Students get hands-on at Hodge Research Area
December 05, 2013

One of the biggest challenges in environmental studies is the lack of long-term monitoring data, especially for processes that change little on a year-to-year basis. While monitoring programs have been established for individual species, there is almost no data on how ecosystems respond to our constantly changing environment.

Young man bends down in field of grass, evaluating the local ecosystem

First-year environmental studies student Michael Taché assesses the health of asters, as an indicator of climate change, at the Georgian College Hodge Research Area.
Photo Credit: Michael Babe

To address this shortcoming, faculty in the School of Environmental Studies engage students in field exercises at the Georgian College Hodge Research Area (HRA). Located 20 minutes west of the Barrie Campus in Springwater Township, the eight-hectare HRA was established thanks to a land donation by Stan and Winnie Hodge in memory of their late son and Georgian student, Kerry Hodge.

The HRA provides Georgian students in several courses with the opportunity to explore and discover their environment through hands-on field experience.

For example, students in Prof. Jim Karagatzides’ Environmental Science and Sustainability (ENVR1000) class select an indicator of ecosystem quality, design a field sampling program, and collect data over two field trips to the HRA. Jim’s students develop their field program in the third week of their first semester – before, as Jim says, he has an opportunity to become “an obstacle to their creativity.”

This year’s ENVR1000 class of 90 students measured a diversity of indicators, ranging from worms and frogs, to ferns, wildflowers and trees, to soil and water quality. Students also submitted their data to an HRA database so that future students will be able to make historical comparisons. Collectively, the individual projects will be compiled to help detect slow ecosystem change over long time periods of time.

The hope is this year’s class will return to the HRA as alumni to inform future generations of students about how much the environment has changed since they went to Georgian.