Research at the McLean Game Refuge

We are engaged in many research initiatives across the Game Refuge and work collaboratively with wildlife biologists, botanists, archaeologists, and forest scientists from a variety of universities and conservation organizations. Below is a sampling of our larger projects.

Current Research

Tick Sampling
The McLean Game Refuge is currently hosting scientists from the Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station (“CAES”) who are conducting tick sampling as part of a state-wide deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) assessment funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CAES scientists are sampling at established locations along trails and forest roads to better understand the population dynamics of deer ticks and the frequency with which they carry pathogens that are harmful to humans.

For more information click here or contact Scott Williams at: Scott.Williams@ct.gov.

Connecticut Bird Atlas
The McLean Game Refuge is partnering with professionals from the Connecticut Bird Atlas to assess the diversity and distribution of birds that settle in our landscape to breed each year. This effort complements the ongoing wildlife monitoring we conduct at the Game Refuge and helps us complete our comprehensive bird survey.

For more information about the CT Bird Atlas click here.

Vegetation Survey: 40-year Assessment
Since 1979, the McLean Game Refuge has been conducting decadal surveys of the trees and plants at fixed plots scattered throughout our forests. This year, we are working with graduate students from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies to complete a 40-year review of the data to understand how our forests have changed over time and how to improve our monitoring into the future. We plan to make a summary available on our website when the work is completed.

Champion Trees
Over the past two years, we have been collecting size and age data for large and old trees throughout our forests. So far we have found hemlocks over 230 years old, white pine trees over 145 feet tall, and oak trees over 4 feet wide. We hope to share some of our results on our “News” page soon.

Summer Forest Ranger Kelly measures a 150-year-old red oak growing on the slopes of West Mountain.

Past Research

Forest Inventory
In 2017, the McLean Game Refuge completed a comprehensive inventory of the entire property. Unlike our decadal survey, this was a much more nuanced look into our forests to help us better understand the spatial distributions of forest types, the extent of damage caused by invasive forest pest and pathogens, the diversity of wildlife habitats provided by our forests, and many other qualities. It is an invaluable tool in helping us make wise management decisions related to wildlife and ecosystem health.

Habitat Improvement Project
In 2002 and 2003, the McLean Game Refuge conducted a Habitat Improvement Project (“HIP”) through a series of targeted silvicultural treatments. The HIP was designed to increase the diversity of habitats available to wildlife by selectively removing portions of the tree canopy across approximately 200 acres of second-growth forest. Post-completion reviews clearly show the forest has increased vertical and horizontal structural diversity as well as expanded habitat niches for birds more commonly found at forest edges and in open areas.

The Yale Study
Between 1979 and 1981, graduate students from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies conducted a thorough study of the McLean Game Refuge for the Board of Trustees. They inventoried the vegetation, soils, geology, waterways, and wildlife across the property and surveyed the visitors who came to recreate. Using the data they collected, the graduate students prepared a comprehensive assessment which included management recommendations for conservation and recreation. They also established permanent vegetation survey plots and conducted the first survey of our now 40-year decadal vegetation survey.

1967 Natural Areas Study
In 1967, a division of Connecticut DEEP Called the State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut published a study titled “The Natural Areas of the McLean Game Refuge”. This study, conducted by Frank E. Egler and William A. Niering, offers a sophisticated description of the geologic and climatic events that formed the underlying bedrock and the surface topographic features of the Game Refuge. Additionally, their study also details the diversity and distribution of the plant communities that dominated the Game Refuge over fifty years ago.