Celebrate 40 years of the prairie at Fermilab

Media contact
  • Andre Salles, Fermilab Office of Communication, asalles@fnal.gov, 630-840-6733


Hear about the history of the prairie on Sept. 30 and join in the annual prairie harvest on Oct. 3 and Nov. 7

It’s a time of celebration for the Fermilab community: The Robert Betz prairie, once the largest prairie restoration project on Earth, turns 40 this year.

It’s been four decades since the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, working with local conservation groups, dedicated 650 acres of its property to growing and maintaining a variety of natural tall grasses and plants.

Over time, the prairie has been restored to roughly 1,000 acres, maintained through the assistance of a dedicated group of local volunteers and the Fermilab grounds crew. The laboratory was recently awarded the Conservation@Work Award from the Conservation Foundation for its decades of dedication to preserving the prairie.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll have three opportunities to be part of the anniversary of the prairie at Fermilab. On Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 4 p.m., Ryan Campbell, Fermilab ecologist, will give a talk on the history of the prairie. The presentation, part of the lab’s Colloquium series, is free and open to the public.

And on Saturday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m., Fermilab will host its annual prairie harvest, inviting volunteers from the local community to help diversify the prairie. Fermilab has been hosting the Prairie Harvest every year since 1974, and the event typically draws more than 200 volunteers.

The main collection area covers 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 other acres of the Fermilab prairies, filling in gaps where some species are more dominant than others.

“Our objective is to collect seeds from dozens of species,” Campbell said. “Our thousand acres of restored grassland is not all of the same quality. We want to spread diversity throughout the whole site.”

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 large, 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 the Fermilab ecology 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.