New Jersey School of Conservation

Conveying knowledge of how Earth systems operate and how human actions affect these systems. Conservation is Everyone's Responsibility!

New Jersey School of Conservation
1 Wapalanne Road
Branchville, NJ 07826


The mission of Montclair State University's School of Conservation is to gather knowledge of Earth systems through research and to communicate this knowledge through education. Our goal is to contribute to the resolution of environmental problems by cultivating environmentally responsible behaviors that will encourage scientists, teachers, students and citizens to promote sustainable practices in their communities.

AmeriCorps Logo

AmeriCorps Positions Available:

Environment Education & Community Outreach Initiative at NJSOC 

 Are you passionate about environmental issues? Would you like to make a difference? The New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) is looking for 4 individuals to take part in our Environment, Education, and Community Outreach – EECO – initiative during the 2014-15 academic year.  We seek enthusiastic, creative and highly committed individuals, who have excellent interpersonal skills and a strong interest in environmental education and conservation. 

The EECO project at NJSOC is a residential program. You will live in Stokes State Forest of Northern New Jersey and serve with the staff of the New Jersey School of Conservation and the New Jersey Department of Parks and Forests. Members selected to serve will reside on the School’s campus and receive free room and board as part of their stipend. EECO members will be engaged in the following activities:  

•Teaching (after training) many of the over 30 individual environmental learning experiences that are offered at NJSOC in the natural sciences, outdoor pursuits, humanities, and social sciences (e.g. Forest Ecology, Team Building, Conservation Photography, Pioneer Life etc.) to K-12 students, community members, and college students.

•Plan, organize, and coordinate environmental conservation service projects for k-12 service-learning students, faith-based and civic organizations, and college service-organizations. Projects may include: invasive species abatement, lake clean up, trail building, etc.

•Develop, maintain, and restore NJSOC infrastructure and habitat necessary and related to the educational and environmental mission of the School. Members will serve with School Staff, Stokes State Forest Rangers, and other New Jersey Parks and Forestry personnel on infrastructure maintenance, invasive species abatement, lake clean-up, trail building and maintenance, forest fire prevention, and riparian and wildlife habitat restoration.

NJSOC Training Includes:

•Multi-day orientation and ongoing training opportunities

•Personal and professional development

•In depth learning associated with environmental education and service

•Exposure to social issues related to conservation and the environment

•Develop presentation skills in on-site and school-based education sessions 

 Position requirements:

•Ability to serve in the outdoors, independently and year-round 

•Valid drivers license

•Undergraduate degree.

•Must pass a background check


•Funding is through the AmeriCorps State/National program. 

•Each individual receives an annual living allowance of approximately $12,100 for full-time service (1700 hour term, 35- 40 hours per week across a twelve month term starting in September.  Room and board would be provided onsite at NJSOC.

•Each member receives an educational award of approximately $5,550 for a completed year of service (1700 hours). 

•Positions begin September 2014. 

•Attending school on off-hours permitted.

•EECO is an AmeriCorps project. AmeriCorps is a state and national service initiative that provides opportunities for participants to engage in community service in return for stipend and scholarship funds. Each year over 100,000 American citizens serve their communities and country through participation in AmeriCorps programs located throughout the U.S.

•Established in 1949, the NJSOC, located a little over one hour from New York City is the oldest university operated environmental field center in the USA. Our mission is to convey knowledge of how Earth systems operate and how human actions affect these systems. Our goal is to educate and cultivate environmentally responsible behaviors that lead to the resolution of current environmental problems. 

If interested, please send letter of interest and resume to Dr. Randall FitzGerald at


Winter Wonders of Lake Wapalanne


            Our Lake Wapalanne is home to various forms of aquatic life, including plants, algae, fish, reptiles and amphibians.  While it is easy to imagine how these organisms thrive during the warm months of the year, the winter months can pose serious threats to their survival.  Lake Wapalanne is shallow, and it undergoes various changes as winter approaches and the temperature drops.

            As the air temperature cools, so does the water.  To a certain point, the density of water increases as temperature decreases.  Therefore, as the water in the lake cools, the colder, denser water will sink to the bottom.  When the water reaches 4°C it is at its highest possible density.  When water continues to cool past the 4°C mark, its density begins to decrease, so water colder than 4°C will be closer to the surface.  Water that then cools to 0°C freezes and forms a layer of ice at the surface.  This layer of ice can become thicker as more water cools to 0°C and forms more ice.

Water Density vs Temperature


As the water becomes colder it is able to hold more dissolved oxygen.  This dissolved oxygen is essential to the survival of the fish, insects, and other aquatic organisms that require oxygen for respiration.  While to colder waters can contain more dissolved oxygen, any ice and/or snow that accumulates on top of the lake forms a barrier between the water and the air, preventing the further diffusion of oxygen into the lake.  Aquatic plants would normally be able to produce and release oxygen into the water, but the presence of ice and/or snow also limits or prevents sunlight from penetrating into the water for photosynthesis.  For the most part, all of the oxygen-dependent organisms in the lake must make it through the winter with the amount of oxygen that is trapped when ice forms on the surface.  This has required aquatic organisms to adapt.

            When winter sets in and the lake temperature cools, the fish that inhabit the lake (such as the bluegill pictured below) must alter their behavior in order to survive.  In order to use less oxygen and require less food, the fish slow their metabolism and heart rate, entering a state of dormancy.  Some species of fish will move slowly and appear sluggish, while others will burrow into the sediment and remain still.  This allows them to survive through the cold, oxygen-deprived winter months.  Oxygen-dependent organisms may also gravitate to parts of the lake that may remain exposed or where melting snow enters as runoff, churning the lake water and incorporating more oxygen.


            A special example of adaptation for winter survival exists in the painted turtles (pictured below) that inhabit Lake Wapalanne.  These air-breathing turtles hibernate underwater during the winter months, burying themselves into the mud.  Similar to the fish that inhabit the lake, painted turtles slow their heart rate and metabolism so that they are barely functioning at all.  They do not eat or breathe at all throughout the winter.  If conditions allow, however, they may absorb oxygen through specialized skin cells that are located near their tails.  They are quite talented turtles!


            While a winter lake may appear to be eerie and lifeless, we can enjoy its quiet beauty knowing that the animals beneath the ice are well prepared for the challenges that winter brings.