HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

We hope you have a great Thanksgiving as you celebrate the holiday with family and friends.  We are most thankful for you and the opportunity to serve you. Your support in many different ways continue to help us grow.  THANK YOU.

Janelle, Brad, Katie and Scott-The Dyck Arboretum of the Plains team.

 

Thank You to all the volunteers who helped us this past year. There are over 150 of you who have given of us your time and talents.

 

EPS Students-The next “Citizen Scientists” that will impact the world.

 

Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’

 

Vernonia ‘Iron Butterfly’ with hawkmoth

 

A few Thanksgiving thoughts:

Earth Partnership for Insects

Sweeping for insects.

We had a great time with our 11th annual Earth Partnership for Schools Summer Institute last week. K-12 teachers brought their enthusiasm for learning and a willingness to put themselves in the shoes of their students. For five days, they practiced hands-on curriculum activities and developed action plans to plant native prairie school gardens in the coming years with their students.

A big focus of the week is the study of insects. We learn about their diversity, preferences for different habitats, and importance in pollination. We make observations, conduct studies, think about how certain plant shapes and colors attract certain insect groups, and even play insect charades.

Insects are critical components in the function of nutrient cycling, natural areas, food systems, and general human existence. We hope that teachers will embrace the importance of these critters and inspire the next generation with the fascinating world of insects.

 

Models showing common insect orders of classification.

Conducting and presenting science inquiry studies with insects.

Studying whether pollinators are attracted by different colors.

Data collection with soapy water insect traps near purple coneflower.

Flower-pollinator observations at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge with butterfly milkweed in the foreground.

Mint family flower shapes attract certain types of pollinators.

Legume family flower shapes attract certain types of pollinators.

Observing a clear wing moth collect nectar from common milkweed during the week.

The clear wing moth is also known as the squash vine borer.

After seeing the two sets of wings, efficient lateral movement, compound eyes, and short antennae, it becomes obvious that this is a dragonfly.

Butterflies nectaring at a flower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Land Ethic is Alive and Well in Kansas

On Saturday, March 18, we held our 11th annual spring education symposium entitled Living the Land Ethic in Kansas, and learned how much we have to celebrate in Kansas. This symposium was many months in the making and it went smoothly thanks to our four staff, help from a number of board members, the assistance of many volunteers, and underwriting support from Kansas Humanities Council.

The speakers were top-notch and their messages were filled with immense knowledge and passion. Those among the 85 registered attendees were literate, engaged, and full of great questions. The homemade baked goods for breakfast, Lorna Harder’s venison stew for lunch, and nice day outside to enjoy during breaks all helped round out a perfect day.

Rolfe Mandel

Craig Freeman

Michael Pearce

Jason Schmidt

Pete Ferrell

Brian Obermeyer

Erin Dowell

Wes Jackson

I gave a brief introduction of how this symposium developed as part of our year-long Dyck Arboretum 35th anniversary celebration with a focus on Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic chapter in his famous book A Sand County Almanac. We then heard presentations about the essential Kansas natural elements of “The Land” from educators and writers, Rolfe Mandel (soils), Craig Freeman (vegetation), and Michael Pearce (wildlife) and how these elements are foundational to our Kansas natural history, agriculture/ranching-based economy, food systems, and land-based enjoyment and recreation. Land stewards Jason Schmidt, Pete Ferrell, and Brian Obermeyer told their stories of how being a land caretaker is not only a way to make a living but that it is part of a cherished way of life through which one strives to sustainably pass along stewardship responsibilities to future generations. Elementary school teacher, Erin Dowell explained how critical it is to instill a land ethic in our children that will be our future land stewards. And visionary, Wes Jackson, rounded out the day with a presentation about how we as agricultural agents must steward the land as part of a living ecosphere.

The day was filled with dialog and rich with a variety of science as well as humanities topics about the important interplay between the land and people. Thank you to all participants!

Symposium: Living the Land Ethic in Kansas

“All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts.The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals, or collectively the land.” The Land Ethic, A Sand County Almanac.

When I think about what Kansas means to me, I think about the land. I think about the Kansas prairie; the soils that support it and the wildlife it supports. I think about the water that flows through it and I think about the sky above it. I think about the food it produces. You and I are important parts of this community too.

