Facilities Improvements for Ecological Research at Michigan Tech's Ford Center and Research Forest
Michigan Technological University has been awarded a grant to create a wet laboratory facility, establish short and long range Wi-Fi capability, and improve lodging facilities for cold-season use at the Ford Center and Research Forest (FCRF), located 42 miles south of the main campus. The entire range of forest community-soil associations common in the upper Great Lakes is available for research and instruction on the FCRF property. The wide-ranging research at the FCRF currently includes studies of climatic manipulations on forest ecosystem processes, genetic adaptation of oak and aspen to a changing environment, and the effects of wildlife and management on forest community composition and ecological function. These and other projects will benefit from the FCRF improvements, which will enable on-site processing and analysis of samples collected from ongoing and future ecological research conducted at the FCRF; real time remote access, via the internet, to field sensors located throughout the property; and on-site residency for winter research and outreach efforts. The wet lab facilities will improve the quality of research that can be performed at the FCRF by allowing rapid, efficient sample processing and will greatly expand the types of research those housed on site can perform. They also will allow analytical procedures to be integrated into lab activities conducted during courses offered at the FCRF by Michigan Tech and other universities. The FCRF hosts many K-12 field trip groups and day- to week-long outreach groups for topics related to ecology and environmental science. Wet lab facilities will enable these groups to incorporate hands-on analytical activities using samples collected in the field, which cannot be accomplished with current facilities. In addition the new Wi-Fi capability for accessing field research sites will allow teachers to incorporate real-time data and webcam images from FCRF research into teaching units they develop as part of teacher institutes hosted by Michigan Tech. More information on the Ford Center and Research Forest can be found at http://www.mtu.edu/forest/fordcenter/.