Ashton Prairie Living Lab
About the Prairie
Until the early 1840's, the vast majority of Iowa was an ocean of prairie, a grassland ecosystem now known as the Tallgrass Prairie. Dominated by grasses up to twelve feet tall, this iconic landscape was epic in proportion and splendor.
With the arrival of Euro-American settlers, the once nutrient-rich prairie soil was over-exploited and lost through poor farming practices, the absence of conservation policies and industrialized agriculture.
Today, less than 0.01% of the original Tallgrass Prairie remains in Iowa. As a public institution serving the greater good, the University of Iowa has begun the task of reversing the degradation of our vital natural resources. The prairie reconstruction project at the UI Ashton Cross Country Course is both a living laboratory and the preservation of a historic Iowan landscape.
The Prairie Reconstruction Project is restoring underutilized land at the UI Ashton Cross Country Course to native prairie. The use of biogeographically referenced plant seed assures that the prairie species in this reconstruction are native to Johnson County, IA.
Special thanks to the University of Iowa Department of Athletics for permission to reconstruct prairie at the Ashton Cross Country Course. A generous $1,500 grant from University of Iowa Undergraduate Student Government (USG) was used to purchase some of the native plant seed. Finally, we wish to thank the Iowa Native Plant Society (INPS) for awarding us $500 to help design and manufacture educational signage.
Since 2021, citizen scientists have joined with UI researchers to collect annual biodiversity data at the Ashton Prairie Living Lab. Each year, in early July, the community is invited to document how diversity is changing at the prairie and in the surrounding area. Click on the links below to see data collected each year.