Prairie Treasures Scavenger Hunt

Activity 2

Exploring the Prairie

exploring the prairie module icon


You've decided to apply for a summer job as student assistant at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees and volunteers have been working on thousands of acres at the refuge to revive plants, insects, birds and animals that thrived on Iowa's southern plains centuries ago. The staff is trying to re-create what the prairie looked like in the 1830s before there were farms and cities in Iowa.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist is looking for a student assistant who searches, reads and understands information quickly. The first step of the interview process is a prairie scavenger hunt.


Working with a partner, read each question about the tallgrass prairie. Review the list of websites below and select those where you think you might find the answer. You will need to read carefully to find the answer.

Number a Word document from 1 to 8 and record your answers.

Photographer: Terri Dermody


  1. Why is plant diversity important to the ecosystem of a tallgrass prairie?
  2. How does plant dominance affect the tallgrass prairie?
  3. Why are bison significant in the history of tall grass prairies?
  4. Why have the number of prairie dogs and bison diminished over the years and how has this affected other wildlife?
  5. How did fires renew the tallgrass prairie?
  6. What's the importance of the enormous root system of some prairie plants?
  7. Why are controlled burns an important part of prairie conservation efforts today?
  8. How can you make a difference with prairie conservation efforts?

Internet Resources

The Vanishing Prairie

Quick Facts
Formation of Prairies
Fermilab: Online Prairie Data
WPR radio broadcast- Loss of Prairies Threaten Local Ecosystems
(Requires Real Audio)
Watch video from the Particles and Prairies
Origin of the Tallgrass Prairie
What is Left of the Iowa Prairie

Plants on the Prairie

Quick Facts
Biodiversity of Prairies
Prairies: Rediscovering a Fragile Frontier
Prairie Plants and Their Root Systems
Prairie Panoramas - includes videos
(Requires QuickTime)
Vegetation Fascination
Watch video from the Particles and Prairies

Animals on the Prairie

Quick Facts
American Buffalo
Prairie Animal Printouts
History of Bison
The North American Bison
Butterflies Observed at Fermilab's Prairie
Frogs Observed at Fermilab's Prairie
Insects Observed at Fermilab's Prairie
Watch video from the Particles and Prairies videodisc

Prairie Grass Management

Quick Facts
Part and Parcel of Nature - Video
Aerial photos of prairie burning in the Flint Hills, Kansas

Prairie Preservation

Quick Facts
Major Problems that Face Tallgrass Prairies
Major Issues Facing the Prairie
Watch video from the Particles and Prairies videodisc
Prairie Restoration Slide Show
1000 slides covering the restoration, history, ecology of the Fermilab prairie.

Preserving the Natural Prairie Environment"Iowa has the soil and rainfall that trees love, but in the Iowa of old, trees had to fight for a spot on the prairies -and commonly lost to the wildfires. Spring fire means rebirth to prairie plants which hide their vital juices in deep roots while the flames clear away dead vegetation above. That allows the sunshine to penetrate, and the blackened remains absorb heat, warming the soil and hastening germination. Woody plants tend not to survive the burns."

Rescuing the Prairie
Editorial, Des Moines Register, April 20, 2000
camp silos

Submit Feedback

Report Issue / Broken Link