Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 7

Presentation given in 2017 by SDC:

Why does Duke have a forest? What role has the forest played in Duke’s history? Why does it remain a unique
and valuable resource for Duke? What role does it continue to play in teaching, research, and recreation?
The Duke Forest is an exceptional Duke resource.
- Exceptional in its role as a living laboratory and outdoor classroom for Duke and the greater academic
community since 1931.
- Exceptional in its contributions to scientific discoveries - from understanding how a forest regrows after
agricultural abandonment to learning about forest responses to changes in climate.
- Exceptional in its spatial breadth – 7000 acres of mostly forested land in one of the nation’s fastest
growing population centers.
- Exceptional in the range of benefits it provides – socially, ecologically, financially – and to a variety of
stakeholders – from students and faculty to neighbors and local governments.
Dr. Nan Keohane (pronounced Koh-hann), many of you may know - Duke’s president from 1993 – 2004, once
said:
“The Forest is one of Duke’s most important futures… both from the point of view of our history and our
research opportunities, and how it becomes an amazing example of the ways green space can be
preserved. The Duke Forest is a showcase of multiple, successful ways to manage land in the middle of a
rapidly growing urban environment and is part of an institution that sees it as a very important priority to
preserve1.”
Today, I’ll tell you a brief story of its origins and connections to the formation of the university. Then I’ll
introduce you to the forest of today and how it remains an incredible resource for Duke and the greater
community.
ORIENT to MAP
[Cue presentation to start]
So where did it all begin? How did Duke come to have a 7,000 acre forest?
We’ll pick up the forest’s story at the transformation of Trinity College into Duke University. In 1924, the
university was named for the generous Duke family and under the direction of James B. Duke, President Few
began purchasing land adjacent to Trinity College for campus expansion. But when word got out that the Dukes
were financing land purchases, land prices began to skyrocket… so much so that a frustrated James B. Duke
threatened to build a university in Charlotte.
How serious these threats were one can speculate about, but it did motivate Few to seek out a buying agent.
So a local realtor, Murray Jones, was brought in to secure land and by 1929, ~80002 acres of land had been
purchased for a total price of ~1.7 million.

1
Dr. Nannerl O. Keohane, president of Duke University 1993-2004, p. 115 of The Duke Forest at 75
2
Need to check this figure, in the Duke Forest @ 75 book, it indicates 5000; Durden’s book confirms a total of 8000 acres at a price
of 1.76 million – 5000 of which became the Duke Forest in 1931

Page 1 of 7
8,000 acres is a lot of land; neither the Dukes nor the administration intended to build a campus that large so
besides expanding the campus, what was their motivation and why was there so much available land? Herein
lies several interesting and intersecting stories that ultimately secured the birth of Duke’s forest.
Access
See the Dukes - being the incredibly successful industrialists they were - knew that creating and controlling
access to the campus in the form of roads and railways would be important. So they pursued the acquisition of
land on which they could build a road that linked existing major roadways3 – this connector is what we now
know as Hwy 751 or Academy Road closer to campus, and the land surrounding it became the core of what is
now the forest’s largest division – the Durham Division.
Power
By the 1920s, the Dukes had been involved in the hydropower industry for 20 years – in fact, I’ve been told that
water money and not tobacco built the university. So when they learned of a nearby creek that had provided
power for several mill sites, Duke directed the acquisition of the land surrounding it. The power potential never
materialized, but the land became the core of what is now the forest’s second largest division (now named the
Korstian Division), which protects several miles of New Hope Creek, an important drinking water source. It also
has great cultural value as relics of the past - old dams and mill sites, house foundations and family cemeteries –
point to the area’s importance as a community center during European settlement and make it a rich
destination for historians [put mill dates in footnotes].
Raw materials
And in the pursuit to build the new campus in the Tudor Gothic style that Duke is so famous for, they needed
stone. They looked to all the major quarries in the North while a smaller effort to pursue North Carolina rock
was undertaken. In the possession of the state geologist was a specimen of volcanic stone from an abandoned
quarry near Hillsborough4. This stone possessed beautiful hues of blue, yellow, green, gray, black, and brown –
many of you probably recognize the stone I’m describing. Besides its unique aesthetic, it would be significantly
cheaper than the stone from the north. So Duke immediately ordered purchase of this quarry and the land
around it – this became our Hillsboro Division, which also protects a mile of Eno River frontage.
The access, the power, the raw materials - We understand why they wanted so much land, but let’s get back to
our other question – why was so much land available? Well, 19th century farming practices had resulted in soil
erosion and nutrient loss so severe that farmers had to abandon unproductive fields and clear new land… until
they simply ran out of arable land. By the early 20th century, many families began leaving their farms to find
work in the cities’ tobacco and textile mills.

