By: Beth Mackenzie, Office of Sustainability and Environment
There are many hidden gems on campus, and the Ashton Prairie Reconstruction Site is one of them. Tucked away near the Ashton Cross Country course, the newly established prairie is an everchanging landscape of Iowa native plants that attract a wide variety of wildlife. Interesting research is also happening at the prairie, so you will often find faculty and students using the prairie as a living lab, through water and soil sampling, insect collection, and even thermal imaging. Plans are underway to expand the prairie several more acres this fall. It typically takes at least 3 years for a prairie to become fully established, making each visit to the prairie a fun adventure as new plants and wildlife take hold. Anyone on campus can help measure this change in biodiversity over time by using an app called "iNaturalist" to record pictures of the plants, animals, and insects observed at the prairie. You can even see what others have found at the prairie using iNaturalist https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?project_id=113307 So, take some time to visit the prairie, it's a peaceful place to wander around and enjoy a hidden gem on campus.