Richard Niesenbaum: Great Teachers, Great Courses

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Dr. Niesenbaum's Field Biology and Plant Ecology class is just one of many groups of Muhlenberg students to use the 63-acre Graver Arboretum, located in Bushkill Township, Pennsylvania.

Niesenbaum is a professor of biology and director of the sustainability studies program at Muhlenberg College.

The Arboretum, donated to Muhlenberg in 1994 by Dr. Lee Graver '31 and Virginia Graver, is the result of decades of careful effort. An endowment, established by the Gravers in 1995, ensures that the location will be protected, preserved and future generations can continue to enjoy nature at the site for years to come.

"It's important for our students to have a place where they can conduct field work in a natural setting," says Niesenbaum. "This is basically a private laboratory for our students, where they can come set up experiments, leave them out and not worry about them being destroyed or impacting, say, a public park."

Graver Arboretum's acres harbor wildflowers, ferns, rhododendrons and native and rare trees — including more than 150 species of conifers — and consist of wetlands, wooded areas and cultivated and agricultural fields in the process of returning to a natural state.

"I'm addressing a basic ecological question," says Amanda Meier '13, one of the many students who use Graver for research purposes. "Having the Arboretum is a definite benefit; my research would not be possible if I was just in a lab."

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