A Fiery Yet Natural Learning Environment

  • Four men in fire protection suits walk along a prairie
    Faculty and staff head out to begin the operation. (Photos by Samantha Blankenship. Video by Domenic Centofanti.)

Ball State wildlife biology students climbed into their safety suits to learn how to conduct a controlled or prescribed burn at Cooper Farm, one of six properties the university manages to maintain and restore the native biodiversity of east central Indiana.

John Taylor, land manager of Ball State’s Field Station and Environmental Education Center (FSEEC), and Tim Carter, a biology professor, led the burn. Students spent the day on a restored 40-acre prairie north of campus, setting up and conducting the operation.

Mimicking a natural occurrence, a controlled burn clears dead material that blocks sunlight from reaching emerging plants and soil, releases nutrients in the ash and helps fertilize the new growth, and retards the growth of less fire tolerant saplings and weeds that can disrupt the community.