3
that linked major roadways to link two major roadways (Greensboro-Durham Hwy, now Hwy 70 and the Chapel Hill-Durham Hwy,
now 15-501)
4
James B. Duke and Duke University’s first President, William Preston Few, looked far and wide for the perfect stone to construct
the Gothic buildings that would become the archetype of Duke University. After exploring expensive prospects from the North, they
came across samples of volcanic stone from an abandoned quarry in Hillsborough, NC. Thrilled with the mosaic of hues found in the
rock, James B. Duke purchased the entire quarry, which now occupies a 5-acre section of the Hillsboro Division. At least 400 million
years old, the stone was formed by volcanic debris changed considerably by heat and pressure and stained by weathering.

Page 2 of 7
So when Murray Jones went searching, it was this glut of degraded farmland and interspersed woodlots that he
was able to secure. Signs of the land’s agricultural past, like erosion gullies and old-field furrows, are still visible
in the Forest today.
This type of land use was not unique to North Carolina. Indeed much of the American South looked like the
land Duke now owned. Abandoned old farm fields being taken over by pine trees and interspersed woodlots
from which the best trees had been removed.
So as President Few contemplated the future of this land, he recognized the great need for a forest that offered
demonstration and experimentation in the practice of forestry in the American South – that would serve as an
example for how to restore the productivity of the land. Being a Harvard graduate, he was familiar with the
organization of Harvard’s forest and thought he could use a similar model at Duke.
Enter Dr. Clarence Korstian, who combined Few’s experience with Harvard’s forest with his own from the Yale
forest to craft the Duke Forest Teaching and Research Laboratory. It was officially established in 1931 when
Few put almost 5000 acres under the care of Dr. Clarence Korstian - the first Director of the Duke Forest and
seven years later, the founding dean of the first graduate school of forestry in the south (1938).
Under Korstian, early management of Forest complemented the School of Forestry’s mission to advance
graduate forestry education in the South. Korstian and his colleagues and students began to diligently study
how forest regrowth occurred after a disturbance such as agriculture and actively replanted large areas to
understand trees as the new crop of the South.
And here begins the legacy of scientific contributions from the Duke Forest and the school. Eventually,
observations derived from study plots established by Korstian and other faculty members contributed to the
ecological concept known as old-field succession and provided insight into forestry practices for the pine forests
of the south.
As time passed, academic uses of the forest broadened beyond the study of trees to encompass a variety of
disciplines in the natural and environmental sciences. For example, Professor Steve Cummer in electrical and
computer engineering uses the Duke Forest as a site to study electromagnetic radiation – lightning and sprites -
in the furthest reaches of our atmosphere.
What began as Duke’s School of Forestry evolved into what is now the Nicholas School of the Environment,
where students receive PhDs, professional master’s degrees, and undergraduate degrees in focal areas of which
forestry is one of many.
Similarly, the Office of the Duke Forest – the department responsible for the forest - now stands alone; an
indication that much like the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, the Forest is a university-wide asset, providing a variety of
benefits to students, staff, faculty, and our broader community. But because of our origins, we are housed with
the Nicholas School and continue to work very closely with their staff, faculty, and students in a variety of ways.
The heart of the forest’s missions remains teaching and research, and one of our primary roles as forest staff is
to facilitate the development and implementation of such projects. This support has contributed to national
and international recognition of the Duke Forest as a destination for scientific study.
Just a quick example, the forest housed the Free Air Carbon Enrichment Experiment, AKA FACE, from 1994 to
2011. The FACE experiment was designed to simulate rising atmospheric CO2 under otherwise natural
conditions. The purpose was to understand the effect of elevated concentrations of carbon on forest growth
and function. The project was led by Duke and NS professor, Ram Oren. Over 260 researchers worldwide
Page 3 of 7
participated, and major findings showed that in enriched CO2 plots trees grew faster. However, that growth
was eventually limited by nutrient availability. Poison ivy vines also grew faster, 149%.
While the Office of the Duke Forest still focuses much attention and priority on promoting the teaching and
research mission – it’s host to an average of 100 such projects every year, we also have many other important
objectives with far reaching benefits.
1. Sustainably managing resources for timber production, forest health, water quality, and wildlife habitat.
a. Many of those areas that grew up or were replanted in pine after agricultural abandonment have
provided a RENEWABLE source of revenue for forest operations.
2. Protecting rare species, unique ecosystem, and historical sites
a. Forest supports over 12005 acres of communities of trees, flowers, and animals that are no
longer readily found in other places because of residential and commercial development.
b. It might surprise you to know that the forest is home to a site listed on the National Historic
Register – the Hogan Plantation.
3. Providing education and outreach for the Duke and public community to learn more about natural
resources and forest management
a. In a couple weeks, we’ll unveil a new interpretive trail – one with the theme of the forest is
always changing, capturing the idea that there is no static point around which the forest
revolves, its trajectory is a dynamic interplay between natural processes and human influences
4. Offering recreational and aesthetic amenities to the community
a. Since 1931, you can hike, bike, jog, walk, bird watch, fish, picnic, and much more on the now 30+
miles of road and 10+ miles of trail in the Duke Forest.
b. Well over 100,000 recreational visits every year.
Now you may be asking yourself at this point, how does all of this get done? To put it simply, as it always has,
with a small but dedicated staff that leverage opportunities and partnerships that help us best steward the
resources and promote the range of benefits the forest provides. Donations and the sale of picnic shelter
rental, books, and maps allow us to fund special projects, such as the interpretive trail I mentioned that is
opening soon.
Looking forward, we’re thinking a lot about how to best steward the natural resources and services the forest
provides AND how we sustain or increase its relevance for the university and community – as Dr. Keohane said
– as one of Duke’s most important futures.

