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Selman Living Laboratory

Contact: Gloria Caddell, Ph.D., Dean

The Selman Living Laboratory is a field research and teaching facility located in Woodward County in northwestern Oklahoma. It is the official field station of the biology department at the University of Central Oklahoma. The Selman Living Laboratory (SLL) provides a wide array of natural environments, including large bat caves for research and teaching. Full living accommodations are available on site. We invite researchers and students from all majors to use this site or contact the UCO 's Department of Biology about research and course opportunities. The Selman Living Laboratory is recognized as a Natural Heritage Site by Oklahoma Biological Survey.

History of the Laboratory

The site is part of the historic Selman Ranch, originally homesteaded in the early 1900s. Prior to that, it served as grazing lands leased from the Cherokee by large cattle companies. The Selman Living Laboratory field station was established through UCO's long-standing educational involvement with the Selman Ranch. Because of her interest in education, Mrs. Betty Selman wanted the Selman Cave System preserved as an education and research site. The SLL was established in 1998 with a $300,000 grant from the Oklahoma State Department of Tourism, which provided funds to purchase the cave system. To protect the surrounding watershed and the cave, Mrs. Selman donated an additional 129.5 hectares (approximately 320 acres) to UCO. 


Two grants from the National Science Foundation funded a mobile home with restrooms, office area, and small kitchen, along with a tornado-safe multi-purpose building. Additional private funding provided bunkhouses, a small classroom, a storeroom, two restroom buildings with showers, and two astronomy domes. 


The SLL is located in the Cimarron Gypsum Hills, which is topographically dominated by rolling hills and plains.  It is a karst area of escarpments that have developed on interbedded Permian gypsums and shales.  Permian Redbed deposits of red sandstones and siltstones are locally common.  Caverns have resulted from ground water flow dissolving away the gypsum.  The topography and geology of the area contribute to a unique ecosystem.  For example, the Cimarron Gypsum Hills are unique from a herpetological aspect in that certain western species are more or less restricted to these hills in Oklahoma (Lardie 1978; Lardie and Black 1981).


The SLL is located in the Mixed-grass Plains region of Oklahoma.  Approximately 230 plant species (including gypsophilous forms) have been identified on the site (Buckallew and Caddell, 2003).  Both sod and bunchgrass forms occur.  Common grasses include little bluestem, sand bluestem, silver bluestem, Indian grass, switch grass, grama grasses, and buffalo grass.  Sandy areas support sand sage, sand plum, and sumacs.  Trees include hackberries, elms, cottonwood, chittamwood, and willow.  Prickly pear and small cacti, various mosses, ferns, and liverworts, as well as a large variety of flowering annuals and perennials occur.  Wetland plants include cattails, rushes, sedges, water cress and various algae.


The SLL exists in a semi-arid region with an average temperature of 56.55°F and average annual rainfall of 26.85 inches. 


The SLL is located approximately nine miles SW of Freedom in northwestern Oklahoma, 26 miles from Woodward, Oklahoma and 40 miles from Alva, Oklahoma. The nearest cross-streets to the SLL are N2110 Rd and E0210 Rd.