Welcome to Powdermill Nature Reserve


Powdermill Nature Reserve, the environmental research center of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, has been dedicated to its mission of research, education, and conservation for more than 50 years. It is a place for scientists, for students, and for families who are interested in the natural world. The Powdermill bird migration research program is home to the one of the longest continually running bird banding stations in the United States. A wide variety of public education programs serve children and adults. Researchers from around the world conduct diverse long- and short-term scientific studies in herpetology, botany, invertebrate zoology, and ornithology.

What's New...

Hunting Permits

Powdermill Nature Reserve offers visitors an opportunity to enter into a lottery for hunting permits on the grounds of the reserve each year. There are a limited number of hunting permits available. Learn more about the 2017 hunting permits. 

Would you like to learn more about some of the research going on at Powdermill Nature Reserve?

Read more about a major new forest ecology research project involving researchers from Carnegie Museum of Natural History and nine universities.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History Pennsylvania Unconventional Natural Gas Wells Geodatabase 

Download the latest version.

New Educational Programming

Learn more about Powdermill's Weekend and Evening programming.

About Powdermill

Powdermill was established in 1956 to serve as a field station of Carnegie Museum of Natural History for long-term studies of natural populations—their life histories, behaviors, and ecological relationships.


Powdermill Nature Reserve is both a place and a philosophy. It stands as a symbol of the human vision—both scientist and philanthropist alike. The museum's need for a natural area which could be used as a laboratory and preserved for the study of natural processes was understood and outlined in 1948 by Dr. M. Graham Netting (pictured at right), then Assistant Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Since he believed the Ligonier Valley to be the finest natural area in western Pennsylvania, he personally instituted a search for a suitable site for his vision.

In 1956, General and Mrs. Richard K. Mellon and Dr. and Mrs. Alan M. Scaife presented to Carnegie Institute, for the use of the Natural History Museum, eleven tracts of land totaling 1,160 acres, beginning about three miles south of Rector. The area was named "Powdermill Nature Reserve, a Research Station of Carnegie Museum." Over the next several years, additional acreage was added to the Reserve through other generous gifts, and today, Powdermill Nature Reserve offers more than 2,200 acres of woodlands, streams, open fields, ponds, and thickets.

The Reserve is used by scientists to monitor and study changes in the local ecology and wildlife populations. It has served as a refuge for many plants and animals which, as a result of habitat destruction, are now becoming increasingly rare in our region as their habitats are destroyed.

Today, more than half a century later, it is far more beautiful than when it was established, due to the natural growth of protected vegetation and the efforts of many supporters.