The Konza Prairie Biological Station
Life on the Konza
Dave Hartnett said the research programs at Konza have grown and diversified to include more than 125 research projects and scientists working at the field station. A NASA research site was introduced in 1987.
History of the Konza Prairie Biological Station
"There are really no other places in North America that are as big as the Flint Hills, or other stations as big as Konza that are set aside and protected for research purposes."
By Jeff Caldwell
Since it was established in 1971, the Konza Prairie Biological Station has developed into a research facility that attracts scientists from throughout the world, according to station director David Hartnett, professor of biology at K-State.
"The Konza Prairie Biological Station has become a magnet for scientists from many institutions who are interested in doing research in grassland ecosystems," Hartnett said.
In 1956, Lloyd Hulbert, a professor of biology at K-State, presented the idea of a prairie field research station to university officials. "Given the fact that we have the largest remaining tract right here in the Flint Hills, it was Lloyd Hulbert's goal to set aside a significant area in the Flint Hills as a research station affiliated with Kansas State University," Hartnett said.
Fifteen years after Hulbert presented his idea, the field station was founded in 1971, when the Nature Conservancy, a private, nonprofit national organization for the conservation of the world's natural resources, entered into a joint partnership by purchasing the land for Kansas State University. The value of the research at Konza Prairie was seen early, with the establishment of the long-term fire research program in 1972.
"We have almost 30 years of burning, and there's a huge amount of information," Hartnett said. "It is absolutely essential that we have this continual annual burning program to maintain part of the stewardship of the land and maintenance of the prairie."
The Konza Prairie Biological Station has been recognized as a major research station throughout its history. In 1980, the 8,600-acre area was designated a National Science Foundation LongTerm Ecological Research site.
"Tallgrass prairie is classified as North America's most endangered ecosystem," Hartnett said. "Given that, there has been a lot of interest in protecting and preserving a large enough tract of tallgrass prairie for research."
Additional efforts have been made to preserve the area as a historic natural ecosystem and research station. In 1987, the prairie's native grazers, bison, were reintroduced to the area. In addition, many of the original buildings and facilities have been renovated to accommodate the increased number of researchers and visitors to the area.
Research at the Konza Prairie Biological Station has been the basis for more than 700 scientific books and articles, and has been noted worldwide as vital to the conservation of biodiversity.
"A lot of the research around Konza has taught us how different processes are applied not just to Konza, but to the management and preservation of grasslands all over the world," Hartnett said. "There are really no other places in North America that are as big as the Flint Hills, or other stations as big as Konza that are set aside and protected for research purposes."