 

On Saturday, March 18, we will celebrate and learn more about these rich Kansas connections of the land including its soil, prairie, wildlife, and people, and how they all interact. An all-star cast of interpreters and stewards of Kansas (Rolfe Mandel, Craig Freeman, Michael Pearce, Jason Schmidt, Pete Ferrell, Brian Obermeyer, Erin Dowell, and Wes Jackson) will be assembled for our 11th annual spring education symposium.

 

 

 

We have an early bird discounted fee if you sign up by March 9. See the following link for more details. Come join us!

 

Symposium: Living the Land Ethic in Kansas

Observing Natural Cycles Around Us

We observed the winter solstice yesterday on December 21st. I shared my thoughts on this beloved time in a winter solstice blog post last year. Whether it is the rotation of distant planets, stars and moons around one another or the episodes of weather, plants and animals closer to home, observable natural cycles are abundant around us.

Phenology wheel – a collaborative nature journal

We will be focusing on the closer to home cycles for the coming calendar year at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains. Earlier this year I introduced the importance of “phenology” in a blog post. Now we are now ready to practice and enjoy this ritual in earnest over the coming year here on our grounds. We will be observing and documenting events related to weather, plants, and animals at Dyck Arboretum. With the help of visitors, we will record precipitation amounts, presence/absence of migrating bird species, notable events with other forms of wildlife, flowering and seeding of plants, and more.

We invite you to help us document these phenological events by recording your observations on a sheet in our Visitor Center entryway. At regular intervals, we will compile these observations and record them onto a large wall-mounted “phenology wheel”. The phenology wheel concept was created by Partners in Place, LLC. The idea has been promoted to teachers and students through our Earth Partnership for Schools Program here at Dyck Arboretum, and through the Earth Partnership Program founders at University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum. An example of what we have in mind was recently exhibited at the nature center for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Phenology wheel observations recorded at Miller Woods, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Become a citizen scientist

So, help us fill up our very own phenology wheel in 2017 by activating your observational skills and recording your findings at Dyck Arboretum. Be observant, take photographs and share them with us, write descriptive notes, make drawings, bring in a leaf or flower if you’d like help with identification, note dates and weather conditions, and educate yourself by engaging with the natural world around you. Through your citizen science observations in 2017 and the display of this Dyck Arboretum phenology wheel, we will all benefit from your findings.

Burr oak through the seasons phenology wheel.

Planting Trees: When Visions Become Legacies

“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” – Greek Proverb

A group gathered at the Dyck Arboretum this past Monday evening to remember all that has been accomplished on this plot of land since 1981 – the plant and wildlife communities that have been established, the beauty that has been added to the community of Hesston, the lives that have been impacted, and the lessons learned.  All of these fruits came from a vision, a dream, a notion of what was possible – AND a lot of hard work and determination.

And though a 35th anniversary may not seem as notable or momentous as a 25th or a 50th anniversary, this celebration is particularly special to us. It is the first significant celebration we’ve had without both Harold and Evie Dyck, our founders. In the past, we’ve had their words and ideas and presence here to help guide us. Now we, the Dyck Arboretum staff and board, volunteers, as well as the Dyck family members, continue to realize their vision through our work.

35th anniversary tree planting

On Monday, October 10, 2016, Arboretum staff and board members planted a black oak sapling in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the first tree planting at the Dyck Arboretum. That first tree, a bur oak, is shown in the background of this photo.

Aldo Leopold: Visionary and Legacy Maker

On Monday we learned about the life and work of another visionary. Aldo Leopold, a towering figure in the world of land conservation, devoted his adult life to studying nature, being in wilderness, and documenting what he heard and saw. (You may recognize Leopold’s name from several of the sculptures along our walking path.) Most notably, Leopold tended a piece of land with his wife and his five children and restored it to its most natural, most wild, most harmonious state.

I was particularly amazed to learn that, over the course of several decades, Leopold’s family planted nearly 50,000 trees on their land, restoring a small farm, with deteriorating sandy soil and a scarcity of wildlife, back to wilderness. When they first acquired the land, one of the Leopold children shared, it wasn’t much to look at. But as they all began to pitch in and work hard, their father’s vision took hold in each of them. Can you imagine – over a period of sixteen years, they planted 3,000 trees EACH YEAR? They had a vision and dream of what that land could be, but it required commitment and lots of hard work to realize that dream.

