Paint Rock Forest Research Center

The Nature Conservancy’s Sharp Bingham Mountain Preserve is home one of the most biologically important regions in the U.S. The UA Museums along with UA faculty from different departments are actively doing work at the preserve.

The Paint Rock Forest Research Center has formed a non-profit (paintrock.org) with a small working board to help direct the efforts with Bill Finch as the executive director.

It is founded on three broad goals:

The development of a 50-year research plot covering hundreds of acres of forest, where every stem over 1 cm is identified, catalogued and regularly censused. More than a hundred thousand shrubs and trees would be included in each census. The initial core plot will cover 125 acres, and we plan to assess the impact of every species within that plot, from microscopic protists and bacteria to the rich bird populations and the towering trees.

This research plot would provide the data that gives us new insight into how forests work, how species survive, how climate change will impact forests, and how we should be developing conservation plans for the next century.

The training of a new generation of scientists – Wilson’s Army – who have an intimate knowledge of both ecosystems and microbiology. Scientists who understand natural history and systems biology and can distinguish an oak from ash are increasingly rare. More rare are scientists who reflect the full diversity of 21st Century America. Our goal is to establish a stair-step program to direct minority and underprivileged students from high school through undergraduate programs to the top graduate programs in the country.

The development of a major conservation area in the Southern Cumberlands, stretching across more than 12 million acres of contiguous forests from Kentucky to Alabama, with a focus on 500,000 acres of conservation land around Paint Rock Valley, stretching from Sewanee, Tenn., to the Tennessee River. This conservation area can and should reflect the principles Dr. Wilson has outlined in his ambitious Half Earth program. It would become a model for how that program can be applied in other areas.