CEDAR FALLS – The University of Northern Iowa is renaming the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, often referred to as the “Campus Prairie,” to the Daryl Smith Prairie in honor of the professor who was instrumental in its creation.
The dedication and celebration recognizing the decades-long career of Professor Emeritus Daryl Smith and his visionary role in expanding UNI’s unique system of natural prairies will be at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 14 at the UNI Prairie Preserve at 8106 Jennings Drive.
“The length and quality of Dr. Smith’s service to the University – as a teacher, a scholar, and a leader in the field of prairie protection and restoration – is indeed extraordinary,” said Laura Jackson, director of the Tallgrass Prairie Center. “The very existence of the Campus Prairie is a result of Dr. Smith’s foresight, vision, expertise, management, and dedication, which allowed an urban landscape to be transformed into an important natural-education feature of campus.”
The prairie is an eight-acre plot of land that was the first in a series of campus preserves that Smith and others established in the 1970s and 1980s. Led by Smith, the committee secured the land, the permissions and the native seed needed to develop a reconstructed tallgrass prairie. After the initial phases of planting, Smith spent decades organizing student volunteer crews to conduct prescribed burns.
Today, the Campus Prairie is used regularly by classes in wildlife ecology and management; ecology; restoration ecology; ecology, evolution and the nature of science; and environment, technology and society. Trails are open to the public year-round, and are regularly used for walking, running and cross-country skiing.
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Smith’s long career extends from teaching high school, to achieving his Ph.D. and serving as the head of the department of biology at UNI, to founding the Native Roadside Vegetation Center, later renamed the Tallgrass Prairie Center.
UNI is the only university in the nation associated with a center dedicated to prairie preservation and restoration. The Tallgrass Prairie Center is nationally recognized as a leader in native roadside vegetation management, native seed production, and prairie restoration research. Nearly 100 UNI students have gained hands-on training at the center since 2005.
UNI students have been the primary beneficiaries of Smith’s extraordinary vision. He was the chair of at least 27 master’s thesis committees in biology, science education and environmental science. Over the last 20 years Smith taught a wide range of classes at UNI and nearly every summer taught at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. The number of undergraduate students influenced by Dr. Smith cannot be estimated.
“The purpose of naming things after people is not just to honor the past, but more importantly to inspire us today,” Jackson said. “By naming the Campus Prairie after Daryl Smith, I believe we demonstrate to future UNI students what we value: vision, leadership and a passion for service to society and the natural world.”