Ecology

The Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve

The Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve is located just south of Vassar’s campus, and consists of both a multi-use area and a 415-acre Ecological Preserve. Organizations like the Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, and the Hudson Valley Corps of the Student Conservation Association are hosted in this space.

The Ecological Preserve comprises a multitude of habitats featuring a wide array of flora and fauna. The Preserve is a living laboratory for students and faculty at Vassar, and is also open to the community for hiking, biking, and running on a network of marked trails.

The Environmental Cooperative at Vassar Barn

Tree planting at Vassar College farm
Tree planting at Vassar Farm

The Environmental Cooperative brings together regional environmental organizations, community groups, educators, the Vassar College community, and residents to increase our impact and expand conservation efforts in the Hudson Valley. Their programs and initiatives deepen engagement with environmental issues both within the college and among area residents, supporting stronger connections between the two.

The Arboretum

Vassar's Arboretum is rich and historic, with hundreds of trees spanning 150+ years of history. A map of our recent tree census is available online. You can find the Tree ID # as a physical metal tag on most of the trees in the census, making it easy to look up a specific specimen you might notice on campus.

A Note on Tree Removal

Since it is capable of more or less continuously producing new branches, leaves, and roots, a tree should be able to live forever.  Trees such as the bristlecone pine, giant sequoia, and coast redwood are among the oldest living things.  Most of our campus trees do indeed have very long lives, so we naturally tend to regard them as permanent.  We find that perceived permanence comforting, and when a tree comes down we experience a disconcerting sense of sadness and loss.

Because our campus trees have such high ecological, emotional, and esthetic importance, it is the policy of the Arboretum Committee that a tree can be removed only if it has become a clear safety hazard, or it is too diseased or damaged to survive.  Even then, the decision is not taken lightly.  Removing a tree requires consensus among the four members of the Committee listed below.  If safety and esthetic considerations allow, a portion of the tree is retained as a snag, which provides wildlife habitat and allows the natural process of decay to occur.  The removal guidelines also call for replacement of each tree that is removed.

If you have concerns about the removal of a tree, or you’re worried that a tree has become a safety hazard, or you’d like to suggest an addition to the Arboretum, please reach out to the following team at sustainability@vassar.edu.

  • Dean Jaeger, Grounds Manager. 
  • Micah Kenfield, Sustainability Director, Co-chair of the Arboretum Committee. 
  • Jen Rubbo, Director of the Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns. 
  • Mark Schlessman, Professor of Biology, Co-chair of the Arboretum Committee.