We recently acquired an ultrasonic recorder and the software for passive monitoring of bats at Clay Hill. The monitor records bat calls automatically. We have one CU student who is using the data for her senior research. We are just learning to use the equipment and software but it appears that we can be relatively certain that we have silverhair bat at least passing through. We also have some fairly good recordings of hoary bat as well as two or three others. The research is geared toward identifying the bats that use the forest and to determine when they utilize it.
Kentucky Utilities Field Day Series
During the 2014-2015 School Year we will conduct a series of onsite field days. Middle and Senior High Students from area schools will spend a day with a scientist at CHMF with all expenses paid by a grant from Kentucky Utilities. Topics include amphibian and reptile biology, bat monitoring, dating historic buildings using tree ring data and archaeology. Engage your students in science by taking a day to let them see how science works. If you are interested please contact us and reserve space.
Visitors to Clay Hill now have access to free Wi Fi as guests on the clayhillforest network. This allows them to access information about history and natural history when no staff are on site. We hope to extend the Wi Fi signal well into the forest. Smart phones equipped with QR code readers (generally a free app) can connect visitors with our website and with other sites where they can read about the history of CHMF, listen to audio messages or view short videos. The CHMF Wi Fi site is clayhillforest-guest. The password is available on trail brochures and at the main map KIOSK.
Visitors come to CHMF for various reasons not the least of which is study its history. In the past this has been difficult because of the lack of readily available information. In Winter 2013-2014, we added interactive trail signs along the PRIDE Ecological Succession Trail. These signs link hikers with smart phones to online information including transcriptions of historic Sanders and White family documents. This new signage uses QR barcodes. So bring your smart phone to CHMF to learn about the Civil War History of the farm.
New Weather Station
In March of 2014 we replaced our onsite weather stations. The new stations collect data every five minutes and then upload the data once each hour to an commercial website (HoboLink) and to the Weather Underground website (see below). The data are available for download. Our old Weather Website is currently out of service but will be restored as a server for historic wether data as soon as possible.
Kentucky Utilities Alternative Energy Site
In winter 2014, we built and installed a much improved solar energy charge controller and power distribution panel in this facility. The old system had become obsolete. The new system has the capacity to add more solar panels and battery storage. Because this facility is not often open to the community, we are working on informative signage and brochures that will be available at the site. Also the interactive exhibits in this facility are being redesigned.
Clay Hill Log Cabin Age Determined
In summer 2013, we had cores taken from logs in our cabin. This was done by a biologist from Hanover College, Indiana, who is a Dendroarcheologist . A scientist who determines the age of manmade structures by examining the pattern of growth in trees that were used for timbers. Our cabin is made mostly of tulip poplar (yellow poplar) logs but has a few American chestnut logs in its walls and red and white oak logs as floor joists. The oldest log had an initial date of 1705. This tells us that some of the trees in the cabin were growing probably at Clay Hill long before European settlers came to the site. The last growth rings in the logs indicate the year the tree was cut down. Most of the logs in our cabin had last dates of 1883. So it is very likely that the cabin was made around that time. We will be studying another cabin on CHMF property to see if dates compare.
During summer 2013, we added many hands-on exhibits at this center. It is now equipped with two audio stations where visitors can listen to several prerecorded interpretive messages by turning a hand crank. The energy for this audio boxes is generated by the kids who crank them. We also installed fossil exhibits where students can see and touch fossils that were found at CHMF as well as older fossils from the bluegrass area of Kentucky and southwestern Indiana. The fossils include one slab that is approximately two feet wide and four feet tall that came from CHMF. This slab is thought to be fossilized, crisscrossed tree roots formed when CHMF was a river delta. We also have a large coral fossil that came from Washington County.
Inside the building at this site, students can touch framed leaf imprints and bark samples mounted along one wall and examine fruits and seeds of many of CHMF's native trees. These exhibits are being expanded. One major addition that we plan for 2014 is the purchase of a three dimensional map of CHMF and the surrounding area that will teach students about the meaning of drainage basins as well as surface water runoff.
Self Study of CHMF
During 2012-2013, we drafted and published a comprehensive history of CHMF that will be used for charting the future of CHMF. As a part of this writing process, we conducted surveys and hosted focus group meetings with individuals and groups who have utilized or could utilize CHMF. We gained a great deal of insight into our successes and failures and are using this insight to make CHMF even better.
In spring 2013 the Feather Creek Nature Preserve was transferred to Campbellsville University by Taylor Co., Fiscal Court. CHMF had partnered with the court to purchase this land with funds from the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund (KHLCB) in 2009.
In December 2012, we purchased 94 acres of land next to our Edwin Lee White Sr. Nature Preserve and Feather Creek Nature Preserve. This purchase was made possible by a grant from the KHLCB. This grant represented the first time that KHLCB had funded a private university in Kentucky.
In spring 2013, we planted 29 acres of native hardwood trees (20,000) on this property and in early summer 2013 we planted 17-acres of native grasses and wildflowers on the gas pipleline and electric transmission easements. These easements are connected with grass corridors that establish a 17-acre restored prairie. All funds for these restorations were included in the original KHLCB grant.
Reforestation and Prairie Establishment
The total land area of CHMF was increased to 265 acres. Management of the newly acquired lands are ongoing. A major effort has been initiated to elimate invasive plant species including multiflora rose, tree of heaven and various other species. With assistance and support from the university, we were able to purchase a tractor for use with management. This tractor replaces an old orchard tractor that was, because of its narrow wheel base, really unsafe to use on the terrain at CHMF.
We have initiated work to determine the plant and animal species that occupy the property. In summer 2012, we began work on a comprehenisve flora of the entire property. This work is ongoing with additions to our list being made almost every week during the growing season. Currently the plant list totals over 450 species. We have also began to work on a bird list and on lists for salamanders and frogs, lizards and snakes, and mammals. As we learn about the different kinds of plants and animals that inhabit this new property, we are locating the species using GPS and transferring the data to our comprehensive Geographic Information Systems map for CHMF. The bioinventories will be used for faculty and student research and for teaching field techniques and natural history to our students.
Using new photographic programs we were able to put together panoramic views of Little Angel Spring Trail. If you follow the link above you will be able to take a virtual hike on the trail.