By Fran Glass
At the University of Missouri-St. Louis our hostess was Jen Fruend of CHERP (Campus Honors Environmental Research Program). CHERP is an urban ecology honors college course studying natural ecosystems to restore wildness to the campus, local parks, and neighborhood. Jen is a CHERP Education and Ecology Instructor and doctoral student in Science Education with focus on plants. She teaches an integrative, sustainable, ecological studies class for non-science majors that fulfills a science credit.
Students follow their interests through independent study in a comfortable space to learn science. Urban ecology students have planned and implemented three adjoining natural landscapes. Students use the native plant gardens as their lab to study plant and insect identification having learned how to key out plants. Gardens were seeded as a learning experience, starting with seed stratification.
CHERP creates natural landscapes used for student research to inform changes in both the neighboring park land use and the campus’ land use. Through UMSL’s Community Partnership Project, CHERP partners with St. Louis County Parks Department. The restored natural prairies will help UMSL become an environmentally sustainable campus, reduce lawn mowing costs and mitigate storm water runoff from parking lots.
Adjacent properties include much open space: St. Vincent Park which is a St. Louis County Park, Daughters of Charity Cemetery, Glen Echo Golf Course. Property includes the State Champion Shingle Oak tree. Wildlife on the property includes bluebirds, peregrine falcons, coyote, turkey, butterflies.
We toured the three adjoining prairies:
- The Wild Ones grant-funded prairie garden that was planted in September 2011 by Urban Ecology class students. They chose species that people may wish to grow in their yards as home landscapes.
- A 1-acre prairie restoration area on which students and faculty are receiving advice from Litzsinger Road Ecology Center.
- And a wet prairie that was transformed by students from a fescue water-retention area.
For more on the UMSL project, watch Green Time TV episode 404.
Here are some photos of the meeting. Click any image for a larger version, then click the large photo to advance to the next.