Cassel Woods is a 14.4 acres parcel of wooded land in the Oakport area of Moorhead, MN. It was donated to the Biological Sciences Department by Dr. Frank Cassel in 1996. This natural area has been used on and off for faculty and graduate research projects but had become over-run by invasive Buckthorn trees.
In 2016, the Department and Audubon Dakota formed a collaboration to restore Cassel Woods back to the Oak woodland it used to be. Dr. Matthew Smith worked with the Alumni Foundation and Audubon Dakota to enroll Cassel Woods in the Urban Woods and Prairie Initiative headed by Audubon Dakota. After several years of collecting ‘pre’-restoration data, the active removal of Buckthorn and restoration of Cassel Woods began in the winter of 2018. Audubon Dakota and students from Dr. Smith’s sophomore research course (BIOL 271) cut and burned the invasive tree in the first 4-acre plot. Students in BIOL 271 have been using Cassel Woods since the Fall of 2016 as the field site for a course in which they design and conduct their own authentic research project.
Students work in Cassel Woods not only collecting data but also helping to restore the woods. Restoration will continue as students continue to work on field projects.