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Biology Contact

Department Chair:

Dr. Dixie L. Smith

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Contact Person:
Kelly Borden

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Phone: 620-235-4732
Fax: 620-235-4194

Heckert-Wells Hall 223
Pittsburg State University
1701 S. Broadway
Pittsburg, KS 66762-7552

Research and Education

The field sites been used for various undergraduate and graduate research projects as well as for instructional purposes in major and non-major classes.

Natural History Reserve

The Natural History Reserve (NHR) has a history of use for research, education, and service back to an initial aquatic study published in 1953 by Charles C. Burner and Claude Leist (“A Limnological Study of the College Farm Strip-Mine Lake.” Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science. 56:78-85).

The NHR is now used in undergraduate and graduate education. Upper division and graduate field biology classes use the Reserve for class-related field work. In “Limnology”, the main pit is used for sampling and the lab building as a base for field water quality analysis. In “Terrestrial Field Ecology” vegetated areas have been used for quantitative vegetation surveys. In “Regional Natural History” the site is used for mammal track and sign collection, bird observation, and plant identification. The NHR is also used by Mammalogy and Ornithology. Undergraduate students have also been involved in research or service projects at the NHR.

Non-science majors also use the site for observations of ecology or raptors in “Environmental Life Science” (the largest enrollment class, over 700 each year) and “General Biology” (the mixed-major (primarily nursing and physical education, but others; about 300 each year). The NHR also houses raptors used as educational birds in the Department’s Nature Reach environmental education program. Biology majors also gain experience (course work or volunteer) in raptor husbandry, supervised medical treatment, maintenance, and rehabilitation techniques.

In 2006, Dr. Cindy Ford received funding through a “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) grant titled “Exploring the Natural World with Life Science Standards in Southeast Kansas Middle School Classrooms.” In 2006, five teachers took advantage of the grant. The Reserve was used as a basis for discussing the Cherokee Lowlands physiographic region, water quality, plants and animals, native and non-native species, and reclamation.

Many construction and service projects have occurred at the Reserve, mostly involving infrastructure for the raptor program. Students in the “Principles of Conservation” class do service projects for the site. Outside parties have also contributed to the NHR. Donations of money or in-kind contributions have been received from the Sperry-Galligar Audubon Society, including $2,300 to help construction of a new raptor/lab building. Westar Energy, through its Green Team program, has donated materials and labor to construct cages for non-releasable birds, including $6,000 for cages.

Most recently, the old lab building was demolished and replaced with a new structure composed of "eco-blocks" and built with sustainable features.

Monahan Outdoor Education Center

Various undergraduate students have conducted water quality studies on the site over the years as a part of course work or as independent studies. The Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment funded a $30,000 study of surface and groundwater to assist in planning a remediation project for controlling seepage along the north side of the mound and undergrads participated in that work.

Many classes, including Stream Ecology, Terrestrial Field Ecology, Wetland Ecology, Ornithology, Mammalogy, and Wildlife Management have used the area. “Soils”, a requirement for all field biology students, uses the Monahan for soil analysis. Undergraduate student Travis Robb completed an undergraduate research project looking at C and N values of the reclaimed and unreclaimed soils of the Monahan Site and presented a paper titled “A comparison of organic soil carbon at a native grassland and a reclaimed strip mine site in southeast Kansas” at the Biology Undergraduate Research Colloquium. He was sponsored by Dr. Dixie Smith.

Dr. Cindy Ford also used the Monahan in the NCLB grant. At the Monahan, the teachers saw abandoned and reclaimed mined lands, examined the restored grassland, a new constructed wetland, sampled water quality, and made various natural history observations.

Robb Prairie

The primary use of the site has been for field trips for non-major biology classes during units on ecology, but it has also used for Mammalogy and Field Ecology.

O’Malley Prairie

These properties have been used for “Plant Taxonomy” and “Summer Flora” for plant identification and in “Soils” for soil and invertebrate sampling and analysis. An undergraduate Honors Project was conducted that collected and identified plants from the two prairies. Currently, undergraduate student Ian Robertson is conducting a more complete floristic survey as a topics project. The properties have also been used in “Terrestrial Field Ecology” for line transects. Travis Robb’s undergraduate soil research project used this site’s undisturbed soils as a control for the Monahan.