Prairie Acre Progress
The Prairie Acre Restoration Project has been able to make a lot of progress, since its implementation. The seeds, from more than 100 species, that volunteers collected and prepared for cultivation, in fall of 2015 were successfully planted and grown in the greenhouse. This endeavor was very productive, as between 5,000-7,000 seeds were planted into the trays. Though only about 3,000 plants were to be planted at the actual site, due to how unpredictable prairie seeds can be, double the amount of seeds needed were planted!
Following the seed planting at the greenhouse, that spring, a prescribed burn was conducted at the Prairie Acre site, which was coordinated by Laurel Sears. Approximately one third of an acre was burned, and this took place about two weeks before the planting date. The burn was led by the very experienced members of the KU Field Station crew. The burn went well and made way for all of the prairie species from the greenhouse to be planted at the site during the spring 2016 semester. Since the planting day, the plants at the site have been doing very well.
The Prairie Acre Restoration team is extremely pleased to have received a grant from the Douglas County Community Foundation. This grant has allowed Phase 2 of the project to get off the ground, which includes funding for purchasing seeds, hiring KU student, Beverly Umeh, as the Prairie Acre Restoration Coordinator to help facilitate the restoration and maintaining of the site, and funding to aide in the creation of the Prairie Acre Demonstration Garden.On March 14, 2017, another prescribed burn was conducted on the Prairie Acre site, coordinated by Umeh. The plants that were planted on the spring of 2016 were burned, which will allow them to grow back stronger and healthier than they were before. It was snowing, when the burn took place, so the burn crew had to work hard to assure that the burn was as thorough as possible.
The EVRN capstone class had the opportunity to pull out all of the iris from the iris beds near the site, and those beds will be mulched by facilities and operations. Facilities and operations will also be aiding in tilling the expansion site and helping to eliminate the Bermuda grass that is currently present. This is an integral part of preparing the site for the spring 2017 planting day, which will be taking place the week of Earth Day.
The plants that will be planted at the site, this spring, are currently being cultivated in the greenhouse on West campus. Students from the Environmental Studies Programs, Umeh, and other staff and faculty members have been watering the greenhouse seedlings and assuring that they are thriving, to assure that they will succeed when planted at the Prairie Acre site. Kindscher and Umeh also divided up seedlings in order to maximize success rates of the individuals.
The Prairie Acre project is supported by grand funds and individual donations. Tax deductible contributions toward the Prairie Acre Restoration Project can be made online. All funds raised will help restore this culturally and ecologically significant site to one of diverse tallgrass species and engaging and meaningful educational opportunities for KU students and the community.
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!
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!
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!