Home on the Prairie English 250 Assignment 3 Prairie Restoration Project By: Sarah Phillips, Kristin Polchow,Altay Ozen, Trevor Chalstrom, PavelNikolov
With the many disappearances of the natural tall grasses from the Midwest, people have beencoming together to rebuild some aspects of the prairies. Prairies once covered almost85% of Iowas land("Prairies of Midwest"), now it’s only down to 1%. Of course the “virgin” prairie no longer exists, thereare still some projects working to rebuild some similar natural prairies.For example, there is one righthere in Ames, which is the one that our group worked with to learn all about how to restore a prairieand what we can do to ensure some parts of “prairies” futures. First, some background information on prairies. The word Prairie comes from the French wordprairie, meaning meadow(Casselman). They are known to date as far back as the 1600s, and take manyyears to form the thick topsoil(Casselman). Prairies were home to many different types of native plants,animals, and many other species("Prairies of Midwest"). The deep topsoil of the prairie served as ahome and safe burrowing ground for many animals("Prairies of Midwest"). Grasses on the prairie wereknown to stand 6-12 feet high, with roots about 12 feet deep("Prairies of Midwest"). Therefore, they arealso useful for preventing erosions, since they hold the soil. Prairies only survived the settlers becausethere were no means of digging through the tough topsoil for many years to come, until animal labor,and more modernized devices were used to plow it all down ("Prairies of Midwest"). There is more information about the animals and a few types of grasses known to live on theprairie exist,these are including the prairie dog, buffalo, eagle, and so on. There are many types of plantsthat are now very rare that once flourished on the prairies such as, big bluestem grass, Indian grass,milkweed and so on ("Prairies of Midwest"). The big bluestem grasses once protected the soil from theharsh winds on the prairie; this grass was plowed the soil, it started to diminish due to wind("Prairies ofMidwest").Also, many grasses were a food source for the wildlife on the prairie and when theydisappeared so did many of the natural animals ("Prairies of Midwest"). Our group wanted to help in some way to restore prairies locally. We had got in contact withLauren Sullivan, a graduate student in Iowa State University and who is working on a prairie project, tosee what we could do. Altay and Trevor went out to a six acre patch of land, donated to Iowa State, tohelp Lauren seed. This land was donated because the land was too small for the farmer to farm on, thework wouldn’t be worth it. To our surprise there were a lot of people there from other English classes tohelp out. There were roughly 20-30 people there. First we had to mix the seeds with sand to making thespreading process easier. By doing this it makes the bag have more volume and when you spread theseeds there are not huge clumps of seeds all in one spot. We divided up into groups so each wasresponsible for a certain section of land to make this go faster. One person spread the seeds while therest of the group stepped on the seeds so they would have good contact with the soil. Having goodcontact makes the prairie process a little faster. After one section was seeded we had to clean our shoesfrom mud. Lauren did not want the seeds to transfer from one section to the next because of her study.Our group was the fastest out of all of them so after we finished our part we help out the others. Somany people stopped by to see what we were up to because you do not usually see a large group of kidshelping out for a good cause by stomping on farm land very often. It was great to see how many peoplewanted to get involved. Although, the main purpose of this project is to help nature to restore the prairies, it is not theonly one and actually there are couple more purposes of this project as well. At the beginning, thisproject did not intended to have any other purposes but the graduate students who are making thisproject needed to do some research in order to graduate. Moreover, since the project is very expensiveto do, they need some university departments’ help and in order to get that, they needed to dosomething related to education or research. Therefore, it became a multipurpose project. The otherpurposes of this project are small animal effects on the prairie growth, root structure of the prairies,effects of the modern agronomy products to the soil and this project to become an ongoing project(Sullivan). There are some effects of the small animals on the growth of prairies. The thing is that people
don’t know whether small animals have effects on prairies growth or not. In other words, if smallanimals are not allowed to interact with the prairies then there is a chance that prairies will not be ableto grow to their natural states. On the other hand, there is also a chance that the “prairies” interactionswith the small animals are slowing their growth. Another way of saying this is that these interactionsmight have an opposite effect on the prairies as well. In order to see these effects, they put fencearound some prairie fields so small animals won’t be able to pass and at the end they are just going tocheck the difference between the fenced fields and the fields without fence. That is how the effects ofthe small animals on the prairies became to be one of the purposes of the project. Another purpose is to see how the root structures of the different prairies act. The most of theprairies have much bigger roots than their entire body on the ground and very few prairies, likeKentucky bluegrass, have almost no roots at all. In the project, every prairie field has two parts. Inmiddle all of them have high density part and all the rest is low density part. Both of these fields containdifferent kinds of prairies. They also put some kind of plastic at the each part of the low density areas.This stopped us to seed on those parts so those parts won’t have any roots there. Moreover, at the endthey can easily take those plastics off and those plastics take out the surface of the soil as well, leavingall the roots on the surface. This way it can easily be observed which prairie kinds have roots on thatempty area. Apparently, this knowledge can be used to cut off almost half the expenses on the futureseeding. Modern agronomy products’ effects on the soil and this becoming an ongoingexperiment aretwo other purposes of this project. The effects of modern agronomy is very straightforward; they arechecking that how soil affected by these modern agronomy products. On the other hand, they are alsoplanning to this project becoming an ongoing project. According to the graduate students, who aredoing this project, in this field of study almost all of the projects are experiments like do the researchand be done with it. Anyway they want this project to be one of those experiments that go on even afterthe end of their research. In other words, they are planning to leave the field to the other graduatestudents who are also studying on this field. Overall, this project was very educational and useful. By helping to this experiment we not onlyhelped nature to restore itself but we also helped to at least three researches that can possibly helphumans in the future. Moreover, this project also developed our researching skills as well since weresearched about prairies to learn about them. After continuing research the main piece of advice givento continue to help out to bring back our prairies is to keep getting involved. There are many differentnon-profit organizations through the entire nation that is helping with multiple different restorationprojects. Some examples for this are North Branch Restoration Project in Illinois and Prairie RestorationProject by Prairie Restorations, Inc. in Minnesota. If more and more people continue to get involvedwithin a few years the number of prairies covering the nation can be reclaimed and closer to what itonce was.
Resource:Sullivan, Lauren. "Prairie Restoration Project."English 250.Iowa State University, English Department.Oakridge Research and Education Prairie, Ames. 12 April 2012. Speech.. "Prairie - Natural History Of The Prairie, The Post-settlement Prairie." http://science.jrank.org. N.p., n.d.Web. 15 Apr 2012. <http://science.jrank.org/pages/5435/Prairie.html>.. "Prairies of Midwest." .US Army Corps of Engineers, n.d. Web. 24 Apr 2012.<http://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/missriver/Education/Prairies of the Midwest.pdf>.Casselman, Bill. "Origin of the Word Prairie." .N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr 2012. <http://www.billcasselman.com/cwod_archive/prairie.htm>.