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Biology
Completed Project

A Sign for the Edith Roberts Ecological Laboratory

Naomi Sudo, Vassar College ’16 and Timothy Veit, Vassar College ’16 and Prof. Meg Ronsheim
The Edith Roberts Ecological Laboratory has been part of the Vassar campus for almost a century, now occupying the area around the boardwalk along the Fonteynkill but once including the land on which Skinner Hall and the new Science Center were built. Botany Professor Edith Roberts developed these four acres with the help of her students, establishing over 600 species of plants in their natural associations. In the Laboratory’s prime in the 1940s it was an internationally recognized botanical garden where Vassar students could learn about ecology and perform publishable research. It was also influential in its use of native plants for landscaping, which was rare at the time of its creation. Since Edith Roberts retired in 1948 the area has become overrun with invasive species and many of the natural plant associations Roberts established have disappeared. Today few know that the area even has a name and most assume that it is currently in its natural state, unaware of what it used to be or how much it’s changed since its restoration began in 2009. Current restoration efforts focus on removing invasive species and replanting native ones, and in doing so aim to restore the Ecological Laboratory’s aesthetic and educational role on campus, showing students and passerby what a non-degraded native wetland should look like. As part of my URSI work on the restoration I made sign to be installed in the Ecological Laboratory and inform people about the area, its history, and what it is intended to be. Feedback on its effectiveness is welcome.