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 been coming together to rebuild some aspects of the prairies. Prairies oncecovered over 40% of Iowas land, now it’s only down to 1%. Of course the “virgin” prairieno longer exists, there are still some projects working to rebuild some similar naturalprairies, for example there is one right here in Ames, which is the one that our groupworked with to learn all about how to restore a prairie and what we can do to ensuresome parts of prairies futures. First, some background information on prairies. The word Prairie comes from theFrench word prairie, meaning meadow. They are known to date as far back as the1600s, and take many years to form the thick topsoil. Prairies were home to manydifferent types of native plants, animals, and many other species. The deep topsoil ofthe prairie served as a home and safe burrowing ground for many animals. Grasses onthe prairie were known to stand 6-12 feet high, with roots about 12 feet deep. Prairiesonly survived the settlers because there were no means of digging through the toughtopsoil for many years to come, until animal labor, and more modernized devices wereused to plow it all down. There is more information about the animals and a few types of grasses knownto live on the prairie exist. Many animal species including the prairie dog, buffalo, eagle,etc. There are many types of plants that are now very rare that once flourished on theprairies such as, big bluestem grass, Indian grass, milkweed and so on. The bigbluestem grasses once protected the soil from the harsh winds on the prairie, when thisgrass was plowed the soil started to diminish due to wind. Also, many grasses were afood source for the wildlife on the prairie and when they disappeared so did many of thenatural animals. Our group wanted to help in some way to restore prairies locally. We had got incontact with Lauren Sullivan to see what we could do. Altay and Trevor went out to asix acre patch of land, donated to Iowa State, to help Lauren seed. This land wasdonated because the land was too small for the farmer to farm on, the work wouldn’t beworth 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 withsand to making the spreading process easier. By doing this it makes the bag have morevolume and when you spread the seeds there are not huge clumps of seeds all in onespot. We divided up into groups so each was responsible for a certain section of land tomake this go faster. One person spread the seeds while the rest of the group steppedon the seeds so they would have good contact with the soil. Having good contact makesthe prairie process a little faster. After one section was seeded we had to clean ourshoes from mud. Lauren did not want the seeds to transfer from one section to the nextbecause of her study. Our group was the fastest out of all of them so after we finishedour part we help out the others. So many people stopped by to see what we were up tobecause you do not usually see a large group of kids helping out for a good cause by
stomping on farm land very often. It was great to see how many people wanted to getinvolved. Although, the main purpose of this project is to help nature to restore theprairies, it is not the only one and actually there are couple more purposes of thisproject as well. At the beginning, this project did not intended to have any otherpurposes but the graduate students who are making this project needed to do someresearch in order to graduate. Moreover, since the project is a very expensive to 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 multipurposeproject. The other purposes 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 andthis project to become a going on project. There are some effects of the small animals on the growth of prairies. Thething is that some people believe that prairies are what small animals made them to be.In other words, the theory is that if small animals are not allowed to interact with theprairies then prairies will not be able to grow to their natural states. On the other hand,other people claim that the prairies interactions with the other animals are slowing theirgrowth. Therefore, their theory is that these interactions actually have an opposite effecton the prairies. In order to see these effects, they put fence around some prairie fieldsso small animals won’t be able to pass and at the end they are just going to check thedifference between the fenced fields and the fields without fence. That is how the effectsof the 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 the prairies have much bigger roots than their entire body on the groundand very few prairies, like Kentucky bluegrass, have almost no roots at all. In theproject, every prairie field has two parts. In middle all of them have high density part andall the rest is low density part. Both of these fields contain different kinds of prairies.They also put some kind of plastic at the each part of the low density areas. Thisstopped us to seed on those parts so those parts won’t have any roots there. Moreover,at the end they can easily take those plastics off and those plastics take out the surfaceof the soil as well, leaving all the roots on the surface. This way it can easily beobserved which prairie kinds have roots on that empty area. Apparently, this knowledgecan be used to cut off almost half the expenses on the future seeding. Modern agronomy product’s effects on the soil and this becoming a going onproject are two other purposes of this project. The effects of modern agronomy is verystraightforward, they are checking that how soil affected by these modern agronomyproducts. On the other hand, they are also planning to this project becoming a going onproject. According to the graduate students, who are doing this project, in this field ofstudy almost all of the projects are projects like do the research and be done with it.There are very few projects that are going on from researchers to other researchers.
For example, there is one that is going on in England. Anyway they want this project tobe one of those projects that go on even after the end of their research. In other words,they are planning to leave the field to the other graduate students who are also studyingon this field. Overall, this project was very educational and useful. By helping to this projectwe not only helped nature to restore itself but we also helped to at least threeresearches that can possibly help humans in the future. Moreover, this project alsodeveloped our researching skills as well since we researched about prairies to learnabout them. After continuing research the main piece of advice given to continue to helpout to bring back our prairies is to keep getting involved. There are many different non-profit organizations through the entire nation that is helping with multiple differentrestoration projects. If more and more people continue to get involved within a few yearsthe number of prairies covering the nation can be reclaimed and closer to what it oncewas.
Resource:Sullivan, Lauren. "Prairie Restoration Project."English 250.Iowa State University, EnglishDepartment. 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>.