The prairie is also used as a seed source of local genotypes of grasses and wildflowers for use in prairie restoration efforts in the region. The Nine-Mile Prairie Management Committee, comprised of University of Nebraska - Lincoln faculty from several different departments plus resource people from several agencies and organizations, is charged with the stewardship of this biological treasure.
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The prairie has not been grazed since The initial purchase of Nine-Mile Prairie was made possible with a generous donation by Mrs. Marguerite Hall.
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In October , university researchers and staff together with Nine-Mile Prairie friends celebrated the 25th anniversary of Nine-Mile Prairie under University of Nebraska management. Also celebrated was the th anniversary of prairie ecologist John Weaver's undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska. Rousek on behalf of the Wachiska chapter of the Audubon Society. As one of the largest intact tracts of tallgrass prairie left in the Midwest, it serves as a nationally important outdoor laboratory for the study of biological processes in grasslands.
Nine-Mile is the longest-studied natural area in Nebraska, serving as the site of pioneering research in plant ecology by Professor John E.
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Weaver, the father of grassland ecology, beginning in the s, and seeing decades of continued use by researchers at University of Nebraska - Lincoln and UNO. In my years of occasional visits to the prairie I walked the low lands frequently but I had never seen a running stream, only the occasional marshy areas of standing water where the runoff from rain and snowmelt pooled.
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On that late December day when I took my new camera to the prairie, the first place I went was to pay my respects to Grandmother Cottonwood and then to walk farther up the Big South Draw as I like to call them. As I worked my way up the draw I passed areas that sometimes were wetlands. I had seen these spots filled with marsh grasses, cattails and red-winged blackbirds. I decided to walk all the way to the highest point up that draw just to see what it was like and in hopes of finding some moisture somewhere. The farther up I went, the more and more dense the bare winter vegetation became until I was fighting my way forward.
But when I reached a little clearing I noticed the bottom of the draw was muddy.
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As I looked around I saw signs that a variety of animals had been using this little wet spot. There were antlers, bones and skulls in the vicinity.
Later I found that just above the draw, bordering the open prairie hillside, was a dense thicket of wild plum bushes. I decided then and there that I would make a commitment to come back to the prairie over and over during the coming solar year to see how it changed over the course of the seasons.
This would be a different and very personal time-lapse exploration of a small but significant place in our Platte Basin watershed. For the next thirteen months I went out to Nine Mile Prairie twice a week to wander and photograph. Many times I checked out what was new at the seep.
Although eastern Nebraska continued to be very dry all through , that little wet spot was the only place I found that never completely dried out.