The EcoStation

Wise Use of a Living Laboratory

Thanks to the vision of generous donors, the University of Minnesota Morris has the opportunity to create an environment where students will play a pivotal role in solving the problems facing our world.

Graced with ponds and prairie grasses, forest and farmland, these 140 acres outside Ashby, Minnesota, are more than mere wide, open space—they are the ideal setting for undergraduate students and scholars.

The EcoStation expands and complements the sustainability learning laboratory that has developed on the Morris campus and is already making possible an array of education, research, and creative activities on site—in fields as diverse as biology and creative writing.

Native prairie


The University of Minnesota Morris seeks to

  • strengthen its presence as a problem solver in the region and beyond,
  • expand leadership opportunities for its undergraduate students,
  • promote field research opportunities for UMN Morris and UMN (and other) researchers, and
  • expand the campus's living and learning laboratory

by establishing an educational and research facility at the EcoStation, a pristine location of 140 acres of mostly undeveloped land located about an hour north of the campus.

UMN Morris intends to put the EcoStation to wise use through the creation of a teaching, learning, and research laboratory facility on the property. The proposed facility will enhance the campus's ability to fully address the environmental challenges that confront us and contribute to an appreciation of and respect for the environment.

In the words of the EcoStation’s generous benefactor, “the potential of this outstanding center of environmental learning and research is bounded only by the imagination of the campus community.”


To provide a campus learning laboratory dedicated to promoting environmental stewardship through research, reflection, and discovery.

To accomplish this mission, UMN Morris articulates the following goals:

  1. Provide a physical space that encourages reflection, contemplation, and connection for undergraduate students, scholars, and others—a cultivated awareness of connections to the land and to the environment.
  2. Provide a space that demonstrates for the learners who come to it the importance of environmental conservation and preservation.
  3. Provide real-life, real-time opportunities for researchers interested in a variety of topics and to provide real life real time opportunities for faculty-mentored undergraduate research that promotes a sustainable environment and a sustainable future for west central Minnesota.
  4. Promote the development and pursuit of a curriculum grounded in application that fosters UMN Morris’s mission and that encourages environmental stewardship, environmental leadership, and active citizenship.
  5. Expand the capacity of the University of Minnesota to conduct meaningful educational opportunities and research in the west central part of the state.

Funding Priorities

  • Construction of state-of-the-art EcoCenter
  • An endowed fund to support the EcoStation program and EcoCenter facilities in conducting environmental education, research, and preservation in the region.
Birders at the EcoStation

Use of the EcoStation

Here are a few of the ways faculty, staff, and students have utilized the EcoStation to conduct research, instruction, and outreach:

  • Meteorological data collection
  • Glacial Geology class
  • Earthworm research
  • Tree canopy research
  • Herbarium specimen collection
  • Jazz Band retreat
  • Environmental Imagination class
  • Paper presentations and end-of-semester retreat
  • Human Resource Management class with sustainability focus
  • Flora/fauna surveys
  • Soil sampling

The addition of the EcoCenter will have an immediate and positive impact on the campus community.

The Proposed EcoCenter at the EcoStation

Drawing of a building in a forested area with reddish trees, a trail for walking, and lake in the background

With indoor and outdoor classroom and laboratory spaces for teaching and learning, the EcoCenter will foster a culture of exploration and innovation and contribute to an appreciation of and respect for the environment.

The proposed EcoCenter will bring us one step closer for realizing our vision for the EcoStation:

  • a fully operational, fully staffed, signature platform for the University of Minnesota Morris in its quest to tackle today's grand challenges.

The planned EcoCenter site will cover two acres at the EcoStation and include classrooms, lab, and gathering areas.

"The Ecostation provides UMN Morris with an unparalleled setting in which to investigate 21st Century challenges involving the environment, climate change, agriculture, and energy independence and security in west central Minnesota and beyond."

—Chancellor Emeritus Michelle Behr