Biology field station gets NSF grant

7:55:00 AM CDT - Thursday, March 01, 2007

WSU's biological research station, a 330-acre tract of land that has provided opportunities for lessons in prairie rebirth, aquatic and bird life and other studies, will eventually get a permanent field station building, thanks to a major federal grant.

Ninnescah River

Courtesy photos by Chris Rogers
WSU's Ninnescah Field Station and Experimental Tract, located about 35 miles southwest of the main campus near Viola, borders a mile of the Ninnescah River. Native prairie and woodlands, below, are also found on the 330-acre tract.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded a $240,000 grant to build a 3,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building at WSU's Ninnescah Field Station and Experimental Tract. NSF grants are highly competitive, and the WSU request was funded in full, according to WSU officials.

"This facility will greatly enhance and facilitate the research and teaching mission of ecological sciences for the department of biological sciences and WSU," said Chris Rogers, associate professor of biological sciences and principal investigator for the grant.


The building is slated to be built in mid-2008.

"This is a great opportunity for our faculty and students," said Bill Bischoff, dean of the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "They will benefit from improved research and teaching conditions at a location important to the ecology of this area."

Bin Shaui and Chris Rogers

Courtesy photo
Biological sciences faculty members Bin Shuai, left, and Chris Rogers discuss research on fitness maximization in wintering birds at WSU's biological field station, which offers research opportunities into prairie rebirth, aquatic and bird life and other studies. A new lab and classroom will be built at the field station next year with a federal grant.

WSU has had the field station, located in southwest Sedgwick County about 35 miles from the campus, since 1983. Its previous landowner donated the land to WSU's former Endowment Association, now known as the Foundation, to be used for research.

Since that time, the tract, which borders a mile of the Ninnescah River, has been restored to native prairie. Woodlands and wetlands are also found on the tract, which is about the size of the WSU main campus. The field station has supported a number of courses and research projects over the years.

For example, between 2001 and 2005, the field station supported 55 university courses, not only from WSU, but from Friends and Newman universities, as well, according to the proposal submitted to the NSF. Five peer-reviewed articles were published using data from the site.

Many faculty and graduate and undergraduate students carry out long-term research projects at the tract, which have included studying plant-herbivore interactions, avian winter ecology, the incidence of West Nile virus in birds, sedimentation dynamics, and prairie restoration and recovery from overgrazing.

-- Compiled by Amy Geiszler-Jones

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