5
1st identified by MF student Janet Ohmann in 1980
Page 4 of 7
EXTRA:
As we look to the future, the forest’s story continues to unfold, and we are considering how compounding
threats like climate change, invasive species, urbanization – all of which affect its composition, its health, maybe
even the benefits it provides or the way we’re able to use it.
“The educational opportunities in Duke Forest are underused—they’re inexhaustible. There’s so much
opportunity there not just in sciences but in other areas, such as the arts. It would be hard to imagine
Duke University without Duke Chapel—and it would be hard to imagine it without Duke Forest. In many
segments and many communities, the Forest is seen as emblematic of the university and the area.” – Dr.
Norman L. Christensen, founding dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment, 2006, The Duke
Forest at 75
With input from the Duke and the community, we recently completed a strategic plan6 that focuses on the
long-term sustainability of our natural, financial, and human resources; the expansion of research and teaching
opportunities across new disciplines; and the engagement of the university and public community in
understanding interactions between humans and the environment.
- Supporting the expansion of the forest as a teaching and research laboratory beyond traditional biology
and ecology pursuits
o Experimentation/observation of new technology ranging from drones to remotely sensed
biological information to nanotechnology and how these consumer product components move
through/impact the environment
- Continuing to value and understand the role of the forest in providing clean water, clean air, habitat for
native plants and animals, access to nature – as an anchor of trees and flowers in this ever urbanizing
region…
o The forest is already significant in its contributions to the protection of the state’s biodiversity,
but as the broader landscape becomes more fragmented and the wildlife and habitats on the
forest and in other nearby protected areas become further isolated
o This pursuit is a terrific example of collaboration and partnership as we are actively thinking
about these issues with local natural resource non-profits and government agencies.
- Offering novel public education and outreach experiences
o The legacy of scientific research on the forest is rich, and I believe it’s uniquely poised to not only
to connect people to nature but to connect people to science… maybe in a small way helping to
make scientific understanding more mainstream, something that’s not so out of reach when
you’re hearing about big and controversial topics in the news.
We are pushing forward in these new directions through partnerships at Duke and in the community. Thinking
hard about the trees and flowers - their delicate nature - and how the Duke Forest remains a vital and vibrant
part of the Duke DNA.
Misc. pieces to possibly insert
- Quotes highlighting the value of the forest today and relevance of future directions/strategies:
“The educational opportunities in Duke Forest are underused—they’re inexhaustible. There’s so much
opportunity there not just in sciences but in other areas, such as the arts. It would be hard to imagine

