Ecology Prairie Restoration at McKendree University
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Ecology Prairie Restoration at McKendree University

Currently there is less than 1% of grasslands remaining worldwide. So it’s one of our most critically endangered ecosystems. And since we live in the Prairie State, what better way to allow students to engage in science than to bring them into one of these pressing issues in society today. And allow them to understand how the system works and some of the potential tools we have for recovery in that system. During my sabbatical, I developed a research project that will allow me to explore pollinator networks in former agricultural systems. Saving this ecosystem, part of that is understanding how they work. And to understand how they work we need to look at the pollinator communities that are in them, that are hoping to sustain the plants in their their reproduction. And so looking at former agricultural systems is a great way to look at how we can take these former systems, try to get them to a point where they have this fully functioning plant community, and see do they work. I wanted to take this research project and use it as a foundation to integrate it into one of my courses. So my ecology students will go beyond the classroom and collect samples of pollinator diversity in all of the field sites that I use for my own research. And the goal of taking our students into the Prairie is actually to allow them to engage in authentic research and to collect their own data. And be able to use that data throughout the semester to carry out the process of science. Students that take ecology at McKendree are engaging in an experience that they really will not get at another institution. The research they’re engaging in is authentic. And some of the data that goes into the publication’s the students will have actually collected. And they will have engaged in conversations with me about it and I can tell them what’s happening in ecology right now because it’s part of who I am as well and not just me as an instructor.

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