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Researchers Aim to Restore South Dakota Prairies

Image Eva Soluk USD graduate student Eva Soluk mows a section of tallgrass prairie near Vermillion, S.D., that's part of a research project.

VERMILLION, S.D. -- University of South Dakota researchers are looking to better understand the inner workings of tallgrass prairies in order to conserve natural ecosystems.

Tallgrass prairies in some parts of South Dakota have been reduced to a fraction of their natural land cover due to agriculture and crop production. Meghann Jarchow, Ph.D., sustainability coordinator and assistant biology professor at USD, is testing how diversity and disturbance affect these prairies.

“Almost all of our remaining tallgrass prairies are actively managed by people,” Jarchow said. “This research will help us to understand how the timing of our management affects the composition and functioning of the prairies.”

USD graduate students Eva Soluk and Adam Warrix are working with Jarchow at the Comparing Managed Prairie Systems (COMPS) experiment north of Vermillion, which includes 192 plots 5 meters by 5 meters in size that are seeded with different species of grasses and wildflowers.

Researchers cut and remove hay from the plots in either May, July or September. Then, the COMPS researchers look at how management can impact a newly restored tallgrass prairie and how a restored prairie develops over time.

“There are many unique plant species and fascinating wildlife that live in tallgrass prairies,” Soluk said. “They also provide buffering from floods, reduced nutrient pollution and provide a population of natural crop pest predators.”

Download a photo: USD graduate student Eva Soluk mows a section of tallgrass prairie near Vermillion, S.D., that's part of a research project.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News