Touch of Nature Forest

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Touch of Nature aerial view
The Touch of Nature Forest serves as an outdoor learning laboratory for students studying forestry within the SIU College of Agricultural Sciences. The forest also provides opportunities for researchers from other parts of Southern Illinois University, other universities and colleges, federal and state agencies, and private organizations. Formerly known as SIU’s Outdoor Laboratory, the Touch of Nature forest has been the site of both short- and long-term studies for more than 50 years.


Touch of Nature offers guests, students and groups several opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking!

Forest Management Plan

The Southern Illinois University Department of Forestry is conducting or planning research and demonstration programs on forest plots and experimental fields throughout the forest. General graduate and undergraduate areas of research include forest management, silviculture, forest ecology, environmental education, wildland hydrology, agroforestry, forest management for wildlife, tree improvement, watershed management, forest soils, tree physiology, urban forestry, parks and wildlife management, and other studies associated with the SIU College of Agriculture.

Currently, graduate and undergraduate students in the SIU Forestry program are collecting field data to inventory the resources at the Touch of Nature forest. This data will be used to create a 10-year land management plan and a GIS database.

The GIS database has largely been completed, and inventories the natural and recreational resources at Touch of Nature. It includes a GIS inventory of the different forest stands, the areas where prescribed burns have taken place, the proposed hiking and biking trails, sugar maple stands, soil types, historical photos, where tree core samples have been taken, and where bioaccumulation factor (BAF) plots have been completed.

Treatments that will be focused upon include a combination of prescribed burns and thinning, along with invasive species removal.

A component of the land management project this next summer is to map habitat quality for different species. This will involve matching habitat requirements to inventories of habitat variables such as coarse woody debris, canopy cover, snag availability, leaf litter, etc.

Another aspect of the project will be to catalog the different research projects that have been done at Touch of Nature over the years.

SIU Student Green Fee



The many lakes, streams and rivers in Southern Illinois make an ideal laboratory for the SIU Center for Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.

fisheries ponds

Wildlife Research

Touch of Nature's 3,400 acres makes it an ideal location for wildlife research.  Find out how far predators like bobcats and coyotes will range to get a meal here

Wildlife research


Research Projects

Several ongoing research projects are underway which focus on the condition of the Forest.