The KSU Field Station is a land of research opportunity. Explore the many dimensions of the KSU Field Station, including the current research projects conducted by KSU faculty.  


Summer Days 2020 Blog 

8/18/2020, 5:03 p.m.

Alice Gooding, forensic anthropologist for the state of Georgia, connects her professional FAFL 1experiences to her current position as assistant professor of anthropology at KSU. Her latest initiative is the opening of the Forensic Anthropology Field Lab (FAFL) at the KSU Field Station. FAFL includes a variety of open, wooded and underground environments to facilitate cutting-edge research and training in clandestine grave recovery.

Dr. Gooding, with FAFL lab coordinator Michael McClung, have worked on the project since the initial design and preparation of the lab began in fall 2019. 

The goals of FAFL include providing training and education to current KSU students as well as professional training for law enforcement and medical examiners, and K-12 educators in the local area and across the state. She also conducts research related to forensic anthropology. 

Starting this week, professional courses for law enforcement and medical examiners, and for the first time, high school forensic science teachers, will be offered. All participants may register FAFL 2through KSU's College of Graduate and Professional Education and earn continuing education credit. 

Please click here for the professional education course schedule and click here for the forensic medicine for educators schedule. 

There will be an additional course on Oct, 10, 2020 - Body Recovery Simulation For Cadaver K9s. Please click here for the schedule and description. 

On the research side, Dr. Gooding will be starting participant FAFL 3recruitment for her first major study. This study tests low-grade technology to locate possible burial sites by determining the presence of soil anomalies that may indicate something underneath the soil prior to digging. 

She and her team completed the set-up of the physical space and enough time has now passed that the data collection of the burial sites can proceed. The pilot data will be used to support their upcoming federal and private grant applications. 


8/13/2020, 5:26 p.m.

The KSU Food Forest, in development on a 1/3 acre of land at the KSU Field Station, will serve as a model of sustainable urban cultivation, and demonstrate the potential of food forest systems to mitigate climate change and promote food security and health. The KSU Food Forest project was created by geography professors Dr. Jason Rhodes and Dr. Vanessa Slinger-Friedman, along with Michael Blackwell, operations manager of the KSU Field Station.

aerial photography of KSU Food Forest

This aerial photo depicts the site of the KSU Food Forest (highlighted in yellow) as it appears within the KSU Field Station.

Food forests are designed to mimic a natural forest ecosystem and provide a model of sustainable ground view of KSU Food Forestcultivation. Unlike a community garden, which is typically planted in annuals, a food forest is a planned ecosystem of complementary edible, perennial plants with multiple layers.  

Fruit and nut trees comprise the top layer; vines, shrubs, and cover-crops the middle, and root crops make up the bottom. Food forests’ unique contribution to local food systems are their ability to thrive in uncultivated soil or among trees.

A well-designed food forest can last for decades and mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, promote water resilience by increasing the water-absorption capacity of the soil, and enhance food security by yielding an impressive quantity of diverse, nutrient-rich caloriesGoji Berry Plants per acre.  

In the past couple of months, the KSU Food Forest project was able to secure funding to purchase planting tools and equipment. KSU's College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of Geography and Anthropology also provided funding for soil tests and compost for the site. Finally, CIFAL Atlanta awarded funds to buy some plant material such as Goji berry plants (shown at left) and pecan trees (shown at right). 

Pecan TreesFurthermore, the project has obtained funding to offer economic incentives to four high school students from food desert communities in metro-Atlanta to receive training in urban sustainable agriculture at the KSU Food Forest in spring 2021. Other plans include applying for a grant to purchase the fruit and nut tree species associated with the food forest and hosting an inaugural tree planting event in fall 2020 to get the plant material into the ground. 

The Food Forest will serve as a bridge between KSU and marginalized Atlanta communities through urban cultivation training programs tied to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum for disadvantaged youth.

