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Annual faculty lecture will look at prairie restoration

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – One of Bethel College professor of biology Jon Piper’s long-time research interests is prairie restoration. He will speak about some of his findings at the third annual Faculty Public Lecture sponsored by the Bethel College Women’s Association.

The lecture will be held on Thursday, June 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the Administration Building chapel on the Bethel College campus. Members of the BCWA will serve refreshments in the faculty lounge in the Ad Building basement after the lecture. The event is free and open to the public.

The title of Piper’s talk is “Two prairie tales: A story of manipulation and a story of restoration.” He will discuss two long-term prairie studies that he has been conducting since 2000 with the help of Bethel biology students Danielle (Billings) Stucky, Angela Janzen, Vanessa Leite, Paula Regier and Emily (Skinner) Schmidt.

One of the studies has looked at the effects of added nitrogen on prairie vegetation in Bethel College’s two native prairie tracts, Sand Prairie in western Harvey County and Broadie Prairie in Cowley County.

“This study is important because the nitrogen content of our rainfall has been increasing in recent decades due to several types of human activity, with unknown consequences for natural areas,” Piper said. “My results so far indicate that this nitrogen addition can have marked effects upon the species diversity within prairies, leading especially to a general decline in the number of plant species at Sand Prairie.”

The second study is a prairie restoration experiment examining the use of different mixtures of native grasses and wildflowers and how that has affected restoration success. This experiment has been taking place just east of campus and so far has resulted in two publications and five student senior seminar papers.

“Long-term studies like these are essential for understanding the ecology of the prairie, an integral part of our Great Plains heritage,” Piper added. “Moreover, students’ active participation in the process of scientific discovery greatly enhances their classroom experience while enabling them to make meaningful contributions to our understanding and protection of the natural world.”

The BCWA Faculty Public Lecture award is open to any Bethel College professor and carries with it a $1,000 stipend, with $200 going to the faculty member and the remainder to his/her department to be used at that department’s discretion. Last year’s winner was Julie Hart, associate professor of sociology and peace studies.

For more information, contact Beulah Gehring, BCWA president, at beegee@mtelco.net or 620-345-8605.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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