The Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology (PLE) is a biological field station that is part of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Located in Northwestern Pennsylvania on the shores of Pymatuning Lake, PLE is dedicated to fostering the establishment of a sustainable culture through environmental education, field research in the natural and environmental sciences, and community involvement. Below, you will find brief descriptions of our facilities and the activities they support. Much more information is available on our website, PLE.PITT.EDU.
The Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology’s first building was built in 1952 (a small boathouse/laboratory that is still in use) at PLE’s Sanctuary Lake Site, adjacent to the State Fish Hatchery in Linesville, Pennsylvania. From this very modest beginning, the Sanctuary Lake Site has grown to include eight research labs, a stockroom, a computer lab, high-speed wireless internet and 24-hour emergency power back-up. This site also houses a library and five classroom/meeting rooms. A second site, our Housing Site provides accommodations for residents in a variety of housing types (dormitories, apartments, and cabins) in a lakeside setting. The Donald S. Wood Field Laboratory was added to our holdings in 2001 and offers researchers field space adjacent to a laboratory that is ideal for conducting large-scale replicated experiments. We also own or help steward an additional 135 acres of properties across three additional parcels that offer access to a variety of local terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
PLE provides researchers access to a diverse set of habitats and species and supports their work with well-equipped modern laboratory facilities. As a result, our facilities attract researchers from across the country working on an array of topics. The topics of ongoing studies range from animal behavior and disease ecology to plant community ecology, plant-animal interactions, and rapid evolution. PLE lands are located within a matrix of rural residential, agricultural and state lands that exhibit varying degrees of human impact, making them an ideal location for research on cross-cutting topics such as environmental degradation and sustainability in the mid-Atlantic region.
Educational programs at PLE complement the research that happens here. With undergraduate students drawn from a consortium of regional universities, our summer courses involve students in experiential learning across a breadth of basic and advanced topics in ecology and organismal biology as well as opportunities for student participation in directed research. These programs are distinctive in their focus on field- and lab-based learning and are an important component of STEM and pre-professional training for careers in the natural sciences and related fields.
Community programs at PLE are designed to support and enhance environmental education and stewardship in the region and make PLE’s research and education activities more accessible to the community. Our educational outreach programs are offered onsite and at local K-12 schools, and its public programs are designed to engage citizen scientists in research. In addition, our facilities are available for conferences and retreat gatherings by groups from regional universities and the surrounding community who seek to take advantage of the facility’s housing, meeting space, and natural surroundings.