Wild Basin Living Database

St. Edward’s University School of Natural Sciences
Awarded $200,000  
W.M. Keck Foundation Grant

Students and faculty will collaborate to create living database of Wild Basin ecosystem

The St. Edward’s University School of Natural Sciences is the recipient of the prestigious W.M. Keck Foundation grant in the amount of $200,000. The foundation’s grants support medical, science and engineering research.

The W.M. Keck grant will be used by the School of Natural Sciences to develop a living database of the ecosystem at the university’s Wild Basin Creative Research Center. This interdisciplinary project — the joint effort of science students in the field and computer science students — involves the development and construction of a digital database that models relationships among species at the Wild Basin preserve. Among the areas of focus are the white-tailed deer population and its effect on the golden-cheeked warbler, and the spread of the non-native plant Ligustrum and its impact on soil, local insect population and golden-cheeked warbler population. 

“This grant allows us to expand classroom and research opportunities for faculty and students across multiple disciplines. K–12 schools and universities will have the opportunity to utilize the living database for educational and scholarship purposes as well,” said Thomas Mitzel, dean of the School of Natural Sciences at St. Edward’s University.  “We hope this project will reach educational and scholarship programs across the globe, highlighting the interactions of species at the Wild Basin preserve and within Central Texas.”

Students in the field will be trained to study the deer population and ecosystem. Computer science students will be trained to build the database infrastructure and to handle incoming data used to model species relationships. Both groups will lead discovery-based experimental work in their areas while collaborating to construct the overall database design.

A key component of the university’s strategic plan is to be a top liberal arts university by providing an academically challenging learning environment for students. This includes learning opportunities outside of the classroom, which Wild Basin provides with a multifaceted ecosystem found nowhere else on earth. The area serves as a safe haven for eight endangered species and 27 species of concern, including the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo.

In 2009, Wild Basin was acquired by St. Edward’s University. Students and faculty from all academic programs make use of Wild Basin Creative Research Center to enrich their learning. The St. Edward’s Noyce Scholars engage in math and science education as they explore water quality issues. The School of Behavioral and Social Sciences stages mock crime scenes for students in Forensic Science courses. Art students in the School of Humanities use  the center to develop their portfolios, collect data for publication purposes and prepare exhibitions.

W. M. Keck Foundation

Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical, science and engineering research.  The Foundation also maintains an undergraduate education program that promotes distinctive learning and research experiences for students in the sciences and liberal arts, and a Southern California Grant Program that provides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth from low-income families, special needs populations and safety-net services.  For more information, please visit www.wmkeck.org.  

Youtube Video made by students doing Keck Research - 2014

2014 Research Presentation