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Future of the Konza Prairie Biological Station

The next decade will see an increase in Konza's capacity as a research station.

By Jeff Caldwell

 

 


Photo by Jodie Ridge

 

The Konza Prairie Biological Station will become recognized as a benchmark for grassland research worldwide in the future, according to David Hartnett, director of the field station and professor of biology at Kansas State University.

Only 4 percent of the original tallgrass prairie ecosystem remains in the world.

"The global importance of grasslands is becoming increasingly recognized," said Hartnett, who has directed the Konza Prairie Biological Station since 1995. "It's a globally important ecosystem and an ecosystem that really forms the basis for the 'Breadbasket of America.'"

Hartnett believes the next 10 years will see an increase in Konza's capacity as a field research station. "I see an increase in Konza Prairie, making the transition from a local, regional field site for K-State researchers to a center for grassland research for the broader research community," he said.

Signs of this expansion have been apparent in recent years. "It's a trend that's already happened in the last couple of years," he said. "When you compare the ratio of K-State researchers to researchers from other institutions here, 10 years ago, 90 percent of the researchers working on Konza were from K-State and now they're the minority."

As a result of the increase in research participation by scientists from outside of the area, Hartnett said efforts have been made to increase the facilities of the station to accommodate the new researchers. In 1997, the Dewey Ranch house, one of the few remaining original structures in the area, was renovated and renamed the Hulbert Center for Research, after the first director of the Konza Prairie, Lloyd Hulbert. In addition, 1999 saw the renovation of the laboratory/shop building to accommodate research expansion.

Hartnett said this expansion in facilities and the number of researchers at Konza Prairie could become a great challenge in years to come. "I think that one of the biggest challenges over the next 10 years is basically increasing the infrastructure to support those researchers coming in," he said.

June 2002