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Environmental Studies on the Piedmont is the primary division of the Clifton Institute. To learn more about Environmental Studies' programs, please visit www.envstudies.org

The mission of Environmental Studies on the Piedmont (ES) is to learn about the natural history of the Virginia Piedmont, to share our knowledge of and passion for nature with our community, to protect native biodiversity, and to inspire the next generation of scientists and environmental stewards.  To do this, ES encourages community participation in their research though hands-on education and volunteer programs.  ES invites the public, K-12 teachers, university faculty, researchers and other interested groups to utilize the Clifton field station which includes upland forest, meadow, wetland, vernal pool, stream, pond and small lake habitats.

ES conducts internationally recognized research with swans and other waterfowl, promotes wildlife conservation and offers educational programs to scientists, students of all ages and the general public.

Some examples of our work are listed below:

Birds and Avian Research
So far 161 species of birds have been observed at the field station. Our eBird hotspot tracks bird sightings on the property: https://ebird.org/atlasva/hotspot/L1111554. We conduct bird surveys every two weeks to track changes in bird abundance over time.

The field station is home to a vibrant community of early successional  bird species, which, according to the American Bird Conservancy, is one of the 10 top endangered bird habitats.

Wildlife in the Virginia Piedmont is generally less well studied than that in the coastal plain or in the mountains. By documenting how the Piedmont resources are used by birds (year round and migrating), sound conservation practices can be implemented on the field station and ES can recommend to landowners, developers and government agencies new ways to better protect Piedmont wildlife.

Wildlife Conservation
The Clifton field station is located on 900 acres of diverse habitats that have been placed in a Conservation Easement, preserving the land from development for the benefit of Piedmont wildlife.

Early successional field habitats and the wildlife, which flourish in this environment, are disappearing, either to development or to maturity due to ecological succession. ES maintains this habitat for Yellow-breasted Chats, American Woodcocks, Field Sparrows, Prairie Warblers, Grasshopper Sparrows, Wild Turkeys, Brown Thrashers, and Northern Bobwhite (sadly now very rare here as it is in most of the eastern United States). Our open water provides habitat for a variety of waterfowl such as Redhead, Canvasback, Wood Duck, and American Black Duck. The network of vernal pools on the property are home to both Jefferson and Spotted Salamanders, Wood Frogs, and a diverse community of invertebrates that depend on seasonally dry wetlands for survival. Wooded areas are home to White-tailed Deer, as well as a number of other notable mammals, such as Black Bear, Mink, Short-tailed Weasel and Red and Gray Fox. ES participates in the Deer Management and Assistance Program (DMAP), which is a long-term nationwide research and management program.

One of our goals is to catalogue EVERY SPECIES that occurs on the 900-acre property. It's an ambitious goal but we'll learn a lot and have fun along the way. We started a new iNaturalist project to collect observations. Let us know if you'd like to visit and help with the project!

Habitat Restoration
The disappearance of early successional field habitats is a serious threat to biodiversity in Virginia.  Twenty-six percent of Virginia's birds dependent on this type of habitat are listed as Tier 1 (Species of Greatest Conservation Need) by the VA State Wildlife Action Plan. ES is committed to the difficult process of maintaining and restoring this vital ecological system for the benefit of nature enthusiasts, the local community and the environmental health of the Piedmont.

In 2018 we are starting a major new project to restore 100 acres of our pasture to a native grassland.

Piedmont Biodiversity Stewardship Council

The Piedmont Biodiversity Stewardship Council (PBSC) is a collective group of landowners in the Northern Piedmont focused on gathering and disseminating knowledge about existing biodiversity in our region. Utilizing the conserved land of many owners, the Council collectively enables sound scientific investigation of our landscape, resulting in the publication and dissemination of knowledge about wildlife, plants and other biota in our region. Through long-term monitoring, stewardship, owner participation and sound management, Council activities make significant contributions to enhancing our knowledge of the Northern Piedmont.

The PBSC is administered through Environmental Studies on the Piedmont. Council members have the opportunity to participate in a variety of ways, including involvement in planning and project management. The PBSC Steering Committee liaises with the community and represent the interests of the membership, the community and the environment.


Educational programs cover a broad range of activities across all age groups. ES outreach focus is on experiential-learning based programs, involving field trips, public events, guided tours and internships. Through K-12 field trips ES seeks to re-establish contact between youth and the natural world. Guided tours allow participants to learn quickly about nature and local ecosystems through short, high impact encounters with seasonal species. Public community events emphasize outdoor activities to stimulate interest in conservation of local natural resources. ES internship program provides invaluable practical experience to students planning careers in the field of conservation or biological research.

To learn more visit www.envstudies.org.

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