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Prairie and woodland restoration project receives third year of Kingsbury funding

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s on-campus prairie and woodland restoration project has been funded for a third year by the Kingsbury Family Foundation.

Kingsbury is a private foundation, based in Virginia and run by two sisters in memory of their father, with particular interest in projects protecting the natural resources of the Great Plains, especially plant and animal habitat. Since 2006, Bethel College Professor of Biology Jon Piper’s proposals for the Bethel College project, titled “Studies on Restoration of Two Indigenous Kansas Ecosystems: Oak Woodland and Tallgrass Prairie,” have resulted in a total of $46,802 in Kingsbury grants.

Responding to Piper’s latest proposal, Bridget Donaldson, Kingsbury Family Foundation administrator, wrote: “It is obvious that your study has been quite labor intensive and it looks hopeful that it will provide critical information for successful restoration of native habitats. We were also pleased to see the addition of the animal diversity component, as it will undoubtedly add valuable data over the course of the study. We are therefore happy to provide you with a grant of $10,720 to continue your work.” Most of those funds will be used to support several Bethel College student field assistants over the summer.

The project is two-part – one studying the role of plant biodiversity in the restoration of tallgrass prairie and the other observing the effects of bur oaks on plant succession from cropland to woodland.

In the tallgrass prairie study, 7.6 acres of a 10-acre area have been divided into 25 experimental plots with various native seed mixtures in order to study how the original number of species planted on a plot affects the success of the prairie restoration. On other acreage, plots of bur oaks have been nestled against established woodland. The use of “nurse plants” to help other species emerge and flourish has been documented in previous studies and Piper and his students will be comparing how the rate at which plots with seeded oaks develop into diverse woodlands differs from control plots undergoing natural succession.

This summer, junior Rebecca Claassen, Moses Lake, Wash., who received a Bethel College summer research grant, will study and document the animal life and habitat in the oak woodland study plots. She will report her results to the campus in fall as part of her senior research seminar presentation.

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 was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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