June 28, 2023

Carolina Wildlands Foundation

Carolina Wildlands Foundation

Carolina Wildlands Foundation

July 2023  |  FMU Donor Report 2020-2022


Francis Marion University biology student Clay Tiller saw new things in October while conducting field research at Southern 8ths Farm in Chesterfield, S.C.

Tiller was one of five FMU students participating in a small-mammal research project at the approximately 1,500-acre farm. The university and the Carolina Wildlands Foundation are collaborating on a multiyear field study of small mammals at the Southern 8ths Farm.

It’s a chance for the students to earn academic credits and get paid according to Knowles.

The Carolina Wildlands Foundation offers two types of research grants – fellowships where a professor leads the research project and internships where the foundation and Southern 8ths Farm staff lead the projects. FMU’s project is a fellowship.

Brad Turley owns the Southern 8ths Farm and founded the Carolina Wildlands Foundation. FMU biology professor Travis Knowles received a grant from the foundation to conduct the research project.

Five students started the research project in fall 2022. Four of the five are participating in spring 2023. The students spend about 45 hours a semester performing their field research on weekends at Southern 8ths, Knowles said.

“The research projects are mentored by faculty members, but the students go up to his property, do a field study and present on it at the end of the semester,” Knowles said.

During the small-mammal study, Francis Marion University students learned field inventory techniques, including safety, data collection, handling and release. The students stayed overnight on the property, setting traps at dusk to capture rodents – mice, voles and rats – at night when they are most active.

The number of students going out and doing field research has declined, Knowles said.

“A lot of students don’t want to do much outside anymore,” he said.

The small-mammal study and a water-quality study will encourage students to go out in the field to conduct their research.

The FMU students set out humane live traps at night. When an animal is found, the students determine the species, place it in a clear bag to be weighed, measure, identify by gender and photograph it. The animal is released unharmed where it was found.

“On Sunday morning, we were able to catch another Eastern Harvest Mouse that we were able to measure and collect data from,” Tiller said. On his third weekend of trapping at Southern 8ths, Tiller said he watched a red-bellied woodpecker land on an old light pole.“It was a really cool experience to see such a beautiful bird that close and see all the details of its marking features,” Tiller wrote in a diary on the Carolina Wildlands Foundation website.

Turley said Tiller now is working part time at the Southern 8ths Farm and continuing to do field research.

Francis Marion University wants to expand its projects, Knowles said. The university’s Freshwater Ecology Center could help train students to collect water samples and test water quality.

“I know there is some interest in the department here to get some water quality sampling – get a grant from him to do that on his property,” Knowles said. Turley said he has talked to Freshwater Ecology Center Director Dr. Jeffrey Steinmetz about the water quality research project.

The students would go to Southern 8ths Farm and test the water quality of Thompson Creek and its tributaries, Knowles said.

Turley came to South Carolina from Connecticut in 2007. He initially purchased some acreage in Cheraw and later purchased additional acreage in Chesterfield, S.C., ultimately growing the land of mixed hardwoods, pines, planted pines, creek frontage and ponds into what it is today. Turley grew up in the Philadelphia area, which also is part of the Piedmont ecoregion. The land in Chesterfield, S.C., reminded him of his youth.

“The more I started to enjoy nature, I realized there are not a lot of young people getting into the business. If you look at most of the naturalists and scientists out there, they are baby boomers. They are older,” Turley said.

He established Southern 8ths Farm as a biological research station for universities and colleges in the region.

Francis Marion University President Dr. Fred Carter also talked with Turley.

“At Francis Marion, we continually look for ways to give our students experiential learning opportunities. In fact, that’s something that separates us from many other institutions,” said Carter. “The generosity of Brad to give us access to an incredible place like Southern 8ths Farm allows our students to have real experience in field biology.”

The Carolina Wildlands Foundation has collaborated with four universities – Francis Marion University, Winthrop University, Wingate University and Newberry College – on field research projects.



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