Restored prairie attracts
local species, students
Felicia Calderon, a senior at Waubonsie Valley High School, takes a photo of a section of woods adjacent to the prairie. Teacher Matt Logan, standing behind her, organized the trip.
A group of 24 students from Waubonsie Valley High School visited one of Fermilab's restored prairies last Thursday to imagine what the Great Plains might have looked like undisturbed.
The visit was an introduction to Illinois history for instructor Matt Logan's U.S. geography class. He wanted to give the class a firsthand look at the state's prairie ecosystem.
"I was just looking for ideas of how to show what Illinois looked like prior to urban development," Logan said. "I figured Fermilab would have something and it did."
The class took an hour-long self-guided tour, following placards posted in the prairie with information about prairie life cycles, plants and the role of fire. Stuart Young, a senior in the class, said being able to visit a restored prairie was helpful.
|Felicia Calderon and Martha Amaya, both of Waubonside Valley High School, take notes.
"I wouldn't want to live out here personally, but it's nice to be out here and see what it was like before we paved everything over," Young said.
When only 10 acres of original prairie remained in the 1970s, Fermilab began restoration with the help of volunteers and prairie experts. By restoring natural seed banks and planning controlled burns, Fermilab has given native species a fighting chance against the fast-growing invasive species that would otherwise dominate, said Mike Becker, Fermilab Site Services assistant manager.
Becker said it takes them between 10 to 12 years to convert a fallow field into a young prairie with 50 to 100 native plant species. Today Fermilab has 1,100 acres of restored prairie, which are home a diverse animal population, native plants and the occasional classroom visit.
Site Services will hold a volunteer seed harvest on Oct. 3 and Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers should bring a hand clipper, paper bags, gloves and field clothing. Lunch will be provided.