Welcome to Aton Forest

Aton Forest, Inc. was formed to preserve the lands assembled by Dr. Frank E. Egler as a Research Natural Area and to continue the low impact, long-term ecological research that he pioneered. The organization also maintains an archive of Dr. Egler ’s written material and library, and curates a portion of his house and furnishings as an informal museum. The aim is to preserve and continue the physical and intellectual legacy of our founder.

Porcupine Prowl & Wildlife Tracking


Winter Weekend In Norfolk, Saturday, February 22
Meet at Aton Forest, 270 North Colebrook Road, Norfolk
We will be walking into the woods promptly at 9 AM.

Winter is a great time to see animals, or at least their signs. Annually, Aton Forest conducts monitoring of the porcupines and beaver on our property and uses this opportunity to involve citizen scientists in our work here. We will check the known porcupine dens in rock ledges and maybe walk out onto one of our ponds to see a beaver lodge if the ice is good. We will also track wild animals and observe birds along the way. This is a kid-friendly program and part of Winter Weekend In Norfolk. You'll be amazed at what you discover by getting outdoors and following your curiosity! Wear appropriate clothing and boots for the weather (ice grips or cleats, such as Yaktrax, are very useful for walking on the roadsides and woods).

Come earlier (8:00) to bird and check out animal tracks around Headquarters. The program will conclude about noon, but we will understand if you need to leave earlier. We will have coffee, tea and hot cocoa before and after the hike.

This is a free event, but please RSVP.
Email: contact@atonforest.org
Phone: 860-248-1053
Dear Aton Forest Community,

We wish to let our community know that John Anderson, Aton Forest Inc.'s long-time Executive Director, is leaving our non-profit organization later this year. It is no understatement to call out from the top of our beautiful trees in Norfolk, Connecticut, that John’s many contributions and role as our leader in recent years, are both many and rich.

In 2020, we will be celebrating John’s historic contributions to Norfolk, the scientific community and Aton Forest, Inc. And we will be seeking, with your help and vision, to strategically and realistically plan out our future.

As you know, John Anderson has well served our non-profit in versatile capacities, over course of the last two decades, running its many activities, conducting research in a host of scientific areas, leading our successful conservation activities, and of course educating our community about our neighborhood fields and forests, plants and animals. He has resolutely supported and highlighted Frank Egler’s great contributions to America’s understanding of its ecology and natural heritage. John’s achievements at our organization and in the community have been many.

Throughout 2020 we will be celebrating John’s career, wishing him and his wife Joan and family all the best, and thanking him for his long service as our Executive Director.

Thank you for your past and future support as we continue to sustain Dr. Frank Egler’s legacy of land preservation, ecological research and community outreach. 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Aton Forest, Inc. which was formed to preserve the lands assembled by Dr. Frank E. Egler. It is now comprised of 1300 acres of connected forest, wetlands and fields, and holds conservation easements on another 1000 acres in Norfolk, Colebrook and Winchester.

From The Board of Aton Forest, Inc.
 Join us for our annual

Winter Bird Count!


Sunday, January 26th

Groups will be meeting at 5:00 & 7:30 am at the 


AF Headquarters
70 North Colebrook Road, Norfolk
(feel free to show up a little later & catch up or hang out near Headquarters)

Visit the AF Events page for more information

For the Love of Nature
Dear Friends of Aton Forest,


2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Aton Forest, Inc. On January 2, 1990. Dr. Frank Egler called the first meeting to order at 11 am in the Royal Arcanum Building in Norfolk and nominated the officers: Frank Egler, president, John Anderson, vice-president and secretary, and Robert Pallone, treasurer. Also present at that meeting was William Urban, who was instrumental in helping to set up the corporation and would go on to be AF, Inc.’s longest serving board member (26 years). The certificate of incorporation was accepted, the power to make by-laws granted to the board of directors and additional board members were nominated and voted in. A pretty dull meeting but an auspicious occasion for those of us in attendance. We lifted a glass and toasted our new beginnings. The initial gift from Dr. Egler was $21, 158 and a 5-acre building lot with a small log cabin home. It would be another 11 years, five years after Dr. Egler’s death, that AF, Inc. would receive his estate, which included his family’s home since 1926 and today the AF office and headquarters, from where I am writing you this letter. The lands of AF at that time totaled about 1157 acres. Since then, we have purchased five properties, two very critical inholdings, and all threatened with future development or logging. Today, AF is about 1300 of connected forest, wetland and old field.
We also hold conservation easements on another 1000 acres in Norfolk, Colebrook and Winchester, each easement written by Dr. Egler. Land preservation was Dr. Egler’s passion and part of his legacy and it remains important to AF, Inc. today. I do want to note the recent death of our long-time board member and my dear friend Bill Urban, he will be sorely missed.
Another of Dr. Egler’s passions and legacy was science. He left us with his published record of over 400 papers, articles and books, as well as numerous manuscripts, notes and research data. He believed land preservation and scientific research on those lands should always go hand in hand. We continue to do our part by supporting research and nature observations here at Aton Forest. Through grants, donations and volunteer efforts, we have collected important data on birds and this year completed our 18th year of breeding bird surveys. My own work at AF include a study of changes in first flowering dates for several species and comparing these to Dr. Egler’s flowering phenology dataset from 1948 to 1978. Other researchers have come to AF over the years, to study blackberries, slime molds, rare plants, vegetation, and recently lichens, this last to compare contemporary surveys to those of Smithsonian lichenologist Mason Hale, a Colebrook native, who studied them at AF in 1949.
Two of the natural outcomes of scientific inquiry are conservation and education. Science guides us in management of land and for us much has been learned from the work at AF. We continue to manage the old fields and remove invasive plants to maintain and increase biodiversity. Recently we completed a project under a grant from the Natural Resource Conservation Service which removed hundreds of invasive plants from many acres of land along our streamsides. We practice techniques begun here by Dr. Egler in the1940’s. Getting the word out about sound ecological management requires education, so we hold workshops, lead field trips and give talks about what we and others have learned from science. Our advanced workshops led by Bill Moorhead have received great praise from participants, are unmatched in Connecticut. These are now sponsored by the Connecticut Botanical Society.
There is more that I can say about Aton Forest and Dr. Egler (for those who know me, well, you are either nodding or shaking your heads!). His archives provide an insight into a great scientist and the evolution of science and conservation in the 20th century. He knew people like Rachel Carson and helped her when she was writing “Silent Spring.”
Opportunities for people to learn a deep appreciation of nature abound here, so I offer to you:
our workshops and nature walks;
a place to do research or volunteer to help with our studies and management;
to experience and appreciate nature and science close-up, personally, deeply.

