Prairie Acre Progress
During the summer of 2015, Dr. Robert Hagen's Field Ecology class, as well as Environmental Studies 170, 171, 172, all spent time in the Prairie Acre. Botanical experts from the KU Biological Survey and the McGregor Herbarium, including Kelly Kindscher, Caleb Morse and Craig Freeman taught the students about prairie plants and how to identify those growing in the Prairie Acre. The class then began the process of site evaluation by creating a number of permanent plots that will be used for tracking plant diversity over the coming years. Students evaluated and identified the number and types of plants in each quadrat. They also created spreadsheets that will allow the data to be evaluated as the diversity increases. EVRN 170, 171 and 172 all looked at the plants lists more generally, identified invasive species and which invasives might not be eliminated with a controlled burn. A small group of students began to remove some of these woody invasive plants from the Prairie Acre. It was an adventurous and exciting summer!
The Prairie Acre volunteers all gathered for a number of planning meetings during the fall of 2015. This fall was exciting because we all got to hear about the breadth of ideas out there that will contribute to this project! Matt Burke, Department of Visual Art, incorporated our project into his curriculum, asking his sculpture students to envision and work on a structure that might meet our site needs.
We also began our official kick-off for fundraising! The Endowment Association has attended a number of our meetings to better understand how we will work with the campus community and helped us set up our Donation Site. If you would like to help raise money for this restoration project, forward the donation site link! We are currently working to make our fearless leader, Dr. Kelly Kindscher, into a YouTube star...keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks!
The Field Ecology students continued to assist our restoration projects. In September and October, students learned about the differences in prairie restoration projects. They used the restored Rockefeller prairie, the dogleg prairie (a small site near the Field Station), Sanders' Mound at Clinton Lake and a number of other restored prairie spaces to examine the timing, progression and techniques that go into a prairie restoration. Their big contribution came in October when they harvested seeds, based on our seed list, from other healthy, diverse prairies. We had two classes who assisted, Dr. Hagen's Field Ecology and Dr. Helen Alexander's Kansas Landscapes. We also organized two volunteer harvest days, led by master's student and prairie seed expert Courtney Masterson and Kelly Kindscher, to local Douglas County prairie sites. These seed harvests yielded so much valuable seed! Thanks to our volunteers and students, we can now rest easy knowing we have all the seed varieties necessary to help shape a diverse and varied prairie on campus.
On December 6th, we had our last event of the fall semester. We cleaned all of those seeds that were gathered in October. The process was fun, messy, a bit tedious but generally a good time! We had over 20 volunteers show up to the KBS on West Campus to give a couple hours to the project. The good news is that we have all the seeds on our list and then some.
The other fun news from this fall is the hiring of a Prairie Acre Coordinator. My name is Laurel Sears. I'm a master's student in Urban Planning and Geography. I'm a GTA with Dr. Hagen in Field Ecology and in my past professional life, I was a landscape designer and horticulturalist! I'm excited to join the team and work with all of the volunteers to make this project successful. If you'd like to join our mailing list, email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll put you on the list!
Our spring plans are big! If you want to be on the list for the following events, drop us a line or sign up on the Join Now tab. I'll send out emails when dates and events are finalized!
January 23 (or there about) - Greenhouse seed planting. We need 3,200 plants! Let's get this show on the road.
March - the controlled burn. This may NOT be open to the public this year. We are working on the plans with the university. Safety is our first priority!
April - Earth Day planting. Do we need to mention that this will be fun?? We will need assistance with watering and all the gardening tasks associated with keeping these little plants alive. Your volunteer time will be so valuable to us in the warm months!