South Hill Natural Area - East
South Hill Natural Area East (SHNA-East) is the most heavily used natural area ICNL manages, and the most proximate to Ithaca College's built campus. The ecological richness and established trail systems in these 365 acres provide a multitude of opportunities for the Ithaca community.
Before the college’s acquisition of what is now SHNA-East, the land was used for agriculture and animal husbandry. Evidence of these land uses are still readily apparent to the trained eye in the form of stone walls and wire fence lines dissecting SHNA-East’s forests. Nowadays, SHNA East provides an excellent environment for education due to its close proximity to campus and diversity of forest types and habitats. Clubs and athletic teams take advantage of well-preserved trails, and rare communities provide research and teaching opportunities to many ENVS classes. The nature tour loop and extending trail systems also offer valuable learning opportunities and miles of forests, meadows, and wetlands for students, faculty, staff, and neighbors to simply get away from it all.
Ecological Characteristics of SHNA-East include a mix of successional shrubland, wetland mosaics, contiguous wetlands, and a diversity of successional forest types. The Perched Swamp White Oak Swamp is an anomaly which is found along the Nature Trail system. It is characterized by depressions in shallow bedrock at the top of South Hill, which retain water during periods of relatively high rainfall, creating seasonal swamp conditions despite the otherwise well-drained, dry, rocky substrates common throughout the ridge areas of South Hill.
The Volunteer Stewards Program is for students, faculty, staff, and the community alike. The program is a critical part of land preservation and management in SHNA - East. The Volunteer Stewards Program was designed following the example of a similar program run by the Finger Lakes Land Trust. Each steward is responsible for monitoring a parcel of land on SHNA-East in whatever way they see fit. Stewards are asked to patrol their assigned parcels weekly and submit "monthly monitoring reports" that document significant observations of change. In the past, stewards have alerted the ICNL crew of biological invasions, clandestine hunting, and human impacts such as trash and vandalism. In addition to learning about the land through firsthand experience, Stewards have access to training in topics such as forestry, tree identification, Leave No Trace principles, invasive plant management, edible and medicinal plants, and bird identification.
If you are interested in becoming a steward, please visit our informational page to learn more and join!
Current Student-Run Research Projects include
- American Chestnut reintroduction initiative
- Mapping historic stone walls
- Trail maintenance to protect rare native plant species
- Tracking environmental effects of historic trash dumping on South Hill
- Effects of deer browsing on forest species composition
- Individual temperament and space use of eastern chipmunks