The Conservation and Environmental Research Area (CERA) is a 50 acre protected natural area on campus established in 1997 thanks to the efforts of Dr. Eugene ‘Sandy’ Parker, Chair of the Geography & Environmental Systems (GES) Department. When plans to expand the campus through the development of a research park arose, the campus carefully set aside space to remain forested in response to concerns on the environmental impacts of the development. The Landscape Stewardship Committee was created to ensure the campus has a say in managing open space and the land on campus in an ecologically responsible manner. The committee was established at the request of faculty, who along with students, played a major role in advocating for the environment as a priority in campus planning.
CERA is used every semester as a living lab for professors and students alike. There are at least 9 courses including Science 100, GES 220, and GES 286 all go to CERA as a part of their class. In SCI 100 over 700 students annually study the science of water. GES 220 students learn field techniques and use their new skills to develop their own projects. GES 286 introduces students to the world of satellite imagery and GPS technology. UMBC students are given the unique opportunity and support to conduct independent student research as well as faculty research in the campus itself.
The larger tract of CERA, covering approximately 45acres of the south end of the main campus, is composed of a wide variety of ecological conditions: mature upland forest, early- and mid- successional forest, and riparian and wetland environments. The second, and much smaller CERA area (~3 acres), surrounds CERA Pond. In addition to teaching opportunities for faculty, CERA offers a wide range of opportunities for students and faculty to undertake short and long term research projects in a variety of disciplines. Management of CERA is guided by the need to maintain these landscapes as natural areas to be preserved and protected for approved uses in education, research and wildlife observation.