chuck Hubbuch, Preserve curator, as part of the Preserve management plan. UNF students and Environmental Center staff conducted a Campus Natural Assets Inventory of the Preserve, which began in 2009. The result was the identification of hundreds of plants and animals.
The website includes a detailed species inventory and is classified into seven categories, ranging from everything to insects and birds to lichen and reptiles. The archive features 547 plant species, 164 birds, 212 insects/invertebrates, 61 reptiles/amphibians, 46 mammals, 15 fish and 14 lichens. Clicking on a species in the archive shows pictures from the Preserve, taxonomic information and links to other informative websites.
“The inventories are important historical benchmarks, which help us assess ecosystem health and act as guidelines for future research, education and management,” said Justin Lemmons, UNF Environmental Center ecologist. “The inventories increase awareness about the surrounding bio-diversity and tell us what species are presently here, what may have been lost and what candidates may potentially be reintroduced. This is especially important information considering long-term monitoring, potential impacts of climate change and surrounding development, which creates an urban island environment.”
Among the most surprising and rare finds amid the inventory, according to Lemmons, were a rare beetle, Calligrapha cephalanthi, which is also scarce in museum collections around the globe, and the first photographic documentation of a bobcat in the Preserve, caught on a camera placed at the wildlife crossing along Eco Road on campus.
The website also contains the PDF version of the book “Fight On! A Thirty-Year History of the Sawmill Slough Conservation Club,” written by original Sawmill Slough Conservation Club members. It also comprises a list of published research by faculty, which link to online PDF versions of the articles, and a list of species of concern found in the Preserve, which includes a variety of plants, reptiles, birds and mammals that are considered state and federally threatened or endangered species.
The inventories are continuing to grow and serve as historical benchmarks to help guide future research, education and management. The Environmental Center hopes the Preserve’s digital archive is utilized as a resource tool to involve faculty, students, staff and community members, both locally and nationally.
“Present information that we have gathered for the campus community, researchers and interested members of the public who use the Preserve provides an opportunity to review, critique and contribute to our identifications. We encourage others to contribute to the list and offer a list of what lived here in the early part of the 21st century for future biologists to consider,” said Hubbuch.
The Environmental Center was founded in 2004 to establish, develop and support interdisciplinary education and research related to the environment at UNF. Since that time, the Center has created a number of successful programs to help facilitate faculty research and develop the next generation of environmentally literate leaders through experiential learning. Additionally, the Environmental Center has helped advance the University’s sustainability efforts and gain national recognition.
UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.