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Academic Excellence at Dixie Plantation

Each month, our academic excellence SPOTLIGHT will feature a faculty/student research project or one of our environmental partners at Dixie to illustrate this dynamic living laboratory and urban refuge.

birds at dixie

Biology professor Melissa Hughes and her students do bird surveys in her Ornithology class. She usually takes the class to Dixie once or twice per semester.

“We walk along one of the three transects I set up out there many years ago, and count species of birds that we hear and/or see,” Hughes shares. “One transect is along the path that runs past the ponds then through the fields; one is along the road that runs through the part of the property across the road; one is at the far end of that road, up near the highway, where there's a little wetland area. The habitat diversity at Dixie is fascinating.”

As a field biologist, Hughes understands too that on some days she will not find anything on the field.

“I'm just trying to give them the experience of being a field biologist in these little snippets of time,” says Hughes. “It's like training to be a surgeon by looking at snapshots of surgery.  You can see something of what it's like, but to really learn, you need to get out there and just do it because every day is different in the field.”

Hughes completed her post-doctoral work at Duke, Princeton and the Free University of Berlin. She enjoys reading, kayaking, bird watching and any water-related activities.

Learn more about the birds of Dixie Plantation.


Dixie Plantation is private land and governed by a conservation easement over the entire property. The easement is very specific as to how the natural resources on the property may be used and accessed. Trespassing onto the property and harming the flora and fauna within it are strictly prohibited and violators will be vigorously prosecuted.