Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, an international event that celebrates the earth and supports environmental protection. We hope that everyone has had the opportunity to get outside safely or give back to earth in some way or another today. As a preserved research and educational forest, Hopkins Memorial Forest actively works to support the enjoyment, understanding, and preservation of our Earth. Throughout our history we have been the home to numerous experiments in the fields of ecology, biology, chemistry, and geosciences that have deepened our knowledge about forests, streams, and pollination. We have also educated numerous generations of students from Williams College through courses like Ecology, Plant Botany, and Environmental Science and local elementary and middle schools through our field trip program we co-run with CLIA. Our forest acts as a living classroom for students to explore and broaden their knowledge through hands on field work and experiments. For more information, check out our Research and Academics page. Finally, we are a natural space open for public enjoyment and through numerous events we invite our local community to learn and explore our forest.
This Earth Day is different from any other in Hopkins Memorial Forest’s history. Generally, we would have a group of student caretakers out in the forest cleaning the tools we used in maple sugaring season or doing trail maintenance. Generally, an ENVI class would wander through or a professor and thesis student would be out and about conducting research and working on thesis projects. Generally, a local group of elementary students come to learn about stream ecology with the Williams student educators. And of course, generally, many local community members would head to the forest to enjoy the outdoors.
Right now, with most of the student population off-campus and faculty members isolating in their homes, things are different. Despite this, however, spring has come and the Hopkins Memorial Forest chugs along. Just in the weeks since Williams closed campus, the driveway restoration was done by facilities, our maple sugaring season has come to a close (with a little under 25 gallons of maple syrup produced!) and trails have been cleared from winter blow downs. We even have a student caretaker crew of one — Noah Savage ’21 — who is from the Williamstown area and who has assisted Forest Manager, Drew Jones, in various tasks (while still staying safe with personal protective gear). And, in light of not being able to host field-trips, we are creating outdoor education videos to be posted soon in our Public Info section. In the natural world, the wildflowers are beginning to bloom (enjoy looking but please don’t pick or touch for COVID-19 safety) and the bluebirds are out and about — and enjoying the new birdhouses that we made for them this summer.
As everyone enjoys the natural world this Earth Week, remember to stay safe!
– Alice-Henry Carnell, Student Caretaker and Educator, Williams 2022