I’m a 5th year Landscape Architecture major at the University of Florida with minors in Environmental Horticulture and Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. The curriculum for the Landscape Architecture department requires 5th year seniors to complete a Senior Capstone project. The scope and scale of the project is ultimately of our choosing, but should demonstrate comprehension of the degree’s curriculum. I have chosen to do my capstone project at the Lemur Conservation Foundation’s Myakka City Lemur Reserve. The MCLR has been very gracious in allowing me to use the reserve as the subject of my capstone project and it has been an awesome opportunity that I would like to share.
At the beginning of the fall semester of 2012, when we were to start searching for projects that we could use for our capstones, I knew that I wanted to do a project that involved wildlife conservation and perhaps habitat/exhibit design. I have always been fascinated by wildlife ecology and have always been interested in its intersection with landscape architecture, so this was an obvious path to choose as far as subject areas for my project. I initially started looking around for zoos that might have future plans for expansion, and in doing so, came across Stacey Tarpley’s blog entitled Designingzoos.com. Stacey is a landscape architect that works for a firm specializing in destination design (theme parks, resorts, zoos, etc.) In September 2012, Stacey made a blog post about the reserve, and that’s how I initially found out about it (http://designingzoos.com/2012/09/05/dz-visits-the-lemur-conservation-reserve/). The MCLR seemed like a very interesting, unique, and beautiful space for a capstone project so I contacted Stacey and then contacted Pattie Walsh and Lee Nesler at the MCLR to set up a visit so that I could tell discuss my project.
With the reserve’s blessings, I started researching and analyzing the 100 acre site to better understand what I could do, not only as a school project, but to help the reserve with design ideas for future development. I drew upon resources such as interviews with Lee Nesler and Patti Walsh, GIS, Google Earth, on-site analysis, as well as reading through publications from various scientific journals to learn about the existing conditions of the site and its most important users: lemurs! A synthesis of the information researched led me to establish the following goals and objectives for this project:
- Lemur Goals
- Create habitat for the Lac Alaotra bamboo lemur (Hapalemur griseus alaotrensis) using the site’s marsh areas and thus, start a conservation breeding program for Hapalemur griseus alaotrensis in the United States.
- Maximize “ideal habitat” within existing forest enclosures
- Design the Red Dog Woods area of the reserve to be a multiple ecosystem forest enclosure
- Visitor/Staff Goals
- Create more on-site housing for visiting field research students and other guests
- Include program elements that will allow the site to be more self-sustaining
- Veterinary building
- Greenhouses for browse production
- Fruit tree grove for on-site fruit production
- Environmental goals
- Maximize the use of a sustainable and non-consumptive design approach.
- Preserve the appearance of the natural Florida landscape where possible.
I then explored multiple concepts for the site. I’m exploring the idea of having a large water moat encircle the forest enclosure that will one day be Red Dog Woods. This would eliminate the need for maintenance of chain-link fencing around the enclosure which has, in the past, been compromised by feral hogs. It will also give the enclosure a naturalistic appearance. Important considerations have been grading the bank of the water barrier with a very gentle slope for the safety of the lemurs, having a consistent water supply for the barrier, and creating sufficient water flow through the water barrier so that it doesn’t become stagnant. I am also exploring the idea of having a small “eco-bungalow” village on-site for housing field researchers and other guests that the reserve hosts. Eco-bungalows are a type of small, sustainable housing units. They can be found throughout the world, usually as a part of eco-lodges. These sustainable huts would be a low-cost option for on-site housing that would give students and scientists a Madagascan field research experience.
As the deadline for the project (April 18) draws near, I will solidify my design decisions and start the production of a master plan for the site as well as producing enlargements of key areas of the site including the bungalow village, Red Dog Woods, a redesigned Toomey woods, and a new entry area.
I could not have chosen a better place for my capstone. The staff at the Lemur Conservation Foundation has been amazing and continues to facilitate my project, and I am very thankful to them. LCF’s mission is a very important one, and I hope that the development ideas that I present through this project will help LCF as it grows into the future.