CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., May 19, 2014 – A dedication ceremony was held today, marking the launch of an ecological preserve in Scott County to serve as an outdoor classroom and research site for Southeast Missouri State University science and science education students.
The Miller Reserve is a 27.22-acre property near Commerce, Mo., received by the Southeast Missouri University Foundation as a charitable gift from the family of the late Georgia Lee Miller Lawrence.
The property was contributed to Southeast specifically to be used as an ecological preserve for teaching and research to enhance students’ education. The University has begun to cultivate the land to become a restored wetland reserve as part of a cooperative effort with the USDA National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Missouri Department of Conservation. The goal is to restore the site to bottomland hardwood forest and ephemeral pools, and open wetland and water control structures.
Research has begun from “ground zero” starting with an agricultural field and will follow the site back to a restored wetland, continuing as the site develops from both a vegetation and wildlife standpoint. University officials say the property has been enrolled in the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), administered by the NRCS.
“The reserve provides an excellent opportunity to gain information on a wetland in the WRP as the restoration process is documented and all research findings are made available,” said Dr. William Eddleman, Southeast provost. “The potential to reach students and teachers is great.”
Southeast officials say the Missouri Department of Conservation will use the site for its teacher education programs about wetlands. Southeast students will research and visit the site on field trips, and local high schools, including Kelly High School located within five miles of the property, may use the site for field trips in the future as the ecology becomes more stable.
“The cooperative efforts of NRCS, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Southeast Missouri University Foundation will benefit many generations of future biologists and citizens,” Eddleman said.
Additional plans include development of the capability for water and moist soil vegetation management of the area, including drilling of a well. Improvements being made to the property currently include the creation of a small parking area, installation of a sign designating the location as the Miller Reserve — a program of Southeast, the NRCS, and the Missouri Department of Conservation — and a small storage shed.
Financial support for the reser
ve has come from several sources – the NRCS, the Georgia Lee Lawrence Fund and the Miller Reserve Endowment.
The NRCS provided more than $70,000 in funding for the project and owns the conservation easement on the property. All expenses relating to restoration of the property, including dirt work, landscaping, and planting of native vegetation, has been paid for by the NRCS.
Dr. Addison Lawrence and Dr. John Lawrence, sons of Georgia Miller Lawrence, established the Georgia Lee Lawrence Fund in memory of their mother to provide scholarships to graduate students in Southeast’s Department of Biology to conduct thesis research at the reserve. Recipients will be selected by the faculty in the Department of Biology.
The Lawrences also established the Miller Reserve Endowment to operate the reserve. Additional funds received by the University Foundation related to the use of the property have been placed in a restricted fund to be used for initial improvements on the property. The Miller Reserve is governed by a board led by Eddleman. Also serving on the board are University faculty members in biology and education, donors Addison Lawrence and John Lawrence, and representatives of the Southeast Missouri University Foundation, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the NRCS. Eddleman will designate one faculty member serving on the board to administer the reserve.
The property has been in the Miller family since the late 1920s, and is the portion inherited by Georgia Lee Miller Lawrence from her parents, Henry David and Laura Ann Koch Miller.
The charitable gift was established in 2008 by Lawrence in memory of her parents, Henry David and Laura Ann (Koch) Miller on Miller farmland donated by her children, Dr. Addison Lee Lawrence, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Southeast in 1956, and Dr. John Miller Lawrence, who earned a Bachelor of Science from Southeast in 1958, and her grandchildren, Addison Vorhees Lawrence, Duane Miller Lawrence, Mark Lee Lawrence, Glenn Lee Lawrence, Deborah Ann Gadin, David Ian Lawrence and Paul Stephen Lawrence.