Through the leadership of an executive director and advisory board–and with input from AUM, community partners, representatives from local schools, state regulatory groups, and local government–RHERI’s vision is two fold.
To create a safe, free, and easily-accessible place where the community can explore the past, present, and future of Alabama land use.
To create a research facility that explores the nuanced interplay between land-use, ecology, agriculture, and urban environments.
Visitors to the RHERI will discover the natural beauty of the ecosystems that dominated the Montgomery area prior to European settlement, learn about plants utilized by Native Americans, and discover how European- and American-style farming altered the landscape. They will be able to understand:
The role of sharecroppers and tenant farmers in maintaining the farming land-use model
How the shift away from farming allowed some native plants to return while also creating a less biodiverse ecosystem home to a large number of invasive species
What is necessary to return degraded habitat back to a native ecosystem
The impact of various land-use decisions to individuals and the community
The benefits of restored native space
The challenges that exist in creating healthy ecosystems in both rural and urban settings
Educators will find intentional connections with AUM through teacher training programs, mentorships and volunteer opportunities. Educators and learners will have access to summer programming and ongoing field trips to experience/use the outdoor classrooms and educational spaces.
Ph.D. (2005) Auburn University in Biology
BS (1998) Florida Institute of Technology in Marine Biology
Dr. Ward’s research focuses are on immunology and stress physiology as it relates to temperature and changing environments. She also has interested in latitudinal gradients in stress physiology, immunology, and metabolism in Anurans.