A rugged landscape has a certain pull for Ryan Schroeder. Like a quenching glass of water on a hot summer day, it refreshes and fuels him. The Purdue senior is happiest when walking and working the land, and feels a call to preserve nature at its most pristine.
“I’ve always found value in physical labor,” Schroeder explained. “There’s value in linking hands-on work with thoughtfulness about how you will manage a certain area.”
Now, utilizing advances in soil-mapping technology, Schroeder has confirmed the location of an unknown piece of endangered Indiana prairie known as gravel hill prairie.
Gravel hill prairies are native grasslands on gravel deposits with relatively steep south, southwest or west facing slopes. There are less than 10 acres of gravel hill prairies remaining in the state. Conservation agencies are eager to identify them because they hold seven of the state’s endangered plant species.
Schroeder, a natural resources and environmental science major who is in the Honors College and College of Agriculture, made the discovery last fall while doing fieldwork in Tippecanoe County with Derek Luchik, a Purdue graduate who is now working for The Nature Conservancy.
“These newly discovered natural lands, which would not have been known without Ryan’s work, are leading to NICHES outreach to the landowners,” says Gus Nyberg, executive director of NICHES Land Trust. “We are hopeful this will create long-term protection of these lands through purchase or management agreements before these natural openings close and the prairie and open woodland species disappear.”
The last systematic search for this rare type of natural area was in the 1980s.
“It’s kind of a reconnection, a sense of peace, to be able to get off campus and into nature,” Schroeder says. “Today value is primarily placed on the ‘goods’ that can be produced from our natural resources. It is difficult to place a value on the services natural resources and healthy ecosystems provide to us.”
– Lindsay Perrault, http://bit.ly/2g66wpU
Above: Ryan Schroeder, a natural resources and environmental science major who is in the Honors College and College of Agriculture, recently confirmed the location of an unknown piece of endangered Indiana prairie known as gravel hill prairie. (Purdue News Service/Charles Jischke)