The Stony Ford Center for Ecological Studies at Princeton University was established in 1967 by Millard and Margaret Meiss in memory of their son Michael. Stony Ford encompasses ninety-nine acres of former farmland about four and a half miles from the central Campus of Princeton University. Its land and facilities are open to students, faculty, and staff of the University for ecological and behavioral studies of plants, animals, and environment. The landscape is a mosaic of fields and woodlands, crossed by a small stream, Cleveland Brook, and bordered by the floodplain of a seasonally raging river, Stony Brook. The upland woods represent several stages of oldfield succession- initial establishment of herbs and woody plants (10-15 years), dominance of red cedar (20-50 years), ascendance of white ash (20-120 years), and a mixed community of oaks, hickories, maples, and beech (>120 years).
Soils are rocky to silty loams derived from locally weathered shale and argillite. Bedrock lies at the surface along the small stream and along several small upland ledges. The streambeds include clays weathered from upstream outcrops of diabase. Drainage varies with slope and with the grain of the soil. The plant communities vary accordingly, with sensitive fern indicating continual seepage, red maple and pin oak indicating seasonal swamp, and other oaks and hickories being found only on the best-drained sites.
Stony Ford is home to a herd of white-tailed deer and a flock of introduced wild turkeys, both of which conspire to prevent the establishment of a new generation of oaks, as well as biasing the distribution of other species. Indeed, a systematic account of just what further effects the deer and turkey have on the ecology of field and forest is an ideal topic for novel research at Stony Ford.
Flocks of white-throated sparrows and juncos arrive in November to spend the winter foraging on seeds. They and the resident chickadees, titmices, and associates provide many opportunities to study the effects of flocking and dominance hierarchies on physiology, food-finding, and avoiding predation.
Continuing research is being conducted by Professor Andrea Graham. All other Professors in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology are also happy to sponsor student work at Stony Ford.
There are many more opportunities for studies, particularly of: invertebrates, mosses, lichens, ferns, phenology, plant-animal interactions, adaptive architecture of plants, and spatial patterning in populations and ecological communities.