Mohonk-College partnership providing experiential learning opportunities

20151016-1_Ecology Class at Bonticou Crag_140For more than 15 years, SUNY New Paltz has maintained an Institutional Agreement and partnership with Mohonk Preserve, New York State’s largest nonprofit nature preserve, which is less than ten miles from the New Paltz campus.

The unique partnership includes provisions for students and faculty to conduct cooperative research and field-based learning throughout the Preserve’s 8,000-plus acres of mountain ridges, forests, fields and bodies of water.

This has paved the way for New Paltz scholars across the academic spectrum to make use of the Mohonk Preserve’s natural beauty and ecosystem as a source of inspiration and a location for inquiry. During a three year period spanning from 2013-2016, a total of 3,232 students from 123 courses and programs visited the Preserve as part of their study.

Mohonk has also served as a site of faculty research and scholarship, which frequently involves student assistants. Recent examples of this work include:

  • A study of bird species native to the Mohonk Preserve led by Assistant Professor of biology Kara Belinsky;
  • A long-term photography project organized by Andrea Frank, assistant professor of art and director of the photography program, which intends to demonstrate gradual changes of an ecosystem over time;
  • A comparison study of wasp species to be undertaken by Associate Professor of biology Aaron Haselton;
  • Ongoing examination of vegetation on cliff faces, cliff tops and cliff bases by Assistant Professor of biology Eric Keeling;
  • And the continuing work of David Richardson, assistant professor of Biology, who has performed extensive research on lake ecology, particularly in Lake Minnewaska.

There are many additional opportunities at the Mohonk Preserve for students to engage with the land that provides our campus backdrop. One notable example comes from Ian Detweiller ’16 (Geography), who got real field experience as the 2016 Geography Intern at Mohonk, logging GPS coordinates of study sites across the Preserve and helping Ranger staff analyze accident data for patterns in the geographical features of the most common incident locations. As a member of SUNY New Paltz’s cross-country team, Detweiller also enjoyed access to many of the Preserve’s trails, which the team uses as a scenic training ground.

The renewal of the Institutional Agreement between SUNY New Paltz and the Mohonk Preserve promises the extension of these kinds of opportunities and the development of new ones to come. Faculty and students who are interested in learning more can start by visiting the Mohonk Preserve online.