TIFTON — The Nature Study Area at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College recently received a facelift from a new boardwalk constructed by students majoring in the ABAC bachelor’s degree in natural resource management.
A wildlife viewing grant for $2,097 from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to the ABAC Foundation along with financial support from the ABAC administration funded the boardwalk materials and construction, college officials said in a statement.
“The Nature Study Area on the ABAC campus is one of only two public nature trails in Tift County,” Dr. Mark Kistler, dean of ABAC’s School of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said. “These repairs and improvements will not only allow our students to have a safe and enjoyable hike but will also benefit Tifton-area residents who frequently walk, jog and ride their bicycles through our campus.”
Dr. Vanessa Lane, ABAC associate professor of wildlife ecology and management and a certified wildlife biologist, said the boardwalk allows students to easily access areas for hands-on learning.
“Students are directly involved with habitat management at the nature study area, which gives ample opportunities for hands-on learning to acquire skills essential for forest and wildlife managers,” Lane said. “Our students regularly participate in invasive species control, prescribed fire, plant identification and propagation, forest mensuration, orienteering and even the maintenance of the facilities.
“The area also provides the public with an example of land management techniques in action and how habitats can be improved with regular and knowledgeable attention.”
Phoebe Beard from Ashburn, a natural resource management student with a concentration in wildlife, said she visits the Nature Study Area almost daily as a part of her classes.
“The construction of a safe, sturdy walkway means we can walk further into the NSA without stepping in mud and briars, disturbing wildlife or trampling sensitive plants,” Beard said. “The NSA is one of my favorite places because it provides first-hand experiences and is key to learning how to identify trees, plants and the wildlife that live there.”
Lane said the new boardwalk completes a loop through moist bottomland hardwoods. It allows visitors to experience a fire-maintained wetland where invasive exotic plant species are regularly controlled, which is becoming a rare sight throughout the Southeast.
“Without the boardwalk, students in several classes would be unable to see numerous species of wetland plants,” Lane said. “They might also damage sensitive wetland soils.”