he Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is looking for volunteers to help with its annual prairie seed harvest on Saturday, Nov. 3. Fermilab’s site hosts 1,000 acres of restored native prairie land, and each year, community members pitch in to help collect seeds from those native plants.
Fewer than one-tenth of 1 percent of native prairies in Illinois remain intact. Fermilab’s restored grassland represents one of the largest prairies in the state. The deep-rooted natural grasses of the prairie help prevent erosion and preserve the area’s aquifers.
The main collection area spans about 100 acres, and within it, volunteers will gather seeds from about 25 different types of native plants. Some of those seeds will be used to replenish the Fermilab prairies, filling in gaps where some species are more dominant than others.
“Our objective is to collect seeds from dozens of species,” said Ryan Campbell, an ecologist at Fermilab. “We have more than 1,000 acres of restored grassland, and it’s not all of the same quality. We want to spread diversity throughout the whole site.”
Once the seeds have been collected, the Fermilab roads and grounds staff will store them in a greenhouse, and process them for springtime planting, once controlled burns of the prairie have been conducted. The laboratory has also donated some of the seeds to area schools for use in their own prairies, and as educational tools.
Fermilab has been hosting the Prairie Harvest every year since 1974, and the event typically draws more than 200 volunteers. The event will last from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with lunch provided. Volunteers will be trained on different types of plants, and how to harvestseeds. If you have them, bring gloves, a pair of hand clippers and paper grocery bags.
In case of inclement weather, call the Fermilab switchboard at 630-840-3000 to check whether the prairie harvest has been canceled. More information on Fermilab’s prairie can be found at http://www.fnal.gov/pub/about/campus/ecology/prairie. For more information on the Prairie Harvest, call the Fermilab Office of Communication at630-840-3351.
SOURCE: Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory