Posted by: csdailyblog | October 6, 2009

Deer Exclusion Project on Conserve School Campus

Bace, Dick, Gretchen, and Teagan work on setting up the fence.

Bace, Dick, Gretchen, and Teagan work on setting up the fence.

Conserve School Science Teacher Andrew Milbauer is working with students from two of his classes, Applied Ecology and Environmental Sensing and Monitoring, to set up a deer exclusion research project on the Conserve School campus. The project is designed to provide data on deer browsing and forest regeneration.

Andy writes:

The project is based loosely on a forestry research experiment carried out by the Smithsonian Institute.  I learned about the design when I attended their presentation at that National Science Teachers Association in New Orleans last spring.  I tweaked the project design to make it more relevant to our local ecosystems.  We selected a spot on the black loop where  a blowdown several years ago leveled the forest near the edge of the Sylvania Wilderness Area. 

Teacher Andrew Milbauer and Trustee Ron Kazmar discuss the project.

Teacher Andrew Milbauer and Trustee Ron Kazmar discuss the project.

 The underlying goal of the project is to find out which methods can be used to restore richer forest community most quickly.  Without intervention, the forest will probably regenerate into an aspen forest or a highly flammable thicket of balsam fir instead of a longer-living mix of hardwood trees.  The shift in forest regeneration towards balsam fir and aspen in this region is caused by an increased deer population.  Deer browsing has changed how forests regenerate. 

First the Applied Ecology class marked out four plots that were 4 meters by 4 meters.  We then staked them off.

Nicky works on the fence.

Nicky works on the fence.

The Environmental Sensing and Monitoring class then hiked to the area.  Students identified and counted all trees taller than chest height.  Additionally, they estimated the percent cover of various ground species within the plot.  This data set will be stored for the long term.

The Applied Ecology students then thinned the balsam fir and aspen from two of the plots.  They also built deer fences to prevent deer browsing in two plots.  This experiment will run for at least a decade as we explore how forest regeneration is affected by various conditions. The plots are as follows:
1. Fenced off, balsam and aspen left intact
2.  No fence, balsam and aspen removed
3. Fenced off, balsam and aspen removed
4. Control (no manipulation)

Classes will return to this plot twice a year to maintain fences, continue to thin some of the trees, and monitor the site.  This data will be compiled and compared over the decade as a model of different methods of forestry practices.


Teagan and Gretchen take on the role of hungry deer and check to see if the fence can really exclude them.





  1. That’s a great idea, Peggy. I will look into a way we can allow rabbits in one of the future plots.

  2. it would also be interesting to have a twin plot where the deer fence does not reach the ground, instead being maybe 6″ off, to allow rabbits and other small mammals to pass through.

  3. What a great project!!!!!

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