Volume 76
Number 1









“Look at them all!” Eyes sparkling, William H.Murdy gasps and points to a carpet of water oak seedlings. “It’s like a little army isn’t it?”

On a wet February morning, the former dean of Oxford College and Charles Howard Candler Professor Emeritus of Biology makes his way through the Woolford B. Baker Woodlands in the ravine between Glenn Memorial Auditorium and the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Pausing every few minutes to yank out English ivy and honeysuckle–invasive species that threaten to strangle native growth–Murdy gives a botanical tour of the last remaining stretch of the original Piedmont forest in which Emory was built.

A recent survey of the woodlands yielded a total of eighty-nine plant species, seventy-seven of which are native trees, shrubs, and woody vines. Aside from the little army of regenerating water oaks claiming space cleared by volunteers, there are mature beech, sweet gum, box elder, tulip poplar, and hickory trees in the Baker Woodlands. The uncommon alternate-leaf dogwood and umbrella magnolia, with its deciduous, oblong leaves, grace the forest’s lower canopy. In the dappled sunlight on the forest floor and along the spring-fed creek meandering through the woods grow delicate nodding trillium, fruity-fragrant sweet shrub, and several native azaleas, including the Cumberland azalea with orange blossoms and jutting stamen. (The Cumberland azalea is classified Rhododendron bakeri–the same “Baker” for whom the woods are named, a long-time professor of biology and Emory’s first landscaper, who was committed to protecting the University’s natural environment.)

Some eighty volunteers pulled ivy in the Baker Woodland this February.

In February, Murdy organized a series of “ivy pulls,” and more than eighty volunteers braved the drizzly winter weather to clear the forest floor for native spring growth and to plant azaleas and other shrubs. The project was co-sponsored by the Friends of the Emory Forest, a membership organization founded by JoAn Chace, senior lecturer in the English department and the wife of Emory’s president, and dedicated to funding the restoration and preservation of forest canopy across the campus.

Woodlands restoration is a part of a larger movement to establish a campus-wide environmental policy at Emory. Last year, a group of faculty, staff, and administrators formed the Ad Hoc Committee on Environmental Stewardship. Led by professors Peggy F. Barlett (photo, opposite page) in anthropology and Karen Mumford in environmental studies, the committee now has at least eighty members who discuss priorities and determine actions over an e-mail listserv. Guided by the University’s master plan, the committee calls on Emory to become “a more positive and creative force in the protection and enhancement of the environment through its teaching, research, and administrative operations.”

First and foremost, the committee envisions a sustainable campus. In addition to protecting Emory’s natural environment, it has advised campus planning on the “greening” of construction projects.

“One of the really meaningful things about this entire environmental effort is that it builds community,” says Barlett. “What we’ve seen in the Baker woods restoration project is a sense of excitement. People enjoy being in the woods and seeing it returned to its natural state. It’s really inspiring to watch faculty, students, staff, and alumni work side by side with each other and delight in this common project.”

Indeed, a major goal of the committee is broad participation in environmental efforts, which hinges upon creating an environmentally literate body of students and employees. Curriculum is an important aspect of this effort. The committee champions the new undergraduate major in environmental studies and calls for increased visibility of environmentally oriented faculty and student research. It also turns its sights outside the campus boundaries, urging for an “ethos of contribution” to region-wide environmental concerns and closer linkage to other Atlanta institutions.

Barlett says the committee hopes to present the final draft of the environmental policy to the University Senate this fall.–Sharla A. Paul




© 2000 Emory University