Leopold quote

Visions and Legacies

As a part of the celebration this week, we also planted a tree, a tiny black oak sapling, grown from an acorn that was collected from Leopold’s land in Wisconsin.  As we planted this tree not fifty yards away from the first bur oak that was planted here in 1981, it got me thinking about the difference between “vision” and “legacy”.

At what point does someone’s vision or dream for the future become their legacy? Is it when that person is no longer living? Is it when certain milestones or goals are reached? Does it happen slowly, over time, with each acorn or seed that is planted or sown, or with each visitor or student who learns something new? Is it when the vision is passed on, capturing the imagination of a new generation?

To play on a metaphor we use frequently here at the Arboretum, if planting an acorn represents a vision, what part of a tree’s life cycle represents legacy? Could it be when the tree that grows from the acorn drops seeds of its own?

The Dyck Arboretum pond in 1984

The Dyck Arboretum pond in 1984

Leaving our Own Legacy

When the Dycks first shared their vision with their family, friends and community members, they didn’t have much to show others to illustrate what they were dreaming of.  They only had an empty piece of land, once a couple of fields where wheat and alfalfa grew. But they planted that first bur oak tree, and the vision began to spread.

That tree is now on the eastern edge of our parking lot. It is easy to miss, but for the many acorns it drops on the pavement in autumn. Many who visit here will not notice it, nor the small plaque at its base that reads “Bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa. The first tree planted in the Arboretum, October 10, 1981.” It is only one of many trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses that have since been planted here, all playing a part in creating a living, breathing, dynamic landscape.

Meanwhile, in the median of the parking lot, there now also grows a small “Leopold” black oak sapling, the shade under which our children and grandchildren may take refuge. It is a piece of Leopold’s legacy and a reminder that our work isn’t done yet. It begins a new legacy for us here at Dyck Arboretum.

 

“We mourned the loss of the old tree, but knew that a dozen of its progeny standing straight and stalwart on the sands had already taken over its job of wood-making.”  – Aldo Leopold, “Good Oak” from A Sand County Almanac

A Kansas Land Ethic: Celebrating 35 years of Dyck Arboretum of the Plains

Can you imagine what Hesston would be like without the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains?  Over 35 years ago, Harold and Evie Dyck had a dream to create a garden that reflected the Kansas landscape they loved so much.  They wanted it to be close to Schowalter Villa and Hesston College.  They wanted it to be a “…setting for educational opportunities for the community and a place where visitors may come to enjoy nature or sit in quiet reflection.”

This Arboretum, dedicated with the first tree planting on October 10, 1981, has matured into one of the premier native plant gardens in the country.

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Julia Dyck, representing the Dyck family, had the honor of the first shovelful of soil around the new Bur Oak tree. October 10, 1981.

Today, as we celebrate our 35th anniversary, most visitors to the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains never knew Harold or Evie Dyck.  That is unfortunate because they were gracious, generous visionaries ahead of their time.

The idea of the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains came about after Harold and Evie visited the Barlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine, Kansas.  They talked about an Arboretum that would benefit the community, region, and the state of Kansas.

“Even though we have been many places,” explained Evie, “we have always appreciated Kansas.  If we develop an arboretum in Kansas, we feel it should reflect the character of Kansas.”  They left this place as a legacy for future generations to enjoy.  It was their way of saying “Thank You” to the community they lived in and served all their lives.  They had a Kansas land ethic.

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Harold and Evie Dyck

In many ways, the Arboretum has exceeded even Harold and Evie’s expectations and the impact they wanted it to have.  Each year, over 20,000 visitors experience the Arboretum through educational programs, engaging events or interactive discovery. Our mission, “to promote, through education and stewardship, the conservation and use of plants native and adaptable to Kansas,” has become mainstream.  The most important component of our mission has always been to connect people to the prairie.  Native landscaping, enhanced biodiversity, and increased awareness of the prairie are important ideas within our mission that guide much of our efforts.  It is our goal to provide a setting where visitors can experience native and adaptable plants in attractive displays.  It was Evie’s dream to provide not only a beautiful place for community recreation, but also a place to pause for a little while, enjoy nature and hopefully gain a deeper appreciation of the simple beauty of Kansas.

