Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Manager Jeff Zajac gave 10th grade biology students at St. Mary’s High School a lesson on ecology on Friday, Sept. 20.
Students collected seeds as an introductory lesson for an Ecology Unit. Zajac taught them how to strip seeds from native prairie grasses and flowers at a wildlife management area in Mulligan Township south of Sleepy Eye. The seeds will be dried and then planted next spring at other prairie restoration sites.
Zajac told students that native seed collection is vital to restoring and expanding prairies. He explained the wildlife management area in Mulligan Township west of Highway 4 on Highway 22 is not truly a virgin or native prairie because it was tiled at one time and has been grazed, but probably has never been plowed.
Seeds like those the students collected are mature and ready to harvest from the middle of September into early October. The seeds were collected in small, brown paper bags and taken to the DNR headquarters and dried.
Seeds that were collected include lead plant, yarrow, various coneflowers, black-eye Susan, asters, mint, big bluestem, switchgrass, goldenrod, wild rose and prairie cord grass.
This ecological field study taught students about biodiversity, the ecosystem, biotic and abiotic factors within an ecosystem, interdependence of species and populations, plant and animal adaptions and about the destruction and restoration of habitat.