Prairie Fork Update: 2022 in Review

Welcome back! Pat’s vision to teach our youth the importance of conservation continues here every day! Due to staff changes and other things beyond our control, we have not had the opportunity to share lately the wonderful things that go on here at Prairie Fork Conservation Area. Hope you enjoy the following look back at 2022. Depicted here is our long- awaited sign for the area that was installed in January.

Ongoing Projects at PFCA

Dr. Rebecca North and her classes continue their final year of work studying, “Nutrient controls on cyanotoxin production by harmful algae in Crow Pond.” Limnology at the University of Missouri

Dr. Lauren Sullivan and her PhD student Katherine Wynne and their students are also in the final year of “The Role of Temporal Dispersal Patterns in Building Diverse Tallgrass Prairie Plant Communities.”

Dr. Samniqueka Halsey’s project on “Prairie Restoration Effects on Prevalence of Disease Vectors,” is ongoing with students analyzing data collected at the area.

Dr. Samniqueka Halsey discusses her research at PFCA with a group of elementary students visiting the area in early spring.

2022 Projects

Dr. Halsey and her PhD student Jaylon Vaughn have begun a new project studying the “Detection and Characteristics of Ehrlichia and Rickettsia in Callaway County, Missouri.”

Dr. Benjamin Knapp and students will be collecting data on” Continued Evaluation and Reconstruction Techniques in a Gradient of Natural Communities of Missouri – Prairies, Savannas and Woodlands.” Silviculture and Restoration Ecology

Dr. Nadia Navarrete-Tindall will be working on the project “Advancing Native Plant Education at PFCA through Outreach and Education.”

History of Pat and Ted

How do you write a book about two of the most influential conservationists in the world? Well, Jeannette Cooperman did just that. Her double biography, “Trail Blazers,” The Free-Spirited and Extraordinary Lives of Ted and Pat Jones, digs into the details and essence of their shared lives. Magnificent Missouri released the new book in the spring about two people who devoted their lives to making the Missouri countryside an even better and more accessible place for all of us. This book is your opportunity to “meet” this remarkable pair, experience their love for the land — and learn the story behind one of Missouri’s largest companies.

CHLOE (Children Learning Through Outdoor Experiences) Lone Oaks Farm, University of Tennessee

Dr. Christine Li, Prairie Fork Youth Conservation Education Assistant Professor in The School of Natural Resources and Ms. Amber Edwards, Outreach and Education Coordinator at Prairie Fork Conservation Area were invited to collaborate on this project during Spring 2022 semester. The Tennessee project is working towards a solution to the challenge of feeding the additional two billion people that will inhabit the world by 2050 (total population growing to 9.7 billion). CHLOE, is working to recruit the best and brightest people to become tomorrow’s farmers, scientist, technicians, and analysts. Li and Edwards plan to incorporate many of the things they learned at the Lone Oaks farm into their educational d planning at Praiprograms anrie Fork. Below Dr. Christine Li and Ms. Amber Edwards attending CHLOE conference at Lone Oak Farm, Tennessee.

MDC Invasive Plant Control Recommendations

In the early months of the new year, 169 acres of autumn olive and bush honeysuckle were given a stump cut treatment using picloram herbicide. Below is more in-depth information from MDC. 

The warmer days of April, May and June brought more activity to the Area. Students from several Columbia Public Schools travelled to the area to learn, get dirty and have fun!!

The Conservation Leadership Corp (CLC) students came to the area in April for a workday.

Area Use Updates

In May, Prairie Fork hosted several employees from the Edward Jones Company in St. Louis for a meeting. The company encourages its corporate staff to bring employees to the area to meet, refresh, and enjoy nature.

Edward Jones company began celebrating its centennial year in January 2022. Several events were held at PFCA in honor of the company and its founder, the late Edward “Ted” Jones and his late wife Hilda “Pat” Jones, and the land they loved so much they put their heart and soul into conservation education.

Professional groups from partner agencies using the education building for meetings and on-site research seminars.

Ongoing Research Projects and Classes at PFCA

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) hosted its first-ever burrowing crayfish researcher at Prairie Fork, and the results of that work were published this past spring by Catlin Ames, the former Resource Scientist at MDC. In March 2020, Isabeau Dasho and Bob DiStefano published a research study on “Burrowing Crayfish” in the Missouri Conservationist.
Ames used much of their data in his study on the area published in 2015

Map Courtesy of Jeff Demand

Greenhouse Gas Project

Dr. Rebecca North, Assistant Professor, School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri, and her staff and graduate students were training student assistants at Crow Pond in the Spring. Those students will assist Dr. North and crew with data collection for the greenhouse gas project and its relation to her courses in water quality and stream ecology.  Also attached is the poster submitted by Dr. North, her students, and colleagues on burping wetlands.

Area Management Updates

With the heat of the summer, activities at the area change from student visits to building projects and preparing for the next season. (photos courtesy of Amber Edwards)

Spraying for Sericea Lespedeza

Spraying for sericea lespedeza continued at the area. The continuing pursuit of eradicating Sericea lespedeza was in full force this spring with 534 acres sprayed.

Map Courtesy of Jeff Demand

Controlled Burn

Growing season prescribed burns were in full swing as area management worked to increase forb component wildflowers. (photos courtesy Jeff Demand)

Native Seed Collection 2022

In 2022, native seed collection took place at Prairie Fork Conservation Area.  Most of our early-season seed collections were focused on collecting spring ephemerals and other hard-to-establish species.  Our staff collected around 20 different species, such as prairie dog-tooth violet, arrow-leaf violet, prairie willow, and bastard toadflax.  The collected seed was then planted in marked location paired plots – one with arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi (AMF) and the other without – so that we could then monitor if these species’ germination and survival were affected by the presence of AMF.  Ongoing monitoring of these plots is occurring.  We did also lead a couple of Missouri Master Naturalist (MMN) seed collection trips in 2022 to hand-collect established species at Prairie Fork.  White and blue wild Indigo, grey-headed coneflower, beards tongue, rosinweed, and compass plant are a few of the mid-season species that we targeted during these seed collection trips.  Seed from these collections are being used to overseed other areas at Prairie Fork and to provide seed for native plantings in other conservation areas.  Finally, towards the tail end of the 2022 growing season, we contracted with a commercial native seed vendor to collect combine large swaths of our reconstructed prairie.  We do this to provide a seed source to the commercial vendor and also to provide us a share of the harvest that we used for additional overseeding at Prairie Fork and other nearby Conservation Areas.  In late 2022, this seed vendor collected over 2700 pounds of grass and native forb seed from Prairie Fork.  Our share of this collection came to about 700 pounds.  We have taken a portion of our share and traded the remaining share for species that were not collected in our areas.  This seed will then be used to overseed poor reconstruction plantings at Prairie Fork to enhance our planted native plant community.  This shared harvest and trading have resulted in Prairie Fork receiving back around 400 pounds of native seed containing around 45 different species. That will then be used to overseed around 50 acres of previously planted but low-quality plantings in efforts to increase the native plant community quality and robustness. (Chris Newbold, District Supervisor, MDC)

Ongoing Management Projects PFCA

Crayfish Wetlands saw a lot of activity over the summer. Cal Demand, an Eagle Scout and son of Area Manager Jeff Demand, and his Boy Scout Troop assisted in the design and construction of the education classroom at the new dock. And one of the inhabitants at the pond. (photos courtesy of Jeff Demand)

Notable Moments with Bees and Bugs

The PFCA office building was A Buzz this summer. A hive of bees found what they thought was the ideal place to live. But a quick call to a nearby beekeeper provided them with safe transportation to a home much better suited for them. (photos courtesy of Amber Edwards)

Yellow-Based Moth Caterpillar – another summer visitor to the area. (photo courtesy of Jeff Demand)

See you again soon.

Please watch for updates again very soon!! Remember to “Learn, Get Dirty and Have Fun!”