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Kansas Earth Partnership for Schools native planting on school grounds

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Orange Butterfly weed in the Bird Watch Area

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FloraKansas Native Plant Sale

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Wedding at the Arboretum

Bridge

Luminary Stroll

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Prairie Window Concert Series-Red Molly

We who live in Hesston often take the Arboretum for granted.  It seems as if it has always been here.  I certainly take for granted being able to work at the Arboretum, and am reminded of this privilege each time I talk with a visitor.  There are not too many communities the size of Hesston who have a garden for the citizens to enjoy.  In my short time as director, I have come to realize how vital it is for our success and growth, that those who utilize the Arboretum support us in many different ways.  These gardens wouldn’t exist without that original dream and the support of many people who volunteer and give generously each year.

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Cliff Bitikofer-Long-time volunteer on new mower donated by Excel Industries, Inc.

I wish you could hear the stories of people who have come to our plant sales and transform their landscape by using native plants.  How others love this place and have seen nothing like it.  How they appreciate what we do here and want to support our mission.  To see extended families, including multiple generations, frequently come through the Visitor Center, walk the grounds, and feed the fish and turtles.  I wish you could see the faces of the children and hear the conversations we have with those who are seeing the Arboretum for the first time or rediscovering its beauty.  This place is unique and special.

Water Garden

Bearer of the Ammonite (by Paul Friesen)

Help us celebrate 35 years of the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains.  We have many exciting events scheduled over the next year starting with the Anniversary Kick Off on October 10, from 5 to 7 p.m.  On that day, there will be a ceremonial oak planting and screening of the documentary Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time.  Refreshments will be served during the show.  Come enjoy an evening at the Arboretum as we reminisce about the past and look forward to the future.  Click here for the full schedule of events.

Get Rich and Happy with Phenology

Phenology will make you rich and happy. Ask any person who likes to watch/study plants, animals, and/or climate if their life is richer and happier because of their observance of phenology, and they will unanimously agree.

I’m not talking about monetary riches. The study of phenology has made very few people rich in dollars. In fact, many people I know spend a fair bit of money in their pursuit of phenology studies (i.e., birders). I am referring to the put-a-smile-on-your-face, educational, blood pressure-lowering, life enriching observance of the natural world around you. 

Phenology is the observance of cyclical and seasonal natural events. These phenomena occur all around us in nature: plants blooming or setting seed, migrating animals arriving or leaving, the first or last killing frost of the year. For millennia, these kinds of observations have been not only interesting and enriching to our human ancestors, but they have been critical to health and survival. Being successful with agriculture, hunting and gathering required an intimate connection to the natural world through careful observations and record-keeping.

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Gray hairstreak on Leavenworth eryngo.

Why phenology?

The USA National Phenology Network provides great insights and resources related to the study of phenology. They highlight some good reasons for observing phenology. I’ve added to their list and included my perspectives as well.

1) Detecting Climate Change Impacts – Quantitative documentation of the natural world through scientific data collection is critical to understanding the effects of a warming planet. From professional scientists to common folks practicing hobbies of citizen science, phenologists help us better understand what is happening in the natural world around us. If we didn’t have scientific observations to help us learn about changing trends, we might never recognize the changes until they become glaringly obvious and have negative, irreversible impacts. Think of the boiling frog metaphor here. Collecting data on annual trends in weather, the timing of life cycles of plants, and the migration patterns of animals all give us sound evidence to monitor changes in our planet.

2) Ritual Celebrations – We are social creatures that enjoy regular celebrations, and it is easy to connect them to phenology. There are the obvious examples of fall color festivals and cherry blossom festivals. For me, even religious and cultural celebrations have a relationship to phenology. Christmas has a deep meaningful connection to the long, cold nights and dormant prairie of the winter solstice. A favorite September music festival always happens around the peak of the fall monarch butterfly migration and the flowering of Maximillian sunflowers. Butterfly milkweed in bloom tells me it is time for our early June Earth Partnership for Schools (EPS) summer institute.

