Take A Walk On The Wild(life) Side

Duke campus and forest are home to hundreds of species

With about 8,500 acres spread across its campuses and Duke Forest, Duke is home for about 60 species of amphibians and reptiles, as many as 85 species of butterflies and 1,000 plants.

"Duke is special because there are so many patches of natural areas on campus," said Jeff Pippen, instructor and associate in research with the Division of Environmental Sciences and Policy. "It's amazing what you can find sometimes."

Pippen said that having a diverse collection of forested habitats around campus means there will also be a diverse collection of wildlife. Here are just a few examples of plants and animals you can spot at Duke:

Along with his wildlife research, Pippen teaches three classes, including "Into the Woods: Exploring Duke Forest." During the class, he takes a dozen first-year students to different locations across West Campus to show just how diverse a natural habitat Duke can be. 

For example, the wooded area immediately behind the Duke Chapel - which is upland and has eroded soils - is ideal for Scarlet Oak trees, Shortlead Pines and the Brown-headed Nuthatch bird. In contrast, different plant and animal life may be found about 100 feet away by the Bryan Center, which has moister, richer soils ideal for American Sycamore trees and flying squirrels.

"It's pretty easy to think of Duke's campus as just a campus, but it isn't just a habitat, it's a whole eco-system," said Ted Leonhardt, a first-year student in Pippen's Into the Woods class. "When I first came to campus - like a lot of people - I didn't know what I was looking at. Now, I find myself walking around campus and identifying trees and birds."

For more information about plants and wildlife at Duke, visit Pippen's website, where he logs pictures and information about species indigenous to Durham and North Carolina. Additional information can also be found on the Duke Forest website.