College of Charleston site to get modern

Alice Dull // The Post and Courier

These live oaks that line the former entrance to Dixie Plantation make up but a small part of the site’s many natural offerings.

College of Charleston faculty and students have been using the rustic Dixie Plantation for outdoor learning and research for more than a decade.

But the 881-acre property in Meggett, with its striking views of the Stono River, has no facilities to sort or work with data and no wireless Internet access to transmit it, said Mike Auerbach, dean of the college's School of Sciences and Mathematics.

A $1 million grant from the Spaulding-Paolozzi Foundation is about to change that.

The school plans to use the money to build two field research stations on the property, Auerbach said. "This is something we've been trying to accomplish for a long, long, long time."

The stations will be simple, 3,000-square-foot buildings with sinks, benchtops, bathrooms and wireless Internet access, he said. And they will be built in different types of habitats on the plantation.

He said he expects the buildings to be complete, and professors and students to be using them, within the next two years. "The timeline is aggressive," he said.

The plantation can be used for research in biology, ecology, environmental studies, geology and archeology, he said. And the uses might be expanded in the future, he said. For instance, the plantation's location, 17 miles from the city lights of Charleston, would be a good spot for astronomy students to watch the sky.

The facilities also could make it easier to offer more learning activities for the public, he said.

John Henry Dick, a naturalist and artist who drew and photographed thousands of birds, donated the plantation to the College of Charleston Foundation in 1995 as part of his estate.

College of Charleston President George Benson said, "This grant will help further efforts by the college to protect and preserve our Lowcountry ecosystem while providing extraordinary research opportunities for our students and faculty."

The land comprises a variety of mini-ecosystems, including long-leaf pine habitat, wetlands, marsh, brackish ponds, agricultural lands and meadows.

The Spaulding-Paolozzi Foundation was launched by Countess Alicia Paolozzi to support the environment, sustainable agriculture and issues that affect the elderly and women.