Our Students Work in Five Environmental Preserves

Ashland University also manages five environmental preserves that support undergraduate and faculty research and habitat conservation. The Preserve Manager Is Dr. Richard Stoffer. Students may become involved in studies of the biological and physical attributes and processes that characterize these preserves. Each preserve contains unique habitat and wildlife and thus offers a variety of study opportunities. The five preserves are located in the Unglaciated Allegheny Plateau (Dayspring Preserve) and the Glaciated Allegheny Plateau (Black Fork Wetlands, Canfield, Rupp, Stoffer).

Black Fork Wetlands (diverse wetlands and upland habitats)

Black Fork Wetlands Preserve

In 1998, with the help of an anonymous donor, Ashland University purchased 38 acres of wetland six miles south of campus on U.S. 42. In 2004, an additional 260 acres was purchased with a grant from the Clean Ohio Conservation fund and additional support from a matching grant.  In 2018, seven acres were added with support from generous members of the community. This preserve has a mix of several habitats, including buttonbush swamp, swamp forest, marsh, riparian corridor, and upland areas. Species observed at the preserve include beaver, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, soras, and sandhill cranes. Wetlands are habitats with high ecological value. Floodplain areas help slow, absorb, and filter water moving downstream during periods of high water and thus provide valuable ecosystem services. They have the highest biological productivity of terrestrial habitats outside of rainforest areas. The inclusion of 305 acres in the Black Fork Wetland Preserve lessens its susceptibility to outside activities that might affect it and also provides many species with the larger habitat areas needed for maintenance of their populations.

Canfield (stream)


In 2002, a one-acre preserve with deciduous forest and a running stream was donated by Mike and Judy Canfield. This preserve, a short drive from campus on U.S. 250 north, provides a cobble-bottom stream habitat not present in the other preserves close to Ashland.

Dayspring (stream and forested ravine)

Dayspring Preserve

In 2004, Dr. Lewis Smith (Ashland University'50) and his wife Ardeth (Kline, Ashland University'52) donated 50 acres of land in Coshocton County for use as an Ashland University environmental preserve. This property is located in an unglaciated area of Ohio, and thus contains different habitats and geological formations than are found in the other Ashland University preserves. Features include mature deciduous forest and a deep ravine with a healthy stream that flows across much of the property.  In 2012, a grant from the Schooler Foundation allowed for a major renovation of the field station and upgrades to the access bridge.

Rupp-Stahley (restored prairie)

Rupp-Stahley Preserve

In 1996, a grant from The Fran and Warren Rupp Foundation of Mansfield, Ohio, enabled Ashland University to purchase a 8-acre preserve three miles north of town on Ohio 511.  The preserve was expanded to 9+ acres in 2017. Three habitats are being managed here: second-growth forest, old field, and two acres of restored prairie.  Controlled burns have been done with the help of volunteer students and faculty. In 2017, the Rupp Preserve was made a study site for a state-wide research project investigating Ohio bumblebees and their habitats. This project is led by the "Ohio Bee Team," aka a group of researchers from the University of Akron and Ohio State University.

Stoffer (old field and mature forest)

Stoffer Preserve

In 1999, Ashland University established the Thomas and Donna Stoffer Environmental Preserve north of Ashland on U.S. 42. Donated by Thomas (Ashland University'44) and Donna Stoffer (Ashland University'43), this preserve contains 10 acres of old fields and 20 acres of deciduous forest with streams.