In 1947, E. Raymond Hall established the foundation of Kansas University's ecological research areas with the dedication of the 590-acre KU Natural History Reservation northeast of Lawrence.
On Sunday, Hall's son, Hubert "Hub" Hall and his wife, Kathleen, added a 116-acre reserve of their own, the Hall Nature Reserve.
Hub Hall, 73, moved to Lawrence during his senior year of high school, graduated from KU and married Kathleen after graduation. They returned to Kansas in 1987 after Hall retired from a globetrotting career as a petroleum geologist.
The Halls settled on Kansas River uplands east of Lecompton. Through the years, they added parcels of land to their property with the intention of preserving the bits and pieces of native prairie found there.
Though they donated the land to Kansas University in 1999, Sunday marked the formal dedication and unveiling of the reserve's sign. About 80 people attended the dedication and hourlong tour of the reserve.
Hall's love for the land began with his parents, he told the crowd.
"They instilled in me a love for the land that really was just incredible, which is why we purchased this land and why we donated it to the university," he said.
Hall said he wasn't sure his land would be suitable for research until he invited Henry Fitch, emeritus professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, to go for a walk on the property. Fitch, who was hired by E. Raymond Hall, has been the resident naturalist on the Fitch Natural History Reservation since 1948.
Fitch had plenty of ideas, Hall said.
"By my recollection, I think he laid out a program of 50 to 100 years of research," Hall said.
Leonard Krishtalka, director of the KU Natural History Museum, thanked Hall for his donation, which is among 1,800 acres in KU's Field Station and Ecological Reserves.
"In 50 to 100 years, this may well be one of the last remaining wildlands in the Lawrence-Lecompton megalopolis," Krishtalka said.
Jerry deNoyelles, associate director of the Kansas Biological Survey, said the Hall Nature Preserve was an important area to study because Douglas County lies on the transition zone between tallgrass prairie and eastern deciduous forest.
"There are fewer and fewer natural parcels of land left around here," he said. "In order to learn more about how our lands function, you need the areas set aside."
After the dedication, Kelly Kindscher, an associate scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey, gave an hour-long tour of the preserve.
One section of native prairie on the preserve was burned three weeks ago to push back invading shrubs and trees and encourage native grasses and forbs. Already, plants like big bluestem, sheep sorrel and white sage were pushing out new blades, stalks and flowers.
The grasslands, while small and surrounded by a 50 to 60-year-old forests, are a throwback to pre-settlement times when 93 to 94 percent of Douglas County was prairie.
Now, KU scientists will document the plants and animals on the preserve, encourage more native growth and use the studies on other natural lands.
"It still an open question whether we can truly reestablish all the pieces on a restored prairie," Kindscher said.
Hall said he's glad his piece of land will be used for scientific research.
"I look forward to improving the habitat and learning how to improve other habitats," he said.