3) Enjoying A Connection to Nature – Connections to the natural world make us happy and feed our souls. Even if folks from Psychology Today, BBC, and The Nature Conservancy didn’t vouch for it, I’d say this is true from my own experience. Experiences in nature enhance our connections to friends and family and solidify memories for a lifetime. At our EPS summer institutes we examine children’s increasing disconnectedness to nature and how we can reverse those trends. Teachers regularly recall how important outdoor events in their own childhood left lifelong positive impressions and important connections with people. The thrill of catching blinking fireflies with neighborhood kids, the sounds of buzzing cicadas around shortest nights of the year, witnessing a toddler son’s first taste of a tomato in the garden, watching the arrival of bald eagles fishing over big rivers in the heart of winter, observing sunsets with grandparents, and so many other examples have been shared. These sorts of positive experiences inspire many to want to share a love of nature with succeeding generations.

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Iralee Barnard and Susan Reimer find happiness in spending a day on the prairie counting butterflies.

Personally, I am drawn to the phenology-loaded pursuits of native plant conservation, and butterfly and bird watching. I spend time at Kansas Native Plant Society board meetings focusing on ways to best educate Kansans about the fascinating flora across our state. Annual butterfly counts in Harvey County and at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve document summer butterfly populations and contribute citizen science to the North American Butterfly Association that monitor continental trends. Kansas bird watchers organize under the Kansas Ornithological Society and passionately spend weekends and holidays throughout the calendar year in all weather conditions across the state to document in detail the presence of bird species.

Collectively, the folks I have met at these events are smart and endearing, generous with their time in teaching others, fun to be around, and happy doing what they are doing. I am proud to call them my tribe.

If I had more time, I would extend my interests to hunting and fishing as well. I eat meat and I can’t think of a better and more meaningful and enriching way to live and eat than to be a hunter and gatherer. Most hunters I know are very biology-literate and are also good stewards of the land.

Inspiring the next generation

The efforts of these groups help us better understand the biology and ecology of Kansas. In subtle and inspirational ways, they inspire others to follow their lead, and it is my hope that this infectiousness will extend to the next generations as well. After all, they are the future caretakers and stewards of natural Kansas.

One of the most famous phenologists was Aldo Leopold. In the early 1900s he studied phenology through spending weekends at “The Shack” with his family along the Wisconsin River. His observations, land stewardship practices, hunting outings, and scientific studies as a professor were all synthesized into the poetic writings of the book A Sand County Almanac. Leopold’s thoughts on land conservation and specifically his chapter entitled “The Land Ethic” will guide many of our Dyck Arboretum activities and events in our coming 35th anniversary starting this fall.

We think they will make you rich and happy.

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Aldo Leopold (Aldo Leopold Foundation)

Kansas – A Rich Heritage of Environmental Education

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Photo by Brad Guhr.

The prairie is central to our environmental education in Kansas (Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City, KS).

It is Earth Partnership for Schools (EPS) summer institute time again at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains. For the 10th year in a row, we are hosting teachers from around South Central Kansas for a week to learn about, plan, practice, and celebrate the environmental education process of teaching students about natural and cultural history of the native Kansas prairie. This year’s EPS summer institute with its 33 teachers (our largest group ever), 482 years of collective teaching experience, and ample enthusiasm for providing prairie project-based, hands-on education for their students provides the perfect setting to be thinking about environmental education in Kansas.

I have taken a bit of time to inventory, categorize, and provide a brief description of the vast array of environmental education resources in Kansas. It turns out to be a pretty rich heritage indeed.

State-Sponsored

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Our state-funded conservation entity Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism has a focus on just those things. They promote hunting, fishing, and camping opportunities throughout the state and connecting people with outdoors Kansas. Their long-running Outdoor Wildlife Laboratory Sites (OWLS) Program is a great promoter of establishing native wildlife habitat on school grounds.

Museums and Zoos

Exploration Place – This was a favorite end-of-summer destination for my boys when they were younger. They were first attracted to thExplorationPlacee blocks, climbing/play areas, and model train set, but eventually became hooked on the hands-on exhibits featuring wind currents, stream morphology, weather, and geology. The most memorable visit was when retrieving an errant mini golf shot led to three hours of getting wet and sandy in the Arkansas River under the watchful eye of the Keeper of the Plains.

Flint Hills Discovery Center – One of the newer facilities in Kansas that not only wonderfully interprets the natural and cFlintHillsDiscoveryCenterultural history of the Kansas Flint Hills Prairie, but it is also an architectural and landscaping gem.