Though Aton Forest is not generally open to the public, it is accessible by permission. It is best to email us for more information or to visit.
With all this said, we need your help. To run our programs and maintain staff and facilities, we require your generosity. We are at a crossroads today because we have not yet reached our goals as a biological field station. We still need facility improvements (the Kalmia Cottage is ready for use), we need more staff (I have been the sole staff person for the last few years), we need to actively recruit researchers and educators to come to far-out Norfolk, the icebox of Connecticut, to study. Your donations can help us to reach these goals. We are well on our way, but the efforts we still need to get us all the way there are significant.
So please support AF with your tax-deductible contribution. Without your financial support, we will not be able to continue all the great programs and activities that AF has become known for.
Please make the most generous gift you can. You can donate at our website, www.atonforest.org, or mail us a check (better because there are no PayPal fees) at PO Box 509, Norfolk Ct 06058.
You can follow us on Facebook (search for “Aton Forest Inc”). Or you can go to our website, www.atonforest.org, for educational programs and volunteer projects in the upcoming year.
Thank you again for your continued support and friendship.
Enjoy a healthy and happy holiday season!

John Anderson, Executive Director

Asters Demystified

Thursday, October 3, 2019


Led by Bill Moorhead, consulting botanist
9 am – 4 pm

We will cover the identification and ecology of most of the 32 southern New England species of asters (genera AsterDoellingeriaEuribiaIonactisOclemena, and Symphyotrichum) and some of the hybrids.  The workshop will begin with a lab session at Aton Forest, in which we will cover the basics of aster identification and the species we will not see in the field.  We will then car-pool to several field sites in the vicinity of Aton Forest, where we will cover field identification of the species that occur in northwest Connecticut.  The discussions of species ecology will include wetland indicator value of each species.  This workshop will run, rain or shine.  If the weather is too bad for field work, we will extend the lab session, using fresh and pressed collected material.  Participants are encouraged to bring specimens.  This workshop is suitable for both aster beginners and more experienced botanists to whom asters are a challenge. This workshop is co-sponsored with the Connecticut Botanical Society.

Location: beginning at Aton Forest Headquarters, 270 N. Colebrook Rd. Norfolk, CT

Naturalistic Landscaping with Native Wildflower and Fern Identification
Saturday, August 3rd from 9 am to 12 pm

Naturalistic Landscaping appeals to the kind of person who likes wild nature, modified just a bit… He is willing to tip the scales of nature with one finger, not spend his life trying to grow plants in anti-ecological unnaturalness.
-Warren G. Kenfield, 1966. The Wild Gardener in the Wild Landscape.

Studying natural and lightly managed vegetation can help us to understand how we can maintain an attractive landscape while working within ecologically sound principles. This workshop, led by John Anderson, will guide you through the process of naturalistic landscaping following the Egler/Kenfiled method. There will also be a significant amount of plant identification, for knowing what you have is the first step in the process.

The workshop is limited to the first 16 people who register. Please email or call in advance: contact@atonforest.org; 860-248-1053. This is a free-will donation event. Donations support Aton Forest's ongoing education programs. This is part of Weekend In Norfolk. Check out the other activities happening from August 2 - 4.


Meet at Aton Forest Headquarters, 270 North Colebrook Road, Norfolk. For more information go to the Aton Forest website.

This program is part of Weekend In Norfolk, August 2-4. Check out the other activities available.


Plan on bringing sunscreen, insect repellant, and appropriate dress for the outdoors and weather.


John Anderson is Executive Director of Aton Forest Inc., and the Aton Forest Fellow, continuing the research established by founder Frank Egler. John is an ecologist who studies vegetation science, leads land management and conservation projects, and gives educational programs on the art and science of naturalistic landscaping and related topics.

Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed!!!

A Fundraiser To Benefit Aton Forest
Sunday, June 2nd, 12:30 - 3:00 pm
Buffet Luncheon and Talk
St. Joseph Church Bitterman Center, 2 Daisy Hill Road, Canaan CT
A Northwestern Regional Student-Organized
"Kindness in Motion" Project