Bison grazing near a trailhead on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service
Meandering along a rustic trail surrounded by towering prairie grasses and blooming flowers, you feel a sense of simplicity as you come to a quiet overlook that slopes onto a bench where you can observe the activity of birds and small mammals surrounding a still pond. This beautiful prairie landscape leaves the viewer with an appreciation for nature’s wide open spaces.
And, amazingly, you’re in the middle of one of America’s most populated regions because this could only be the Midewin (mi-Day-win) National Tallgrass Prairie, the largest piece of contiguous open space in the Chicago metropolitan area, located just an hour’s drive from the heart of the Windy City. Read more »
Bison on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Photo credit: Gary Chancey, US Forest Service.
Guest Post by Hannah Ettema of the National Forest Foundation.
It was like stepping back through time on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Some 200 years ago, when bison prominently roamed the Illinois landscape, kicking up dust as they ran in the herd before settling against a back-drop of tall prairie grasses.
That scene from the past is actually part of the Midewin’s future as four bulls and 23 cows were introduced to their new 1,200 acre enclosure. The first to arrive were the bulls, one 2-year-old and three 3-year-olds, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colo. Read more »
The Fort Pierre National Grassland is home to a series of spiders previously unknown. A new species, Theridion pierre (Levi & Patrick 2013) is part of the cobweb family of spiders, Theridiidae, the fifth largest family of spiders which boasts 2387 currently recognized species (Platnick 2014). This 1 millimeter spider – about the size of a lead pencil point – is relatively abundant and easily caught on the grasslands. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Brian)
When a new species is discovered on the planet, people usually imagine a discovery process that is dangerous and remote in location. However, one scientist didn’t have to venture far from home to learn about a few new discoveries that has the science community spinning about a native grassland ecosystem in South Dakota.
Arachnid hunter Brian Patrick, an assistant professor of biology at Dakota Wesleyan University, is looking for creatures that are usually overlooked in the grasslands, and his work is making a mark in the scientific world. With help from partners like the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks and the University of South Dakota Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network, Patrick works with the Nebraska National Forest to conduct research on arachnids on the Fort Pierre National Grassland. Read more »