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Origin Story: Duke Forest

Looking back 90 years to the birth of Duke's largest laboratory and classroom

Founded in July 1931 as the demonstration lands for the Duke School of Forestry, the Duke Forest has become Duke’s biggest and oldest laboratory and outdoor classroom with its 7,100 acres of teaching and research lands stretching across Durham, Orange, and Alamance Counties.

As a unique destination for discovery, researchers from all over the world use the forest and its decades of legacy data to address the big problems of our time from climate change to microplastic pollution to the sustainability of our natural resources.

Duke faculty and students enjoy the proximity of a dynamic research forest to West Campus allowing for diverse disciplines—from environmental sciences to electrical engineering to the arts—to utilize the forest for research and class activities. The Duke Forest also provides education and outreach to the Triangle community through tours and volunteer programs and serves as an outdoor recreation destination and sanctuary space for the local community.

As such a large and dynamic land base it has also become a major engine of ecosystem services for the region and a critical anchor of wildlife habitats in our rapidly developing region. To walk through the Duke Forest, you realize it is more than just the woods. It is a living natural history lesson and a part of the Duke University origin story.