The mission of the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway is to maintain and enhance quality of life within the region through programs in ecology and natural resource management that include integrated research, conservation, and education goals. The programs of the center are primarily supported by funding from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, and are also supported by competitive research grant programs. Center staff members work closely with such other organizations as universities, private nonprofit conservation organizations, and state and federal natural resource agencies.
The southeast border of Ichauway, located in Baker County, is formed by thirteen miles of the Flint River. Ichauway protects some of the richest species diversity of the southeastern coastal plain, with resources that include approximately 17,000 acres of mature longleaf pine woodlands, innumerable depression wetlands, 25 miles of streams, and 5,000 acres of old-field habitat.
Ichauway was assembled in 1929 for Robert Woodruff as a 29,060-acre quail-hunting plantation. The historical underpinnings for the development of the Jones Center, as well as for its strong emphasis on combining research, conservation, and educational outreach, originated with Ichauway’s strong conservation ethic. The site was also used to research malaria epidemics and wetland hydrology through the Emory University Field Station from 1939 to 1958.
Woodruff Foundation officials researched options for the best use of Ichauway following Woodruff’s death in 1985. They developed the center’s future goals after reviewing a comprehensive ecological inventory of the property. The center was named in honor of Joseph W. Jones, who was Woodruff’s longtime associate, a senior vice president of the Coca-Cola Company, and chairman emeritus of the Woodruff Foundation. By 1993 core staff members were hired in research, forest and wildlife management, and administrative support. In 1996 the staff moved into a newly constructed campus, where as of 2006 more than 100 employees and 25 graduate and undergraduate students from regional universities work on-site.
Research at the Jones Center investigates questions relating to the restoration and the conservation management, including prescribed burning, of longleaf pine ecosystems; conservation biology of rare species; and the development of economic opportunities through the integration of forest and wildlife management. Other focal points for research include wetland ecology and restoration, as well as watershed studies integrating land use, water quality, and surface-groundwater interactions.
The Ichauway site is used by the Jones Center as both an outdoor laboratory for research, conservation, and restoration of regional ecosystems, and as an educational demonstration site for ecology and natural resource management. Landowners, land managers, natural resource policy makers, conservation groups, and affiliated university classes are prioritized outreach constituents. Regional schoolteacher activities are conducted annually. Field demonstrations and workshops often relate to prescribed fire, longleaf pine forest ecology and sustainable management, ecological restoration of threatened ecosystems and wildlife habitat, traditional quail habitat management, threatened and endangered plants and wildlife, wetland protection and management, watershed conservation, and the importance of water resources and aquatic ecosystems in southwest Georgia.