Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area
Jerald J. Dosch
Visiting Associate Professor, Biology
9550 Inver Grove Trail
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076
S.O.S. For Ordway (1983-1997)
Excerpts from a history written by Kelly M. Paulson in 2001 as her Honors Project
When Christman left in 1985, Ordway was in need of a number of infrastructural improvements. At the same time, the Biology Department was busy restructuring some of its introductory courses to include a heavier ecological component, and the position of Ordway naturalist/caretaker was likewise redefined to create a position of a staff person who would also teach on campus.
Ecologists on Board
Mark Davis arrived on the Biology faculty in 1981. Daniel Hornbach came in the fall of 1984. Both of them were hired as faculty who had experience in ecological principles. Davis was responsible for taking over the Environmental Studies Program, and immediately he began taking his Ecology, Field Botany, and Animal Ecology classes to Ordway. He became the Director of Ordway within a few years of his arrival, from about 1982-87. Hornbach taught Aquatic Ecology classes at River Lake, mostly bottom sampling of the silty backwaters, and he served as Ordway’s Director after Davis.
Attempts to Rejuvenate Ordway
In the late 1980’s, Macalester decided to invest more into Ordway. The buildings and facilities were improved, the Resident Naturalist’s apartment was enlarged, and two student worker positions were funded to work all summer getting rid of the infestation of sumac. Hornbach applied for and was granted a NSF grant which furnished Ordway’s laboratory with microscopes and other lab goodies and necessities.
When Christman was the Resident Naturalist of Ordway, he would assist with courses at Ordway, but he had very little presence on campus, and no formal responsibilities on campus. So the position was intentionally changed by Biology faculty, including Hornbach and Davis, to a position that required splitting time between Ordway and the teaching of on-campus labs.
In the Wake of Christman (Clugston and Shreffler)
David Clugston followed directly in the wake of Christman, in 1986, as the first person hired under the revised position description. Unfortunately for Macalester, Clugston’s tenure at Ordway was not very long; and was certainly not long enough for him to implement the ideas he had for Ordway. Clugston wrote a new trail map and guide for the area.
Shelley Shreffler, a plant ecologist by training, became the Assistant Director at Ordway in 1988 and stayed until 1995. She was, unlike Clugston, hired on a year-round basis, and she split her time between teaching Macalester Introductory Biology labs and working at Ordway.
Use of KONHSA in the Late 1980’s
Shreffler wanted to increase the number of students and use and accessibility of Ordway as an educational facility as well as, secondarily, a research facility; but “definitely” the primary use was for education.
Shreffler was also interested in making Ordway useful “beyond Macalester’s borders…making it a resource for the community rather than just for Macalester.” The amount of students using the area did increase during her appointment and she remembers that non-class use also increased; for example, alumni barbecues and community birdwatching trips.
The 1980’s brought a slightly different idea of how Ordway was best used. According to Davis, Ordway was a great teaching laboratory, especially for teaching restoration for its own sake as well as the practice and philosophies of restoration.
Research at KONHSA During the 1980’s
As during the 1970’s, there was quite a bit of research going on at Ordway in the 1980’s, although there are no such detailed records from the 1980’s. Shreffler herself did a few research projects, including investigating sumac control methods and working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on surveying wetlands. Shreffler also studied the soil ecosystem and underground food webs, with the intent of comparing Midwestern and Pacific northwestern grassland soil communities.
Changes in the Resident Naturalist Position
The Biology Department again underwent a few changes, and the position of Resident Naturalist/Assistant Director evolved as well. The position was changed to require someone who could take care of Ordway as well as teaching Physiology labs. Obviously, this new position description was more difficult to fill, since biologists are generally concentrated in either field or laboratory sciences.
Elizabeth Svenson was completing her graduate degree at the University of Minnesota when her adviser notified her of an opening as Resident Naturalist at Ordway. Beth seemed perfect for the job, given its recent retooling and given her interests in conservation and physiology. Svenson was hired in July of 1996 on a year-round basis.
While Svenson was Resident Naturalist, Ordway enjoyed a use that was fairly similar to what Shreffler had experienced. Mark Davis and Dan Hornbach continued to use Ordway for their Ecology and Aquatic Ecology classes, respectively. Susanna McMaster’s Geography classes used Ordway for different purposes, one of which was writing an Environmental Impact Assessment for the National Park Service’s Mississippi River trail that was proposed to cut through Ordway’s property. Svenson remembered that Macalester’s Virginia Card brought her Ecology classes out every week, and thought that she probably used it more than any other teacher did. Inver Hills Community College, St. Thomas University, and Hamline University classes also made use of Ordway, although less regularly.