Importantly, the KSU Food Forest will make possible ongoing research by multiple KSU faculty and students designed to measure the environmental impact of the Food Forest with respect to carbon sequestration, changes in the water absorption capacity of the soil, and effectiveness as a supply of nutrient-rich food. As the system develops, Dr. Rhodes and Dr. Slinger-Friedman invite other KSU faculty to contact them about how they can utilize the space to carry out their related research.

KSU Food Forest logo

Working with two AmeriCorps Summer Associate VISTAS internship students, they recently launched an Instagram account to educate the public about issues of food security, sustainable agriculture, and the importance of pollinator populations 

To learn more about the KSU Food Forest and related research, and to find out about upcoming events, follow the project on Instagram - @KSUFoodForest


7/24/2020, 11:29 p.m.

Like many local birds, the KSU Field Station's European starlings have wrapped up the breeding season after a busy spring of laying eggs (a) and Sarah Guindre-Parkerraising young (b). Dr. Sarah Guindre-Parker monitored over 40 nesting attempts at the KSU Field Station and other sites, where she checked nest boxes weekly (c), measured and weighed the eggs (d) and chicks (e), took small blood samples to assess the health of birds, and collected hours of video recordings at the nest to document parents delivering food to their chicks (f).

Now, undergraduate student researchers are diving into video analysis and planning their upcoming lab work to see what this season's data reveal about the behavior and health of urban versus rural starlings. For example, KSU senior Kaitlyn Brown is hard at work analyzing videos to understand how much time parent starlings spend incubating their eggs. She is interested in testing the hypothesis that being a bird parent closer to the city is harder than parenting in rural environments. She is scheduled to present her findings at the Animal Behavior Society's virtual conference occurring next week. 

Are you interested in participating in this type of animal behavior research? The good news is this is the beginning of a long-term study, where Dr. Guindre-Parker and a team of students will monitor the nest boxes and study starlings (g) every spring over many years. Get in touch to find out about future availabilities on her team!

Starlings Post


7/16/2020, 1:50 p.m.

The American chestnut once dominated the eastern half of the U.S. and was considered one of theAmerican chestnut tree most important forest trees throughout its range. However, as the result of an invasive fungal pathogen, the first half of the 20th century saw chestnut blight devastate this tree species, wiping out nearly all trees in the U.S.

With support from The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF),American chestnut tree Dr. Kyle Gabriel of the BioInnovation Lab and William Blackwell of the KSU Field Station are exploring methods to restore this critically endangered tree species.

By utilizing beneficial microorganisms, they aim to further improve the survivorship and health of plants that have been bred for their resistance to the blight. Additionally, they have also begun a collaboration with TACF to plant an American chestnut test orchard at the field station to evaluate whether the field station has suitable growth conditions for developing future orchards to support restoration efforts.

American chestnut tree in the field

Photos by Kyle Gabriel


7/9/2020, 11:04 a.m.

When the summer heat really gets unbearable, many garden plants will struggle, but cherry tomatoes  and eggplants (as shown in the photos) are sun-loving plants in the Solanaceae family and will thrive.

It's not exactly clear how the term Solanaceae was coined, but it's often attributed to the resemblance of the flowers in many of the Solanaceae family to the sun. Edible species within the Solanaceae family include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and potatoes.

Sunflowers, as the ones growing at the KSU Field Station, also love the extra sunlight of summer as the name implies. Sunflowers are best suited for insect pollination (as shown in the photo with a bee in the center of the flower). Sunflowers attract insects with their bright color and large surface area which provide a platform for the bees to sit on while enjoying the nourishing nectar.

Fruits of Summer


7/2/2020, 3:45 p.m.

Operations Manager Michael Blackwell shares his knowledge of chanterelle mushrooms which are growing wildly at the KSU Field Station. Blackwell always recommends that people meet up with experienced mushroom foragers and get hands on experience.

The Mushroom Club of Georgia is one way to get involved. Blackwell is a member of this club, which is one of the largest mushroom clubs in the country too. The club holds regular monthly meetings and also have guided mushroom walks. For more information, please visit: https://gamushroomclub.org

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