6
Goal categories: Stewardship for long-term sustainability; Research and teaching; Community engagement
Page 5 of 7
Duke University without Duke Chapel—and it would be hard to imagine it without Duke Forest. In many
segments and many communities, the Forest is seen as emblematic of the university and the area.” – Dr.
Norman L. Christensen, founding dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment, 2006, The Duke
Forest at 75
“The Forest is one of Duke’s most important futures… both from the point of view of our history and our
research opportunities, and how it becomes an amazing example of the ways green space can be
preserved. The Duke Forest is a showcase of multiple, successful ways to manage land in the middle of
a rapidly growing urban environment and is part of an institution that sees it as a very important priority
to preserve.” – Dr. Nannerl O. Keohane, president of Duke University 1993-2004, p. 115 of The Duke
Forest at 75
“There are no Robin Hoods, Friar Tucks, or Little Johns in the Duke Forest, but there is almost everything
else. In its own way, it is a magic place that holds an attraction for all.” – Duke Alumni Register 49, 1963,
The Forests of Duke article
The value of Duke Forest to the future of the university was recognized early on…
“Other universities have their institutes of human relations and social research and special laboratories
in the sciences that give them outstanding significance, but none of them is surrounded by a forest
which offers anything like the possibilities offered by the Duke Forest” – Committee on Forestry, Duke
University Board of Trustees, June 5, 1933 (Duke University Alumni Register 9, June 1933)
A couple of other fun facts from this early time in the history of the forest:

 In the 1930s men from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) designed and built many of the graveled
roads in the Duke Forest. They also installed culverts that still exist today. The CCC was a work relief
program implemented in response to the Great Depression to employ young, unmarried men and
promote environmental conservation, as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal.
 Famous resident - Among Duke University’s famous alumni, a standout is certainly Richard Nixon, the
37th President of the United States. Nixon graduated from Duke Law School in 1937 and during his time
here resided in a house off of Erwin Road, near the current Duke North Hospital. This area was part of
the Duke Forest in the 1930s.
Other ways to say things:
• As the Triangle continues to grow, the ecological services provided by the Duke Forest – clean water,
clean air, habitat for native plants and animals, access to nature – become increasingly significant.
• Beginning in the mid-1920s, Duke University purchased many small farms and interspersed forestland to
expand and buffer the new Duke University campus.
• Much of the land was overworked, exhausted farmland that had been abandoned by families as they
moved into the cities to find work.
• In 1931, 4,696 acres (excluding campus) were placed under intensive management as the Duke Forest
by Dr. Clarence Korstian, the first director of the Forest and the founding dean of the School of Forestry.
• Early management objectives for the Duke Forest were designed to complement the School of
Forestry’s mission to advance graduate forestry education in the Southeast United States. (tidbit on why
this was important, see page 50)
Page 6 of 7
• At the time, much of the South resembled what Duke now owned. Lots of land in various stages
of regrowth - pine forests taking over abandoned agricultural fields. It was and still remains the
wood basket of the United States and a major player for world trade in timber products. But in
its degraded state, management was needed to restore the land to productive status. As such, it
was ripe for the development of a strong school of forestry for demonstration and
experimentation purposes, to develop the much needed practice of forestry in the American
South.
• President Few, as a Harvard graduate, had knowledge of the set-up of the Harvard Forest, and at
the urging of several major players in forestry (dean of New York State College of Forestry and
US Forest Service personnel), sought to organize a forestry program.
• As academic uses of the Forest broadened to encompass a variety of disciplines in the natural and
environmental sciences, the School of Forestry transitioned to the Nicholas School of the Environment.
• Additional land purchased through the sale of forest products under Dr. Korstian and subsequent
divestiture and reorganization of land created the Duke Forest of today.
• It covers over 7,000 acres in six divisions and in one dedicated natural area across 3 counties in North
Carolina.
• The Duke Forest is managed to maximize a wide variety of benefits that are available not only for Duke
University, but also for the broader academic and public community.
From the 2016 strategic plan:
- Since 1931, the Duke Forest has been Duke University’s research and teaching laboratory. The legacy of
scientific discovery – from understanding how a forest regrows after agricultural abandonment to
learning about forest responses to changes in climate – is rich. As a living laboratory and outdoor
classroom, the Duke Forest has taught countless students, generated innumerable scientific articles, and
launched the careers of many well-respected scientists. Its academic legacy is alive and well today as
new students and faculty from across the globe use the Duke Forest to uncover secrets about our ever-
changing world.
- Throughout its history, academic uses of the Duke Forest have evolved with the changing intellectual
needs of our society. What began as a demonstration platform for southern forestry evolved into a
basic science laboratory for understanding ecological processes and ecosystem-based management.
Scholars today integrate that foundational knowledge and historical data with the human context to
develop local, national, and global solutions for climate change, ecosystem services losses, biodiversity
conservation, and other pressing environmental issues.
Historical facts obtained from:
The Dukes of Durham, Robert Durden
The Duke Forest at 75, Ida Phillips Lynch

Page 7 of 7