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UNI Prairie Preserve to celebrate 30th anniversary Sept. 27

September 24, 2003

Jean Gerrath, UNI associate professor of biology & chair, UNI Biological Preserves Committee, (319) 273-7152
Daryl Smith, UNI professor of biology & director, Native Roadside Vegetation Center, (319) 273-2238
Vicki Grimes, University Marketing & Public Relations, (319) 273-2761

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- A celebration to mark the 30th anniversary of the University of Northern Iowa's Prairie Preserve, will take place Saturday, Sept. 27, beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the rotunda of UNI's Center for Energy and Environmental Education (CEEE). Those who played a major role in the establishment of the prairie and the founding and development of the UNI Biological Preserves System will be recognized.

Those to be honored include: Ben Clausen and Virgil Dowell, UNI emeritus professors of biology; Daryl Smith, professor of biology and director of UNI's Native Roadside Vegetation Center; Paul Whitson, UNI professor of biology; Ron Camarata, manager of the UNI Biological Botanical Center/Preserves; and former staff members John Volker, now with the Design Ranch in Iowa City, and Pauline Drobney, now a refuge biologist with the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City. Also recognized posthumously will be Larry Eilers, former UNI biology professor, and long-time area nurseryman, Arnold Webster.

Jean Gerrath, professor of biology and chair of the Biological Preserves Committee, will open the recognition ceremony and UNI President Robert Koob will present the awards. Whitson will talk briefly on the founding of the preserves; Smith will discuss the reconstruction of the prairie; and Laura Jackson, professor of biology, will explain current use of the preserves.

Following the recognition ceremony, tours of the prairie, located near the CEEE, will be offered, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., leaving every half hour from the CEEE rotunda. A plant sale, exhibits and children's activities, including face-painting, will take place throughout the celebration.

UNI's Biological Preserves System includes four on-campus preserves; the University Avenue Preserve at University Avenue and Tremont Street; and two off-campus sites, the Matala Preserve in northwest Cedar Falls, and the Clay Prairie Preserve in Butler County.

Planning for the campus tallgrass prairie began when Smith received a 1972 summer fellowship. Actual restoration work began in May 1973, with establishment of the prairie. During the '80s, more plant varieties were added to the prairie, and much of the '90s was a management and maintenance phase. Since 1998, students and faculty have been continuing management and conducting research on the site.

The Biological Preserves Committee grew out of a Department of Biology task force, first appointed in 1970, that established a four-point program for the system -- preservation, reconstruction, research and education. In keeping with its educational goals, the preserves system was designed to be an outdoor teaching laboratory and now serves some 25 biology classes, with 700-1,000 UNI students, annually. The preserves also are used by art, earth science and capstone classes and students from other academic disciplines, as well as by area schools.

Members of the Student Nature Society will lead tours and assist with Saturday's events.