Piedmont to Open Wildlife Sanctuary


Piedmont to Open Wildlife Sanctuary

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Executive Director, News Editor 

There will soon be the sound of songbirds ringing through the forest at the Lillian E. Smith Center, or LES, as Piedmont College is designating a portion of the property as a wildlife sanctuary.

This project was proposed by Associate Professor of Biology Timothy Menzel, and his efforts have created an opportunity for about 30 acres of the property to serve as a wildlife habitat.

Menzel started this mission when he noticed that there was a large portion of the LES property that was undeveloped. Over the last few decades, Menzel saw very little foot traffic in those areas.

“I saw a great opportunity to preserve a really beautiful and un-corrupted piece of land,” said Menzel. “And, also, to provide a legacy for the college that will only grow in value over time.”

After discovering this unused land, Menzel researched what the animals could be conserved on this land. Through his findings, he decided that it would be the perfect place to act as a breeding habitat for songbirds.

According to Menzel, the population of these species is declining due to habitat loss, which is what the wildlife sanctuary will help to improve.

Once the habitat has been completed, it will need to be certified by the Atlanta Audubon Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting Georgia’s birds and their habitats. According to Director of the LES Center Craig Amason, the certification requires designating a portion of the wooded property to be managed specifically as a wildlife habitat. This indicates that invasive plants will be controlled, and there will be limited use of pesticides and herbicides. This will aid in the preservation and maintenance of the current thriving ecosystems.

According to Menzel, the certification is still a work in progress and won’t become official until the invasive plants have been removed. Menzel, along with student volunteers, have been working to remove Chinese Privet and English Ivy but still have plants that need to be eliminated.

Menzel has also been working closely with local native plant specialist Jack Johnston on this project. Together, they have cut nature trails through the designated portion of the property to allow for easier exploration.

For the future, Menzel said he hopes to develop an undergraduate-based research program at the wildlife sanctuary to provide students with real world experience as well as provide the LES Center with information regarding its plant and animal life.

Three biology students will be doing senior research at the LES Center this summer, according to Menzel. Mainly, they will take a closer look at the bird species that are breeding there.

Junior biology major Marissa Akin is one of the students planning to do research this summer.

“I will be waking up every morning to observe the wildlife and vegetation at the center,” she said. “I couldn’t be more excited to begin engaging in my capstone.”

There will be a formal opening of the sanctuary on Sat., April 23, which is the day after Earth Day. The opening will include a guided bird and plant walk through of the sanctuary led by Johnston from 8:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., followed by a reception in the common room at the center.

For more information on the wildlife sanctuary or interest in attending the opening ceremony, contact Menzel at [email protected]