CHENEY Wichita State University plans to use a new federal grant to build a field laboratory on 330 acres of land it uses to study, restore and preserve prairie.
The $240,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will allow the school to replace two 1950s-era trailers it has used as classrooms on the land about 30 miles southwest of Wichita near the Ninnescah River, said Christopher Rogers, an associate professor at Wichita State. Construction will begin in a year.
Studies at the site will include prairie restoration and recovery from overgrazing, the ecology of aquatic invertebrates, prairie bird nesting communities, incidence of West Nile virus in birds and monitoring of fish, amphibian and reptile populations.
Fifty-five university classes have been taught on the land in the last five years, including some by Newman and Friends universities, Rogers said.
Wichita State also hopes the grant will help it to preserve the research of Don Distler, one of the best-known biologists in Kansas who has worked for more than two decades to restore the former farmland into prairie.