Environmental Science Research

The environmental programs at Sweet Briar offer students an excellent opportunity to conduct real-world research under the supervision of department faculty.

Our students investigate actual environmental issues and address real problems. You will gain an understanding of the entire research process through hands-on work and extensive one-on-one interaction with professors. Then, as any other scientist does, you present your results at an off-campus professional meeting along with your peers.

Sweet Briar College Land-Atmosphere Research Station (SBC-LARS)

The Sweet Briar College Land-Atmosphere Research Station (SBC-LARS) is a research facility that consists of a 120-foot research tower and an adjacent laboratory shed for the collection and analysis of atmospheric data, located in one of Sweet Briar’s forests. The station is used for collaborative research by environmental scientists from┬áVirginia Tech, Clemson University and Sweet Briar. A second, smaller tower was erected in one of our switchgrass fields in April 2016. SBC-LARS offers students the unique opportunity to learn about and conduct original research in areas of air quality, meteorology and forestry.

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Permanent Forest Plots

Student Measuring TreeSweet Briar has three hardwood forest permanent plots. Within these plots every tree has been mapped, measured and individually tagged. By censusing the trees every decade or so, we are learning a lot about forest dynamics in Virginia’s piedmont. The Carry and Constitution Oaks Sanctuary plots contain white oaks known to be more than 200 years old, and tulip poplars greater than a meter in diameter. The plots are also used to estimate the carbon storage capacity of our forests, important in understanding the college’s carbon budget.

Spotted Salamander Population Ecology

Student with SalamanderSince 2007, students in biology and environmental science have been studying a large population of spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) breeding in a campus pond. Biennial breeding surveys show that the population is in decline. Current research is focused on determining the causes of the decline, and identifying potential management actions that could reverse it.

For more information, please read the following: