Oldfield at UTM

It’s 3.5 hectares in size, and older than UTM. It was the beach of a glacial lake and is now our campus’s largest lab. Fortuitously, it’s largely been left alone for at least 80 years. It’s Oldfield—you may not have heard of it before, but UTM and its students are lucky to have to it.

Oakfield is a field bordering the Credit River and surrounded by forest on one side and a football field on the other. There’s no formal entrance, no crosswalk, and no lights to get you across to it either. Walk through it yourself and you might stumble across someone’s research. It’s been used for research by UTM going back to at least the late 1970s.

Oldfield is a technical term for abandoned farmland. Back in the mid-1800s, the forest that stood where Oldfield is today was cleared and used for pasture or for a hayfield or for both. It and UTM were part of the Schreiber (think Schreiber residence) family land holding. Our Oldfield was abandoned around the 1930s. When that happened, the surrounding forests moved back in. The result of all this has been the creation of what is both UTM’s largest science lab and something really beautiful.

Oldfield is home to singing insects, like field crickets, not found anywhere else in the immediate area. Researchers at UTM have used crickets from Oldfield to study sexual selection. Actually, all sorts of research has come out of Oldfield. PhD theses have come out of Oldfield and so have Research Opportunity Program projects helping UTM undergrads decide if a career of academic research is right for them. If you’re interested in trying out research one day then keep Oldfield in mind, but that isn’t the only thing noteworthy about it.

There are nature trails bordering Oldfield and going through it. If you need to get away from everyday life then you could do worse than to go for a walk along UTM’s natural trail and taking a stop at Oldfield. Keep on a lookout for jumping mice, shrews, white-footed mice, and voles. According to a mammal-trapping ROP project completed by a UTM student earlier this year, you can find them along the forest edge. The vegetation around the forest edge is also very palatable for deer, so keep a look out for them too. Just try not to trample on anyone’s research while you’re there.

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