The Marchel Tract is a research site that supports several hardwood studies on a 71-acre tract that lies in the Willamette River floodplain. This research tract features four different studies conducted by scientists in the fields of botany, genetics, biology, and the department of Forest Ecosystems and Society (FES). These studies include research on wild bottomland cottonwoods, looking at mixed species planting and how these trees can produce a variety of forest products from wood to nuts to fertilizer to wildlife habitat, testing of genetic engineering and genetic containment on hybrid poplars, and genetic sequencing of wild black cottonwoods with the goal of determining what specific genes affect the growth and quality of trees. The main purpose of the Marchel Tract is to have a clone bank and test plantations where one can see what genes go into the trees and what genes cause certain predispositions to certain consumer products with the goal of being able to grow the trees quickly, efficiently, and without trouble.
An alumnus of the College of Forestry at Oregon State donated the land where this tract is located in the mid-1980s when the Principal Investigator on the Marchel Tract, Dr. Steven H. Strauss, had just begun his career at OSU in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. Strauss is a Distinguished Professor of Forest Biotechnology and is the Director of the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative at OSU, a university-public agency consortium formed in 1994. He has been working in the field of tree and plant biotechnology for more than 30 years, and was crucial in making the Marchel Tract what it is today. Throughout his educational career at institutions like Cornell, Yale, and Berkley, he developed interest in tree genetics and using sequencing to grow a lot of wood for various purposes in a small area, so when the Marchel Tract became a reality, Strauss finally had an outlet for that interest.
The Marchel Tract is not open to the public, due to security concerns. Because of the controversy surrounding the use of genetic engineering technology and the fact that the plot was vandalized in 2010, the College of Forestry closed the area to public use.