Skip to main content

The Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station, a uniquely liberal arts field station, is a 250-acre patchwork of forest and pasture land in nearby Whately that provides opportunities for all members of the Smith community (students, faculty, staff, and alum) to pursue artistic inquiry, environmental research, outdoor education and low-impact recreation.  Students are integral to the field station: they help steward the land, design programs for their peers and participate in making key decisions in the operation of the field station. The Bechtel Environmental classroom provides meeting and dry laboratory space for MacLeish users. 

At MacLeish

Outside Bechtel Environmental Classroom, MacLeish Field Station, Whately, Mass.


Whether holding a meeting, launching a class into the surrounding woods, or warming up with a cup of tea, the classroom building is the hub for Field Station activities. The building contains a seminar and lecture space, a "dry" lab room, a small office, and a kitchenette. Constructed in 2012 with grant support from the S. D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the building was designated as the fifth fully certified Living Building, having completed the rigorous Living Building Challenge overseen by the International Living Futures Institute. The building’s innovative design is a teaching tool in itself and you are welcome to request a tour and visit.  The building is available for Five College classes, independent student projects, and staff functions and can be reserved on 25Live or contact Paul Wetzel, field station manager, at if 25Live is not available to you.


MacLeish Field Station represents a classic New England landscape with unlimited potential for faculty and student projects with guidance and support from the field station manager and other CEEDS’ staff. At MacLeish there is space to think big and try new ideas. Such as outdoor art projects and installations or taking a deep dive into New England landscape history. The multi-aged forests provide sites for environmental research, poetic inspiration, or the backdrop for dance or theater productions.  Current and old pastures encourage investigation into pasture management, field biology, or invasive plant species ecology and mitigation. Small streams and vernal pools provide locations for aquatic investigations. To discuss potential projects, contact Paul Wetzel, field station manager, at

The Arts Afield program is designed to encourage work in, and collaboration across, the arts, humanities, and sciences at the Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station. Named for an artist and a poet respectively, the field station has always been a truly liberal arts space, home to scientific research, art installations, dance programs, writing retreats, star-gazing programs, and much more. Arts Afield formalizes that commitment.

One aspect of the Arts Afield program is modeled on a common academic research station model, the Long-Term Ecological Research Program, and adapted for Smith’s liberal arts mission. Ten “research plots” for the arts and humanities have been created at MacLeish, where artists, visitors, and students alike are invited to pause, reflect, and create.

Arts Afield is an initiative of the Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability (CEEDS), and is co-chaired by Joanne Benkley, Associate Director of ES&P and CEEDS and Michele Wick, a lecturer in psychology.

Learn More:

To Understand a Tree, an ongoing, multi-disciplinary project of current Artist-in-Residence, Gina Siepel. 

Ecotones - the earthwork sculptures designed and installed at MacLeish by artist Gabrielle Russomagno.  Ecotones comprises two distinct temporal art works—The Tell of Grass (2021) and Grounding (2022)—made with materials harvested from the 190 acres of hilltop forest.  

Arts Afield Long-Term Ecological Reflection program plots on this website created by Tess Abbot ’19.

Weather conditions are monitored continuously in two locations at MacLeish: above the forest canopy atop a 25 meter tower and in a forest clearing at 2–10 meters above ground. Weather variables measured at both stations include atmospheric pressure, temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, and wind speed and direction. Soil moisture and temperature at various depths to 1 meter below ground are also measured at the forest clearing site. These data provide a record of localized weather conditions to support research projects at MacLeish. Please contact Paul Wetzel, field station manager, at (; 413.585.2646) for access to the weather and soil data.

A video camera mounted on the 25 meter tower records a daily photograph of the forest canopy at MacLeish ( This camera, and MacLeish, is a member of PhenoCam, An Ecosystem Phenology Camera Network, a network of 530 sites around the world. The latest image may be seen here:

The field station is also home to an EarthScope Station L61B seismometer. The three-component broadband sensors continuously sense, record and transmit ground motions from a wide range of seismic sources, including local and distant earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other natural and human-induced activities.

Visit MacLeish

Each year student interns working at MacLeish plan a number of events there. Past events have included music jams in the Bechtel Environmental Classroom and star-gazing under the station’s dark sky.

Check the Green Events Calendar for information about upcoming events and how to sign up.

The MacLeish Field Station is available year round for faculty research, field trips, and independent student projects. For more information, contact Paul Wetzel, field station manager, at

Challenge Course

The MacLeish Field Station is home to a “low elements” challenge course. This exciting resource was made possible by a generous donation from Trish Jackson, former vice president of development for the college, and was designed and constructed by High 5 Adventure of Brattleboro, Vermont.

The course and its facilitators engage student organizations, houses, outdoor programs, athletic teams, classes, student government leaders, residential life staff, and administrative and academic department members engage in safe and challenging activities that can bring groups closer together, reveal important issues about power dynamics, and improve communication strategies.

For more information, contact To inquire about use of the challenge course click here.

Field Archery Course

The Field Archery course at MacLeish allows archers to shoot at targets in varying outdoor settings. The course has seven stations with target distances that ranging from 5 to 45 yards and is located along the southern and western section of the Hemlock Trail (red markers).

The Field Archery course is available to the Smith community and outside groups with permission.  Use of the course requires special training. Please contact Paul Wetzel, field station manager, at

Overnight camping is limited to the Smith College community and visiting researchers. There are two designated camping areas and permission must be obtained by a formal request [see below], ideally seven days in advance. The group site is located north of the Chestnut orchard about ½ miles from the parking area and can accommodate 12 to 15 people. The remote campsite accommodates six to eight people and is on the northern boundary of the property.

Both campsites are primitive. Fires are restricted to the two campsites within designated fire rings. Fires must be small and cooking sized (no large fires) and must be extinguished fully before going to sleep or leaving. Collect dead wood from the ground only—no cutting of live wood or bringing off-site firewood is allowed.

To reserve overnight camping, use the online form.

For questions about overnight camping, contact Paul Wetzel, field station manager, at

Campfire Circle

The Campfire Circle has the best view at MacLeish and is a great place for a group campfire. Firewood, kindling, and seating for about 10 people are provided. Use of the fire circle is limited to the Smith College community.

To reserve the Campfire Circle, use the online form.

For questions about the Campfire Circle, contact Paul Wetzel, field station manager, at

Take a Virtual Tour of MacLeish

See and learn about all the ways you can use the field station for work and for leisure! Let Paul Wetzel, Field Station Manager, be your guide!

A Field Guide to MacLeish

Scientific inquiry flourishes at MacLeish Field Station, where students, faculty, and community members explore the beautiful and diverse ecosystem of plants and animals.

Research at MacLeish
Scientific inquiry flourishes at Smith's MacLeish Field Station.

Advisory Board

Andrew Berke

Faculty Director of CEEDS

Jesse Bellemare

Biological Sciences

Paul Wetzel

Field Station Manager

Amy Rhodes


Scott Johnson

Outdoor Adventures

Christiane Métral

French Studies