Skip to main content
Western Kentucky University


The WKU Elizabethtown-Fort Knox campus will be closed Saturday, January 24 due to inclement weather.

WKU Green River Preserve

WKU Green River Preserve: Mission

The Green River Preserve (GRP) comprises 1,520 acres of land, and stretches across both banks of the Green River in Hart County, Kentucky. The mission of the WKU Green River Preserve is to foster knowledge and protection of this highly diverse region and our natural heritage through research, education, and conservation.


Habitats and Species: Land and Water

The habitats of the Preserve include bottomlands, uplands, barrens, caves, limestone glades, and of course, the river itself. The Green River and its tributaries are centers of biological diversity for freshwater mussels and fish, hosting over 150 fish species and 71 mussel species. GRP lands surround several mussel beds, including one where nine federally listed endangered mussels have been documented. A large spring known as McCoy Blue Hole is located on the tract north of the river; it empties an underground karst drainage of 34 square miles, and an endangered cave shrimp has been recorded from the  groundwater basin that feeds this spring. Two federally endangered bat species have been recorded from caves on the Preserve property, and the land serves as swarming habitat for bats. The Preserve also provides critical breeding and migratory habitat for neotropical songbirds along the Green River corridor.

 Download this summary and presentation for additional details about the breadth and depth of education, research, and conservation at the GRP, including cultural conservation and restoration of the historic Gardner House. We're excited about the students, researchers, and citizens that have made the Preserve the special place it has come to be. We invite you to become a Friend of the Green River Preserve and grow along with us!


News and Events

Happy Holidays! We’re thankful for you, and for all you do with and at and for the Preserve. Thank you for being part of our community. Here is a plateful of recent events, and for dessert, some upcoming events and plans. We’ve been busy this fall with classes, research, and community events.

Community -

At the end of September we invited everyone to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the opening of the Preserve. The historic Gardner House and its archaeological site were open for tours, lots of people took canoe trips or splashed in the Green River, and there was plenty to eat at the field house at lunchtime. The speakers were inspiring: Superintendent Sarah Craighead, Colonel Aaron Barrier, Dr Richie Kessler, Dr Albert Meier, Victoria Peters, Kristina Medeso, Dr Darlene Applegate, Dr Terry Wilson, Dr Gordon Baylis, and WKU President Dr Gary Ransdell. Here’s an excerpt by one of our students, Victoria Peters:

“The Preserve is not just a piece of land but a symbol that represents growth and the pursuit of knowledge. More importantly to the students that work here it represents our passions, aspirations, and the potential of our generation…. When I am in the Preserve and I hear the sounds of the birds and the insects on a summer day I heard a symphony more beautifully composed than any created by man, and when I look around and see the rolling hills and the Green River rushing past me I see a landscape more perfect than any painted masterpiece. I am awed and humbled by the beauty that is surrounding us and in moments like these I fully appreciate that opportunity that I have been given to come and conduct my research here. Nothing inspires me more as a scientist and as a human being than when I am in the field and I feel the soil under my feet and the bark of the trees under my hands and know that what I am doing could help others.”  You can read the full text of Victoria’s speech here.

During the weekend of November 7-9, we were honored to host wounded veterans for a fifth annual deer management hunt. This activity helps control the deer population and prevent overbrowsing, and we’re grateful to have the opportunity to provide these veterans “a place of rejuvenation…in one of Kentucky’s wild places” (Chuck Reed, Director of Kentucky Wounded Heroes). Thanks to Chuck and to all the volunteers and veterans who made this happen, especially Garland Logsdon and the Horse Cave Volunteer Fire Department, Dr Mike Stokes, biology students, and many other volunteers. Something extra special happened that weekend - a veterans memorial flag pole and stone tablet near the GRP entrance were dedicated. Thanks to the initiative and energy of Curtis McDaniel for envisioning and organizing this honor. All materials and labor were donated: Modern Woodmen of America was a major donor for the project, and many others as well contributed labor, materials, or funds. A News-Herald article with photos is here, and another photo here.

Classes -

This fall has seen visits from WKU classes in environmental education, advanced ecology, entomology, wildlife management, aquatic ecology, and vernacular architecture; an NKU geophysics class; a Lindsey Wilson College environmental science class; and visits from Hart County High School science students and teachers.

