Konza Prairie continues decades of research success with $7.12 million NSF grant renewal



Credit: Kansas State University

MANHATTAN, KANSAS — The National Science Foundation has awarded a $7.12 million grant renewal to Kansas State University’s Konza Prairie Biological Station to support the next six years of long-term ecological research. The grant is the eighth consecutive NSF grant renewal for Konza Prairie and marks more than 40 years of the Konza Prairie Long-Term Ecological Research, or LTER, program.

Since 1980, the Konza Prairie LTER program has supported a comprehensive ecological research, education and outreach program. The program centers on one of the most productive, yet endangered grasslands in North America — the tallgrass prairie.

With the recent NSF grant renewal, Konza Prairie has received a total of nearly $40 million in LTER funding and leveraged an additional $60 million of federally funded research.

Konza Prairie, an 8,600-acre native tallgrass prairie research station, is co-owned by the Kansas State University Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. Faculty in the K-State Division of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences manage Konza Prairie as a world-class platform for education and scientific investigation of grassland ecology.

“The Konza Prairie Biological Station is an amazing and critical resource for K-State,” said Chris Culbertson, associate dean for research in the College of Arts and Sciences. “The recent renewal of the NSF LTER grant for an unprecedented eighth time will allow the critical long-term research underway there to continue and will allow for several new research directions to be pursued.”

More than four decades of research at the Konza Prairie LTER site have produced a rich and detailed understanding of how environmental change and land management affect the structure and function of grasslands and associated groundwater and streams. Research over the next six years will build on this foundation of long-term experiments and measurements to understand causes and consequences of ecological change in tallgrass prairie. This will contribute to the sustainable management, conservation and restoration of terrestrial and aquatic resources in tallgrass prairies and other grasslands globally.

Konza Prairie was one of the original six sites of the LTER network when it began in 1980 and is one of only four original sites that are still active. There are currently 27 active LTER sites with locations around the world. NSF renews LTER programs based on a rigorous review of past productivity and the potential impact of proposed new research.

The Konza Prairie LTER program is one of K-State’s most successful programs for total research output. Research conducted at Konza Prairie has led to more than 1,900 scientific publications, nearly 300 graduate theses and dissertations, and 16 books. In addition, research from this site is commonly featured in undergraduate textbooks and management-oriented publications and is used in the development of scientific theory.

The principal investigator for the Konza Prairie LTER grant renewal is Jesse Nippert, professor of biology. Co-principal investigators include Keith Gido, university distinguished professor of biology, and Lydia Zeglin, associate professor of biology. Other co-principal investigators include Sara Baer, director of the Kansas Biological Station at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University’s 2014 College of Arts and Sciences Young Alumni Award recipient, and Melinda Smith, professor of biology at Colorado State University.

Konza Prairie has more than 100 active registered research projects by K-State scientists in five colleges and 14 departments as well as more than 75 visiting scientists and students from other research institutions across the U.S. and world.


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