Kauffman MusKMlogo-croppedeum – A Museum of Mennonite Immigration and History in Kansas. They interpret the natural Kansas setting encountered in the 1870s, have a collection of wildlife in taxidermy, and the surrounding outdoor landscape features one of the oldest reconstructed prairies in Kansas. A good destination for school field trips and summer educational programming for youth.

The University of Kansas Natural History Museum & Biodiversity Research Center – For more than 140 years, scientists and students have collected and studied liKansas+Biological+Survey+official+logofe on Earth. The museum has more than 8 million specimens of plants and animals, including prehistoric and living species gathered from every continent and ocean.

Sternberg Museum of Natural HistoryMuseum feaSternbergtures include a replicated fossil dig site & a discovery room with hands-on activities. While I have not been there, I understand it features a great collection of marine and flying reptiles and fish fossils from the Cretaceous Era.

Sedgwick County Zoo – Accredited wildlife park and major attraction in Wichita that has become recognized both nationally and internatilogoonally for its support of conservation programs and successful breeding of rare and endangered species. Having over 2,500 animals of nearly 500 different species, this zoo ranks as the number one outdoor tourist attraction in Kansas. They also do a nice job of interpreting the native fauna of Kansas.

Sunset Zoo – City zoo of PathManhattan is home to over 300 animals representing more than 100 mediaview.aspxspecies.

Tanganyika Wildlife ParkFamily-friendly destination in Goddard where parkgoers have up-close, hands-on interaction with the animals.

Environmental Education /Nature Centers/Botanical Gardens/Arboreta

Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Educatiokacee logo cleann (KACEE) – A statewide non-profit association of many public and private agencies, organizations, businesses and individuals promoting and providing quality, non-biased and science-based environmental education in Kansas for 45 years.

Chaplin Nature CenterA 230-acre nature preserve chaplin_entryv2with four miles of hiking trails and environmental education for all ages along the Arkansas River near Arkansas City.

Dillon Nature Center – 100-acre park/arboretum with a pond opened in HutchinsonDillonNatureCenter in 1994. The visitor center includes a nature display gallery with dioramas, interactive exhibits and live reptiles, amphibians and fish.

Great Plains Nature Center – Experience 240-acre Chisholm Creek Park via 2 miles of accessible trails through wGPNClogoetlands, prairie, and riparian habitats. The visitor center has dioramas that feature Great Plains ecosystems including their plants and wildlife.

Konza Environmental Education PrKEEPogram – 8,600 acres of rolling hills marked with flint and limestone dominate the landscapes around Manhattan KS. The Kansas State University Biology Department conducts prairie research here and The Nature Conservancy owns the land. Trained docents will lead your group in an activity that highlights the biology, geology, ecology, and history of the tallgrass prairie.

Botanica – The Gardens are decorated with a collection of botanica20 elegant sculptures, flowing streams, fountains and waterfalls that complement the beauty of plants and that create a visually stunning atmosphere. Facility rentals as well as educational, artistic, and cultural experiences are plentiful.

Bartlett Arboretum – This 105 year-old botanical gem features state champioBartlettn trees, picturesque views of waterways, bridge and pergola architecture, a quaint location for an outdoor wedding, art classes, a tulip festival and an outdoor concert series.

Dyck Arboretum of the Plains – 28 acres established in 1981 in Hesston featuring hundreds of species of native and adaptable wildflowers, grasses, shrubs and trees. Whether planted with Printhorticultural intention or as prairie-based ecosystems, Kansas native plants are promoted here in ways pleasing to both people and pollinators. Pay a visit if you are looking for scenic facility rentals, recreation, environmental landscaping, ecological restoration, Great Plains seminars, environmental education for teachers, and an acoustic music concert series.

Conservation/Specialized Educationkansas-audubon-icon

Audubon of Kansas – Promotes appreciation and stewardship of ecosystems in Kansas and the heartland, with emphasis on conservation of birds, wildlife, prairies and other habitats.

Kansas Land Trust – By crafting customized conservindexation agreements with landowners, KLT helps permanently protect Kansas lands of ecological or agricultural importance and of historic, scenic, and recreational merit.

