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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Campus

Shasta’s Pocket Prairie seeks volunteers for conservation brigade


Shasta’s Pocket Prairie is home to native Texas flowers and grasses like blue mistflower, little bluestem and native milkweeds. | Courtesy of UH Office of Sustainability

Shasta’s Pocket Prairie is home to native Texas flowers and grasses like blue mistflower, little bluestem and native milkweeds. | Courtesy of UH Office of Sustainability

Before UH was formed, the campus land was covered with native acres of thick tallgrass and vibrant wildflowers. Shasta’s Pocket Prairie, an on-campus habitat to native plants and species, aims to preserve the land’s natural habitat and history.

Located at the green space near the Science & Engineering Classroom Building, the prairie is filled with native flora and fauna. The habitat relies on students to weed and seed plants during the spring semester, and they’re looking to start a volunteer group that oversees work on the prairie that was planted in 2016.

“The native movement is happening with almost everyone supporting preservation and conservation of natural habitats, said Gabriel Durham, sustainability coordinator at the Office of Sustainability who helps oversee the prairie. “It’s something that has the potential to bring Houstonians together.” 

Student support would be “transformative and a wonderful next step”  to continue preserving the native endangered prairies and host a tradition of service in the UH community, Durham said. 

He advocates for a prairie society brigade, which he would be thrilled to sponsor if there is enough interest from students who would be willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. 

“The prairie does not use pesticides and protects many native species of birds and pollinators who make coastal tall grass prairies their home,” Durham said.

Shasta’s Pocket Prairie is home to native Texas flowers and grasses like blue mistflower, little bluestem and native milkweeds. 

Native plants occur naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction. They offer the most sustainable habitat for the area’s native wildlife because they’ve formed a natural relationship over thousands of years, according to the National Wildlife Federation

The Texas coast once hosted 6.5 million acres of tallgrass prairies, but today less than one percent of these habitats remain, according to Houston Wilderness. The Houston prairies are home to many plant and animal species, including more than 1,000 plant species, geese, waterfowl and songbirds.

Of all of the ecosystems in the Houston wilderness, prairies are the most endangered. They have been overgrazed, plowed and otherwise developed nearly out of existence. 

“It’s a system we have disrupted terribly,” Durham said. “These grasses are designed to absorb floods and do not need to be mowed often, they’re essential for the environment.” 

Shasta’s Pocket Prairie offers a variety of benefits for the campus environment and aims to promote prairie conservation. The prairie absorbs rainwater faster than conventional lawns, decreases soil erosion with their deep roots system and saves money in maintenance costs, according to the Office of Sustainability.

Durham believes the prairie brings the community together for the common goal of saving the natural environment.

“I can’t think why volunteering in its conservation is not important,” Durham said.

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