Researchers from Kansas State University are assisting their counterparts at Western Michigan University to determine if the environmental evaluation model developed at Colbert Hills Golf Course can be applied to a new course being built on a former landfill site. The research team, headed by Steve Thien, professor of agronomy, and Steve Starrett, associate professor of civil engineering, will be applying the same process researchers used at K-State to study the ecosystem quality before, during and after construction of Colbert Hills' pristine prairie site. The research team also includes Bob Bauernfeind, professor of entomology; Walt Fick, associate professor of agronomy; and Rob Robel, professor of biology.
The researchers set out on a five-year project to study the "big picture" of the ecosystems on the Colbert Hills prairie site -- water quality, plants, amphibians, insects, etc., including some studies before construction began.
"We found basically what you would expect, " Thien said. "(The land) was in pretty good shape before the bulldozers. While the bulldozers were there, a lot of things were disrupted. Now that the grass is back -- a different kind of grass -- things are in pretty good shape again. Not like they were on the original prairie but moving toward that situation. "
More important than finding some expected patterns, Thien said they developed a methodology for describing the quality of a whole ecosystem. They will share that expertise with Western Michigan in the form of a transportable process that involves monitoring several indicators that revolve around plants, animals, soil and water quality.
For every indicator, researchers will establish an upper and lower control limit. If those indicators fall within a "sustainable range," the ecosystem is okay. However, if any indicators fall either ab
Contact: Steve Thien
Kansas State University