CHERP leads South Campus prairie garden planting

A team of UMSL students and faculty members and volunteers from the St. Louis community plant prairie plants on South Campus.

A team of University of Missouri–St. Louis students and faculty members recently planted a prairie garden that was meant to be more than a sprucing up of South Campus. Part of a prairie restoration project, the planting will partially return the land to its appearance decades before the nearly 50-year-old university enrolled its first students.

Campus Honors Environment Research Project, part of the Pierre Laclede Honors College at UMSL, is leading the effort. Students from the Urban Ecology honors college course and UMSL’s Environmental Venture Organization helped CHERP members plant 200 native Missouri prairie plants along East Drive near the South Campus Parking Garage. The wildflower border was planted along a newly reconstructed one-acre wild tallgrass prairie.

“Restoring natural landscapes to the UMSL campus will allow students to imagine the area as it was over 200 years ago when the Lucas family came up the St. Charles Rock Road and saw rolling hills of tallgrass prairie scattered with large majestic oaks,” said James Fish, CHERP project director. “And the restored natural prairies will help UMSL become an environmentally sustainable campus, reduce lawn mowing costs and mitigate storm water runoff from parking lots.”

Former Pierre Laclede Honors College student Stephanie McDonald, who is now an accounting graduate student at UMSL, digs in the South Campus prairie garden. A student in the first CHERP class, McDonald wrote a paper on advocating prairies on campus.

Furthermore, Fish pointed out that planning native prairie landscapes will help UMSL meets its pledge to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment by sequestering carbon dioxide in extensive and long-lived plants.

With projects like the South Campus prairie reconstruction, CHERP is trying to create a natural landscape for student-initiated restoration ecology projects, prairie plant and small animal surveys and inquiry science learning projects. UMSL’s urban ecology students have also planned and implemented a rain garden and studied soils, invasive plants and spring wildflowers.

Wild Ones, a St. Louis-area prairie restoration foundation, donated funding for native wildflowers and technical assistance through a grant awarded to Jennifer Fruend, a CHERP instructor and science education doctoral student at UMSL.

“I am very pleased that CHERP continues to develop both as a field science course in the honors college and as a UMSL community partner,” said Robert Bliss, dean of the honors college. “The agreement between the Curators of the University of Missouri System and St. Louis County Parks provides scope for further work in science research and community enhancement. It also enriches our students’ understanding that ecological restoration begins at home.”


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