The New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) is the environmental field campus of Montclair State University located 60 miles from the main campus on a 240-acre tract in the Stokes State Forest of Sussex County NJ. The NJSOC is at the center of 30,000 acres of state forest and federal lands, surrounded by The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Stokes State Forest, High Point State Park and a mosaic of properties held by the Nature Conservancy and the Conservation Trust. This unique site is one of the largest undeveloped tracts in New Jersey and is, therefore, a unique setting for environmental science research and education in the most densely populated state.
Faculty and undergraduate/graduate students in Biology, Environmental Management, and Environmental Education presently conduct research at NJSOC. Research training includes an NSF-CCLI funded program that provides intensive eight-week summer research experiences for undergraduates. Graduate students in Environmental Education also spend two years on site in a teaching practicum.
With the increased emphasis on field research in recent years, the NJSOC has begun to publicize itself as a field research station. NJSOC has recently joined the Organization of Biological Field Stations to increase visibility to the research community and to attract researchers from other institutions. Additionally, periodic NJSOC research conferences are under development to highlight current research activities.
The field station is housed within the College of Science and Mathematics at MSU. On-site operations are run by the Director, Dr. William Thomas, the Associate Director, Dr. Randall Fitzgerald, and Program Coordinator Lisa Mills. A staff of 28 people (administration, facilities/maintenance, cafeteria, infirmary and other staff) maintains the field station.
The field station is located at the base of the Kittatinny Ridge within Stokes State Forest in northwestern New Jersey. Over the years a number of scientists have used the 240-acre campus and the surrounding 32,000 acres of Stokes State Forest and High Point State Park to conduct research. Important research projects in ecology involving birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, mollusks, insects and plants have based their operations at the field center. The diverse habitats of the school have enabled graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and university faculty members to carry out significant research in ecology, conservation, animal behavior, systematics, biological diversity and evolutionary biology. Upland deciduous forests dominate Stokes and Highpoint, with spring-fed streams, lakes and ponds, wetlands and bogs, and coniferous stands dotting the landscape. The adjoining Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area contains 70,000 acres of alluvial floodplain and mixed deciduous forest of the Appalachians along a 40-mile stretch of the upper Delaware River.
Research grants provided by the field station help to foster and support scientific research at the field station and include housing, laboratory space and stipends to qualified researchers. These grants are designed to support work in basic and applied ecology, conservation biology, evolution, geology, animal behavior, taxonomy, biochemistry and other academic disciplines.
Additional information about MSU’s NJSOC field station can be obtained by contacting the Associate Director, Dr. Randall Fitzgerald via email.