Interdisciplinary research and education
The UC Center for Field Studies provides a base of operations for on-site and regional field research, a protected area for long-term environmental research, and a training center for interdisciplinary research and education activities, including:
• Individual and collaborative research on animal and plant populations, as well as environmental processes (ecological, atmospheric and hydrological).
• Long-term monitoring and experimental studies of populations and environmental processes.
• Studies involving geological, geographic and archaeological fieldwork.
In our first 10 years, UC’s Center for Field Studies has worked to establish a robust center for the study of environmental issues facing our region and its citizens. Our work has been made possible in part by a partnership with Great Parks of Hamilton County, and with the help of university, public and private funding.
Combining research, education and public outreach, our faculty and students have explored issues including water quality in our local and regional watershed, invasive plants that threaten local species, improvements in green roof and other environmental technologies, factors affecting the pesticide resistance of ticks and other disease-bearing insects that threaten public health, and more.
The UC Center for Field Studies is working to build on these early successes so that we can continue to provide the science behind informed policy and management decisions that advance science education and protect our regional ecosystem while contributing to the growth of its economic impact.
Explore the areas below to learn more about our research projects.
- 'A River Runs Through Us': How does river pollution affect your well water? UC's new C.V. Theis Groundwater Observatory will help geologists answer that question for more than 2 million Ohioans who rely on wells for drinking water.
- Water Quality Monitoring Along The Great Miami River And Aquifer
- The Great Miami Ground-Water Observatory (GMGWO)
Mohamadreza Soltanian, David Nash, Amy Townsend-Small and Ishi Buffam, UC-Geology and Biology. The ground-water observatory was recently constructed in the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer System (GMBVAS) immediately adjacent to Great Miami River in Miami-Whitewater Forest. GMGWO will:
- Continuously monitor the flow and biogeochemistry of ground water in the GMBVAS;
- Store and distribute these data via the field station website from a server housed in the new research facility at UCCFS in near-real time;
- Provide a site for conducting basic ground-water research for water scientists, public water suppliers and municipal, regional, state, and federal water regulators as well as for undergraduate and graduate students at area colleges and universities.
Funding for this project has been awarded by the Duke Energy Foundation and the Miami Conservancy District. (Nash, PI, Townsend-Small, CoPI)
Research in the news
- Now on invasive species list: Flowering pear tree
- UC professor helped identify Callery pear plague
- When Beauty Becomes the Beast: UC Research Efforts Successfully Combat Invasive Species
- What's the Story, Morning Glory?
- The Role of Intraspecific Hybridization in the Evolution of Invasiveness in the Ornamental Pear Tree (Pyrus calleryana).
Theresa Culley, UC-Biology. This study examines the mating system and ecophysiology of an emerging invasive species that has been planted widely as an ornamental tree. Previously, it was thought that this introduced tree was a sterile hybrid, but Callery pear trees have found a way to reproduce and the off-spring are dispersing rapidly. An array of Callery pear trees of known genotypes have been planted in the deer exclosure area on the east side of the field station and will be the subjects of a long-term study to better understand the genetics and reproductive capabilities of this attractive, but problematic species and find ways to bring it under control. This project is a continuation of previously-funded USDA research (Culley, PI).
Research in the news
- Kings of navigation: UC biologists are unravelling the mystery behind the monarch butterfly’s epic 3,000-mile migration.
- Surviving Climate Change: UC Researchers Discover How Ancient Species Survived or Died Off in Their Old Kentucky
- Environmental and Climatic Change in the Lower Great Miami River Valley
Kenneth Tankersley, UC-Anthropology; David Lentz, UC-Biology and Denis Conover, UC-Biology. This study compares the inventory of modern plant species and stable carbon isotope data from the lower Great Miami River valley with paleobotanical data and stable carbon isotope data collected from bone collagen from 20 radiocarbon dated archaeological sites, spanning more than 11,000 years of prehistory. The ultimate goal is to determine the rate and magnitude of environmental and climatic change, and ultimately human response to those changes.
- Effects of Air Pollution on Plant Reproduction and Health.
Theresa Culley, UC-Biology. This study proposes to examine effects of small particulate matter from diesel exhaust on the ecophysiology and seed production of three different plant species under field conditions. This will involve setting up several chambers into which air will be directed. This project is in collaboration with faculty in the UC Engineering College (with Tim Keener and Mingming Lu, Engineering).
Research in the news
- Tips To Avoid Tick, Mosquito And Flea Bites This Summer
- The Defenders: University of Cincinnati field research aims to slow the spread of tick-borne illness across the Midwest.