The Nature Conservancy of Kansas – The leading logo-nature-notaglineconservation organization working to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. Areas of current focus in Kansas include the Flint Hills, Red Hills, Osage Cuestas and Cheyenne Bkhslogo2v2ottoms.

Kansas Herpetological Society – Encourages conservation, scholarship, research, cooperation, and dissemination of scientific information regarding the herpetofauna of Kansas.

Kansas Native Plant Society – Encourages awarenessKNPSdecal and appreciation of the native plants of Kansas in their habitats and in our landscapes by promoting education, stewardship, and scientific knowledge.

Kansas Ornithological Society – A statewide organization devoted specifically to the study, conservation, and enjoyment of birds. kos_larkCollectively, the KOS has unrivaled knowledge about the status, distribution, ecology, and identification of the state’s avifauna.

 

 

 

Research

Kansas Biological Survey – A University of Kansas research center of natural sciences research, environmentaKansas+Biological+Survey+official+logol mapping, conservation and education. Scientists work with graduate and undergraduate students, as well as visiting scholars on research covering water, air and soil quality; land use; threatened and endangered species; global change biology; environmental engineering; and aquatic ecology and watersheds.

Teacher Groups

Kansas Association of Teachers of Science (New Picture (19)KATS) – KATS shares ideas and techniques for teaching science education to Kansas students.

Kansas Association of Biology Teachers (KABT) – CKABTBanner2016v2urrent and former educators interested in advancing the practice of science teaching within and beyond the borders of the state of Kansas.

 

Natural Areas

Natural areas rich with flora and fauna can be found around the state featuring prairie and wetland ecosystems. In southwestern Kansas, the Cimmaron National Grassland features shortgrass prairie. Tallgrass prairie is featured in the Flint Hills at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Maxwell Wildlife Refuge features Smoky Hills mixedgrass prairie and herds of bison and elk. Marshes critically important in the Great Plains Flyway include the rare inland salt marshes at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms, the largest interior marsh in the United States.

Now get out there and find and engage with these great environmental education resources in Kansas!

Connection Between People and Prairie

At Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, we invest considerable effort in helping interpret Kansas prairie plants and ecosystems. Our educational programming, winter lectures, plant sales, and outreach celebrate the many benefits that come from Kansas native plants and the ecosystems they support. With our next spring education symposium entitled Prairie and Plains Indians Bonds, we’d like to expand our focus to people and culture.

Leopold quote

Kansans today certainly value their connection to the land. How we get our food is one of those ways we are connected. Kansas produces many grains through commercial farming operations. Small farm and gardens produce fruits and vegetables for local farmer’s markets. Small farms also produce poultry, pork and lamb. Prairie ranchers produce beef cattle. Hunters have a close connection to the land and birdwatchers and photographers do too.

These land-connected demographics, however, are shrinking with each successive generation. With advances in technology and an increasingly global economy, it becomes easier and easier to disconnect from the land as most of us acquire all our needed resources by driving to the nearest store. We as a collective population continue to lose ties to the land and each generation continues to lose connection with our natural and cultural history.

Indigenous Peoples were very connected to the land. The prairie was their grocery store, pharmacy, and general store. Their spirituality was closely tied to their natural surroundings too and a great reverence was given to the elements of earth, air, fire and water. While the Plains Indians of many different tribes received great benefit from prairie vegetation and wildlife, their actions, helped care for the prairie as well, even if unintentional. Frequent use of fire for purposes of hunting, clearing vegetation for safe lodging, and various cultural rituals increased fire frequency on the landscape, minimized the presence of woody plants, and even expanded the extent of grassland ecosystems in the Great Plains and Midwestern prairie regions.

With European migration to North America, great changes on the landscape began to occur. Human population density has definitely changed. The estimated North American population of Indigenous Peoples in 1492 was 3.8 million (Reference) and today’s North American population is roughly 150 times that at more than 567 million (Reference). Over that same time span, there has been a 99% loss of tallgrass prairie and a 68 percent decline in mixed-grass prairie from historic acreage (Reference). Needless to say there, has been a great decline in the connection between prairie and people.

At our April 2 symposium, we will explore the rich bonds between prairie and people, better understand how they were broken, and learn about ways they are being restored. I hope you will join us for this day.