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Herrick Aquatic Ecology Research Scholarship

Wetland Research Gets Boost From Benefactors

The Kent State University Board of Trustees on Jan. 29 designated a one-acre wetland study site on the Kent Campus as The Art and Margaret Herrick Aquatic Ecology Research Facility. The name honors the many contributions of Dr. J. Arthur Herrick, a professor emeritus of biological sciences, and his wife, Margaret H. Herrick, a professor emerita of speech pathology and audiology. 

Northeast Ohio is blessed with an abundance of wetland environments, which play a vital role in filtering impurities from our water. Faculty and students at Kent State

Art Herrick tends to flowers on the
Kent property he donated to
the university. Photo by Gary Harwood
are investigating the function of wetlands and the life they support within a series of experimental ponds constructed on the Kent Campus. Their research may provide clues regarding the construction of man-made wetlands – a vital concern due to widespread loss of natural wetlands as a result of urban sprawl and development.

The Herricks recently created an endowment that will generate $5,000 annually to support student research at the wetland site. The endowment was funded through the sale of their Morris Road home in Kent, which they had given to the Kent State University Foundation through a tax-wise planned giving strategy.

The chief designer and researcher of the newly constructed wetland is Dr. Ferenc de Szalay, a wetland ecologist and assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. “This unique wetland facility has tremendous research and teaching potential for many academic disciplines,” said de Szalay. “For example, last year 10 undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty conducted a wide variety of projects involving invertebrates, amphibians, plants, microbes and water chemistry. Several biology classes used this site as an outdoor teaching laboratory.”

The wetland is located off Campus Center Drive, just north of the Allerton softball field complex. Allerton Creek runs through the area, which is a part of the Cuyahoga River headlands. The research site became fully operational in summer 2003. Each pool is a small-scale version of a natural riparian (riverside) ecosystem where students can learn about wetland hydrology, water chemistry, and plant and animal diversity.  Conditions can be manipulated to meet research or teaching needs, and the design allows for statistical analysis of experimental data. Few other riparian research sites in the nation can be manipulated to this extent, said de Szalay. 

Because of their position between dry land and water, wetlands can remove, break down or transform many of the pollutants in water that harm aquatic life in streams, rivers and lakes. When the Allerton Creek floods, storm water “pulses” into its floodplain and slowly drains. In this way, wetlands prevent floodwaters from entering a creek in one big pulse and filter the water entering a stream.  This lessens the chance for remaining pollutants to overwhelm the stream’s delicate web of life.

This living laboratory is one of the wetland sites set aside to meet Environmental Protection Agency requirements for construction of the Student Wellness and Recreation Center. “Constructed wetlands are now often used to replace natural ones destroyed during urban development,” said de Szalay. “However, we don’t really know how constructed wetlands function, and the flood-pulsing concept has not been tested much on wetlands near small streams like Allerton Creek.”
It is especially fitting for the sale of the Herricks’ home to translate into support for a teaching laboratory for biology students, because the home used to serve the same purpose.  The 1.5-acre property on Morris Road features about 250 species of native plants, including 40 kinds of trees. Art Herrick often would bring students to the site for experience in field identification.

“Planned giving made it possible for me to use my property, during my lifetime, to create a legacy for Kent State students,” said Herrick. In 2001, the Herricks established a life estate, transferring ownership of their property to the foundation while retaining the right to live there. They also received a tax deduction. Donors who make this type of planned gift often live in their home during their lifetimes. The Herricks’ life estate matured early, as a result of their decision to move to the Laurel Lakes Retirement Community in Hudson.

“Kent State’s Planned Giving Office made it very cost-effective to provide significant support during my lifetime,” said Herrick. Most proceeds from the sale of the home were placed in an endowment to support undergraduate and graduate student research at the wetland site. A portion of the money was used to install a storage shed at the site. In addition, a donation from Dr. G. Dennis Cooke, also a retired faculty member, made it possible to purchase water-level data loggers.
The Herricks also have donated nearly $2.5 million to the university to establish the J. Arthur Herrick Endowed Chair in Plant Biology. They were the first donors to give more than $1 million prior to The Campaign for Kent State University.

Art Herrick has done more than perhaps anyone in Ohio to promote the appreciation and protection of significant natural areas. In addition to teaching generations of students from 1937 to 1972, he is one of the founding members of the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. In 2001 he was honored as “Ohio’s Conservation Hero,” one of 50 individuals, one from each state, to be selected nationally.

Also named for Art Herrick is a 140-acre wetland located in the Tinkers Creek watershed of Portage County.  The Nature Conservancy dedicated the Herrick Fen Nature Preserve in September 2001. Herrick purchased the original tract of land in 1969; it features a number of rare plants – remnants from the time glaciers covered Northeast Ohio 15,000 years ago. The nature preserve, now owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kent State University, is open to the public. 

- Megan Harding