- Gene Knockdown through RNA Interference and Other Control Strategies to Depress Tick Survival through Winter Resting Periods
Josh Benoit and Andrew Rosedale, UC-Biology. This project seeks to generate a comprehensive understanding of tick cold tolerance and overwintering through completion of these aims:
- Assess if ticks are impacted by winter-associated stress and their potential to enter a genetic-programmed diapause. This aim assesses tick cold tolerance and if dormancy is an environmental cue-initiated, genetically-programmed diapause or simply a period of quietness/inactivity.
- Identify the underlying transcriptional, metabolomics, and physiological changes associated with tick cold tolerance and overwintering. This aim analyzes underlying molecular and metabolite changes associated with dormancy, along with cold and dehydration exposure that are common during winter months.
- Establish if interactions with fungi alter cold tolerance and overwintering in ticks. This aim contributes to how pathogenic and non-pathogenic fungi alter stress resistance and overwintering potential. Two of the most abundant ticks in the United States are subjects of this proposal: the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis, primary vector of Rocky Mountain spotted fever), and the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum, primary vector of Southern tick-associated rash illness and tularemia). Three grants for this study have been submitted to NIH (Benoit, PI and Rosedale, CoPI).
Research in the news
- Native Plant Fares Well in Pilot Green Roof Research Study
- Book on the Design, Management and Function of Green Roofs Highlights UC Research
- Quantifying the Impact of Green Roofs on Surface Water Quality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Ishi Buffam, UC- Biology and Dominic Bocelli, UC-Engineering. This project focuses on the biogeochemistry of urban aquatic ecosystems and the ecosystem services provided by urban green spaces. The current research thrust centers around quantifying ecosystem services and potential disservices associated with green roofs. The experiment at the field station is specifically examining:
- Whether one could build a functional green roof in this region using native plants;
- Whether certain plant species are superior for water retention on a green roof, and
- Whether certain plant species are superior for nutrient retention on a green roof.
Proposals to NSF and USGS-NIWR that will support this research is currently under review (Bochelli and Buffam, CoPIs).
Additional Ongoing Research
Dytiscid Beetle Behavior and Eye Morphology
Elke Buschbeck, UC-Biology. This investigation has led to the discovery of the presence of a bifocal lens in diving beetle larvae (Thermonectus marmoratus), thus far the only natural bifocal lens in the extant animal kingdom. There is great diversity in the organization and function of dytiscid eyes and presumably also in associated prey-capture behavior. UCCFS has provided a crucial link for this project, as it is situated near major wetlands, and it has several ponds on its property which are prime beetle habitats. Within the local ponds we found a variety of dytiscid larvae, including Thermonectus basilaris, Cybister sp. and several other species that may be new to science. This project is currently funded by a NSF CAREER grant, IOB-0545978 (Buschbeck, PI) with a second NSF grant (IOS – 1050754) funded.
Urban Wildland Gradient Study
Guy Cameron and Theresa Culley, UC-Biology. The purpose of this project is to establish an urban-wildland gradient of study areas to assess the impact of urbanization on terrestrial vegetation and aquatic organisms, terrestrial and aquatic physical factors, and land-use. Six permanent study sites have been established along an urban-wildland gradient: Miami Whitewater Forest in western Hamilton County; Mt. Airy Forest, an urban forest in Cincinnati; Harris Benedict Nature Preserve, located in an urban area on the northern border of Cincinnati; East Fork Wildlife Area, a suburban/rural area on the eastern border of Cincinnati, operated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources; Tranquility Wildlife Area, a rural area operated by ODNR, and the Edge of Appalachia (EOA), a wildland preserve of The Nature Conservancy and Cincinnati Museum Center. Sixteen study plots were established in each study area, of which 8 plots contain Amur honeysuckle and 8 are without Amur honeysuckle, except EOA and Tranquility which have no honeysuckle. Censuses of trees, herbaceous vegetation, tree seedlings, and shrubs have revealed dramatic differences in biodiversity of plant populations, particularly in the understories, as one crosses the gradient. This study was initially funded by a grant from the University of Cincinnati Research Council (Cameron, PI).
Research Projects in the nascent phases of research:
- Fish Ecology and Demographics in SW Ohio
- Mike Booth (UC-Biology)
- Gray Treefrog Physiology and Behavior
- Daniel Bucholtz (UC-Biology)
- Bird Population Studies in SW Ohio
- Ron Canterbury (UC-Biology)
- Butterfly Fight Simulation and Sensory Perception
- Patrick Guerra, Stephanie Rollman and John Layne (UC-Biology)
- Visual Systems of Jumping Spiders
- Nate Morehouse (UC-Biology)
- Wolf Spider Auditory Reception and Mating Systems
- George Uetz (UC-Biology)