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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Campus

Shasta’s Prairie planting party rescheduled


pocket prairie

Shasta’s Prairie will be constructed behind the Science and Research Building 2. If the prairie is successful, additional ones will be added throughout campus. | Courtesy of UH Media Relations.

After severe weather devastated parts of Houston last week, the Shasta’s Prairie planting party has been rescheduled for Sunday, May 1. Students and volunteers will help with planting seeds, grasses and wildflowers at the prairie to be constructed behind the Science and Research Building 2.

The soon-realized pocket prairie aims to raise awareness of UH’s heritage as a former grasslands area and provide a haven for biology students to study the nature of this ecosystem.

“(The prairie) helps educate us about what was here,” UH Coastal Center director Steven Pennings said. “Traveling to field sites takes up a lot of time. Biology and environmental studies students can instead use class time to study various insects and plants that the pocket prairie will host.”

The prairie is part of a fundraising competition campaign from the Katy Prairie Conservancy called “Grassroots for Change,” which aims to help local college campuses build pocket prairies. Of the $30,000 goal, UH beat out Rice University and the University of St. Thomas with $5,035 in total donations at the time of this writing.

“The volunteers will help plant the prairie and also gain a sense of ownership to it, which is a reason why students should help build this prairie,” Pennings said.

The Office of Sustainability and the UH Coastal Center partnered with the Katy Prairie Conservancy to bring the prairies back to UH.

“Historically, the area in and around UH was part of a massive grassland called the coastal prairie,” said Jaime Gonzales, community conservation director for the Katy Prairie Conservancy. “Today, it’s hard to see a prairie because much of the original prairie has been lost.”

Besides providing an educational resource to UH, Shasta’s Prairie will promote sustainability and encourage students to go outside and explore nature.

“In theory, pocket prairies require less maintenance,” Pennings said. “If we ultimately expand and do large areas, then it saves money, because (prairies have) native plants that don’t need to be taken care of that much.”

Pennings said that if Shasta’s Prairie is successful and well-received by the public, UH will have plans to build two more pocket prairies on campus.

Gonzales said that along with the upcoming prairie, UH has one of the best remaining patches of coastal prairie in the Houston region.

“UH actually has a field station two-thirds of the way to Galveston,” Pennings said.  “The natural habitat there is also a prairie, and a lot of our students don’t know about it, so we will be able to make a connection here (with) something they see all the time that will help inform them about the field station we have.”

UHCC says the field station provides a unique and essential facility for faculty from the area doing biological and environmental research and field education. It provides access to an endangered natural habitat and pristine coastal prairie within a large area of land where equipment and experiments can be safely deployed.

“We are looking forward to getting the prairie planted,” Pennings said.  “It’s going to be a nice resource for ecological study at the campus, and it’s also going to be a little bit of an advertisement for our field station.”

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