On Saturday, Sept. 14, a “Prairie Rendezvous” will be hosted at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve on UNI’s campus.
As a culmination of Prairie Heritage Week, this event will recognize professor Daryl Smith’s contribution to the foundation of the Tallgrass Prairie Center, as well as his 50 years of service to preservation and education. In dedication to Smith upon his retirement, the Tallgrass Prairie will be renamed the Daryl Smith Prairie.
The prairie was planted by Smith and his students in 1973. Current biology department head Theresa Spradling said Smith’s contributions to educating students about the tallgrass prairie has provided learning opportunities.
“This was a forward-thinking, ambitious move designed to make the area useful for education (as an outdoor classroom), for research and for community enjoyment,” Spradling said. “Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Smith, this area became one of the first reconstructed prairies in Iowa.”
Students, alumni, faculty and prairie enthusiasts are invited to celebrate the work of Daryl Smith, learn more about conservation efforts and walk the trails Saturday morning.
Prairie Rendezvous will feature speakers from the university, refreshments and tours of the preserve. Speakers include UNI President Mark Nook, Dean John Fritch of the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences, biology professors Spradling and Laura Jackson and two of Smith’s former students.
“I’m excited about showcasing UNI’s preserve system and what a great asset it is to UNI students and the community,” said Jackson, who is the director for the Tallgrass Prairie Center. “Come and see the prairie even if you’ve never seen it before. The speeches will be short and interesting, then we can go out on the trail.”
Following light refreshments, guests can enjoy the prairie’s trails and talk with the Tallgrass Prairie Center’s current staff and students. A new painting will be revealed in honor of the occasion, and guests can partake in the campus-wide monarch count with the help of the center’s staff.
“Dr. Smith’s contributions to prairie restoration really are phenomenal,” Spradling said. “He has had a dramatic effect on the landscape of Iowa, helping the state create natural areas that support wildlife out of its road right-of-ways. His influence stands the test of time.”
As much as Smith did for Iowa’s prairie restoration and conservation, his colleagues and students can also attest to the impact he made as an educator.
“I met Daryl when I was a new professor in 1993,” Jackson said. “Out of respect for his experience, I addressed him as Dr. Smith and he corrected me and asked me to call him Daryl. This said a lot about his generosity to help a young biology department colleague new to this area, and his humility. Over the years, he provided very helpful advice, but only when I asked for it.”
“This will be a fun celebration of an aspect of conservation that is especially important here in Iowa: restoring our tallgrass prairie,” Spradling said. “People who attend can meet other people who value this work and enjoy being outside. And, they can honor a great professor who impacted many lives.”
The “Prairie Rendezvous” event will be located on West 29th St and begin at 10:30 am.