This is a little of what REALLY went on during those visits: teachers discovering how best to inspire students outdoors; students looking at how forest composition changes in response to a gradient of soil moisture; capturing and identifying a huge diversity of insect species and communities from different habitats; figuring out how to best manage populations of deer (abundant now, but nearly extinct 100 years ago); canoeing and wading in streams to see and better understand mussels, fish, crayfish, stream insects, algae, and river dynamics; investigating 200 years of human activity by sequencing the changes in a brick house; using geotechnical equipment to see underground into the soil and rock of earth history; comparing human-environment interactions now and in the past; and discovering how to ask and answer science questions while observing plants and animals in the window of an autumn transition.

Thanks to every professor, teacher, and student engaged in the process – you make the magic happen.

Conservation and Research –

A bat survey at the new Lawler Bend tract, led by Zack Couch (DOW Wild Rivers), was featured on a WKU PBS segment – you can see an 8-minute video clip here. A thorough plant survey of the new Lawler Bend tract has just been completed by Dr Julian Campbell. Removal of exotic plants continues. Endangered black sandshell and pink mucket mussels grown out this summer at the MCNP mussel rearing facility, hosted at the Preserve, reared under the guidance of Dr Monte McGregor (KDFWR), were released into the Green River.

We’re thrilled that the Preserve is a place for research in multiple disciplines. Here are some of the master’s degree students who have recently finished or are currently working on research projects that involve the GRP (links given to theses already available online). We’re very proud of these students, and are grateful for their formal and informal advisors.

Biology: Nicholas Levis studied the interactive effects of UV-B exposure and glyphosate herbicide on salamanders. Elizabeth Malloy compared food web dynamics along a longitudinal gradient of the Green River. Gregory Barren is working on comparing diatom communities in the Green River, and Megan Grandinetti is looking at how decay processes in streams for tree leaves and algae affect stable isotope ratios. Last year David Kem finished a study of the effects of fire on spring-flowering herbaceous plants. Matthew Buchholz has just begun a study of parasites of small mammals (mice and voles) at the GRP. An undergraduate honors student, Victoria Peters, is studying influences of a buried karst valley on the growth of tree saplings in the Green River floodplain.

Geography and Geology: Kegan McClanahan recently completed a study of carbon cycling dynamics in the Green River, and Laura Osterhoudt studied weathering of carbonate rock and water chemistry in the Green River basin; these master’s thesis projects included the GRP as a study site or reference point.

Folk Studies and Anthropology: Nick Schaedig is earning his master’s degree in Folk Studies and Anthropology with his current work on restoration of the historic Gardner House; Virginia Siegel recently finished her master’s while working on the house as well.

Upcoming events -

Photos! We’re thinking that this winter could be a good time to get our photos organized and maybe uploaded to the WKU digital archives online so that they’re permanently available for future reference. If you have GRP photos of any sort you’d be willing to share, please email them to or send us a link to your flickr, photobucket, google+, dropbox or other cache, or we can give you a place to deposit them. Details about location, date, people and critters in your photos would be great. If you’re working on a project with repeat visits over time, please think about taking a series of photos each visit from the same vantage point. We’d love to feature them - seasonal change is fascinating. Video clips are also welcome. What’s merely interesting now could be important comparison information in 10 or 50 or 100 years.

In January we’ll be organizing a couple of stargazing trips to see winter constellations and the Milky Way (let us know if you’re interested). Dr Andrew Wulff’s field geology students will spend a couple of days mapping the geological layers of the GRP. In spring Dr Bella Mukonyora will host a week-long retreat with an interfaith group of religion scholars focusing on responses to and connections to place. Grad student Nick Schaedig will teach a late-May course on field methods in historic preservation at the Gardner House. If you’d like to teach or take a class at the GRP this summer, or want to propose a project, let us know - we’re making plans for formal and informal opportunities!

With thanks for you, on behalf of the whole GRP community,


Dr Ouida W Meier
WKU GRP Director for Management, Education and Outreach


Want to receive occasional Green River Preserve news? Email . Thanks for your interest!

Donation buttonYou can support the work of the WKU Green River Preserve!

Logo showing river flowing between landforms shaped like two mussel shells

This special symbol of the Preserve, using the shapes of mussel shells as landforms on either side of the Green River, was created by Mina Doerner.


This land was purchased with Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Funds

Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view,
download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Note: documents in Excel format (XLS) require Microsoft Viewer,
download excel.

Note: documents in Word format (DOC) require Microsoft Viewer,
download word.

Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer,
download powerpoint.

Note: documents in Quicktime Movie format [MOV] require Apple Quicktime,
download quicktime.

 Last Modified 12/16/14