Guidelines & Safety

The guidelines below are set forth to ensure that the Office of the Duke Forest can provide the best information to researchers and facilitate the most efficient use of the Forest for a variety of activities. Please do not commence any activities on the Forest until registering your work and receiving approval.

To download the guidelines, click here.


You must complete and submit a Research Registration form for the Office of the Duke Forest to consider your work for approval. Research activities on the Duke Forest should not be initiated without registration and approval. Registering is extremely important as it is the only way for the Office of the Duke Forest to ensure compatibility of the various research projects with each other and with forest management activities.


The Office of the Duke Forest will immediately review your Research Registration and provide you with a Research Approval form to document authorization of the project. The Approval form may contain additional conditions of use depending on the project site and proposed activities.

Status Updates

Upon request by the Office of the Duke Forest, the research applicant and/or principal investigator listed on the Research Registration and Research Approval should submit an annual Research Report to provide updates about the project and research site, including any changes to the termination date. Maintaining up-to-date information on research projects and infrastructure within the Forest is necessary for the Office of the Duke Forest to efficiently administer research use.

Site Selection

If a research site has not been proposed in the Research Registration, Duke Forest Staff can assist you in site selection to avoid conflicts with management and other research. The Office of the Duke Forest will not issue a Research Approval for your research until site selection has been finalized.

Site Preparation

Duke Forest Staff and equipment are available to assist you in site establishment. Please contact the Office of the Duke Forest to discuss and schedule stand manipulations such as thinning and prescribed burning; stand establishment; and/or mowing, disking, and planting in open field areas. The Office can also provide geospatial information on the location of your research site using GPS and GIS.

Site Improvements

For projects involving construction of any type, the Office of the Duke Forest must obtain any required building, electrical, and plumbing permits, as well as arrange inspections. All Duke University safety guidelines must be followed. Please provide adequate notice of anticipated work to ensure that site development proceeds without delay and consider contacting Duke Forest Staff before seeking funding so that all appropriate costs may be incorporated into the budget. The research project is responsible for the cost of installation and maintenance of improved facilities.

Site Clean-up

Unless approved in advance by the Office of the Duke Forest, all materials such as plastic flagging, stakes, tree tags, sampling equipment, and/or any other research infrastructure must be removed within 3 months of the project termination date on file with the Office. This will prevent confusion and reduce hazards for foot traffic and equipment operation. If semi-permanent or permanent structures were constructed on the site, please contact the Office to determine if they should be removed. The research project is responsible for the timely removal of material and all costs associated with site clean-up.

Site Access & Parking

Sites within the Duke Forest can be reached either on foot or by vehicle. If vehicular access is necessary, you may obtain keys to the gates from the Office of the Duke Forest for a $10.00 refundable deposit. At this time, you will be issued a parking permit, which must be displayed on your dashboard. Vehicles should be parked on the side of Forest roads and if parked outside of the gates, should not block gate access. Gates should not be driven over and all gates should be locked immediately after entering and leaving the Forest. Drivers should be aware that they will encounter other researchers, recreational users, staff, and contractors on the Forest roads.


Publications resulting from research performed in the Duke Forest should include the phrase “Duke Forest Teaching and Research Laboratory” in the site description. Please provide a copy of resulting publications to the Office of the Duke Forest in printed or electronic format. All publication citations are entered into a database to assist future researchers.


If your project requires the construction of towers or other equipment that entails climbing or any other potentially hazardous activity, please contact the Office of the Duke Forest to ensure that it meets safety standards and that any required safety equipment is made available. Certain research sites have additional procedures, protocols, and safety guidelines. It is your responsibility to obtain and follow any applicable policies.

Please keep in mind the following general safety considerations:

  • The Forest, like the Duke Campus, is not immune to criminal activity. Despite occasional patrol coverage by the Duke University Campus Police Department, portions of the Forest are remote and thereby warrant the need for visitors to travel together. If this is not possible, be sure to alert someone of your whereabouts and your expected time of return.
  • Take a cell phone with you. In the event of an emergency or if you observe possible unauthorized activity within the Forest, please contact Duke Police (919-684-2444), the Office of the Duke Forest (919-613-8013), or call 911.
  • Lock your vehicle and be sure there is nothing on the seats or visible within the car that might entice someone to break into the vehicle.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and possible exposure to hazards such as insect, tick, and snake bites, allergic reactions, low hanging limbs, and tripping hazards. Please become familiar with the area’s poisonous plants and animals.
  • Be aware of the weather conditions and dress appropriately. During times of high temperature and humidity, it is recommended that you carry drinking water.
  • Maintain a safe distance away from any machinery or vehicles operating in the Forest.
  • Follow all posted Duke Forest regulations and signage. Failure to abide by these rules could result in your loss of use of the Forest.

Research applicants and principal investigators listed on the research registration and research approval are responsible for apprising their lab members, employees, and assistants of the Forest’s safety rules.

Background Information

The Office of the Duke Forest has the following information available to assist you in your project: paper, electronic, and/or GIS-ready copies of stand management histories, aerial photographs, property records, forest cover maps, soils maps, and topographic maps.

Other Support

The Office of the Duke Forest is committed to the mission of the Forest as a teaching and research laboratory. If there are other considerations, logistics, or questions that Duke Forest Staff can help you with, please don’t hesitate to call (919-613-8013) or email (

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