Calling all nature lovers. How would you like the chance to help diversify one of the oldest prairie restorations in Illinois?
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is looking for volunteers to help with its annual prairie seed harvest. Two harvest events are planned, on Saturday, Sept. 10 and Saturday, Oct. 15, beginning at 10 a.m. 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.
Less than one-tenth of one percent of native prairies in Illinois remains intact. Fermilab’s restored grassland, begun 41 years ago, is 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 harvest seeds. 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 on our website. For more information on the Prairie Harvest, call the Fermilab Roads and Grounds Department at 630-840-3303.
Fermilab is America’s premier national laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research. A U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory, Fermilab is located near Chicago, Illinois, and operated under contract by the Fermi Research Alliance LLC. Visit Fermilab’s website at www.fnal.gov and follow us on Twitter at @Fermilab.
The DOE Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.