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updated: 10/5/2013 9:21 PM

Volunteers harvest seeds at Fermilab prairie

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  • Betsy Zinser of Batavia collects tall coreopsis seed pods at Fermilab's annual prairie seed harvest of the Robert F. Betz Prairie Saturday. This is Zinser's first time helping at the event. She is also on the board of Fermilab Natural Areas, a not-for-profit group dedicated to taking care of the natural areas at Fermilab. Typically, about 200 people show up to volunteer.

       Betsy Zinser of Batavia collects tall coreopsis seed pods at Fermilab's annual prairie seed harvest of the Robert F. Betz Prairie Saturday. This is Zinser's first time helping at the event. She is also on the board of Fermilab Natural Areas, a not-for-profit group dedicated to taking care of the natural areas at Fermilab. Typically, about 200 people show up to volunteer.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Paul Conterato, 61, of Geneva, collects tall coreopsis Saturday during Fermi Lab's seed harvest. The seeds will be used to diversify plantings throughout the property's prairies.

       Paul Conterato, 61, of Geneva, collects tall coreopsis Saturday during Fermi Lab's seed harvest. The seeds will be used to diversify plantings throughout the property's prairies.
    Deb Pankey | Staff Photographer

 
 

Crickets, grasshoppers and bees had to open their grassy home to some well-meaning guests Saturday morning.

More than 100 volunteers plodded through fields of tall plants and grasses at Fermilab's Batavia campus, disrupting the insect and bird population while harvesting seeds from more than a dozen varieties of prairie plants.

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Mark Layman of Aurora and his 8-year-old son Kenny studied samples of prairie sunflower, cord grass. culver's root. tall coreopsis and rattle snake master before grabbing gloves, garden pruners and a paper sack and heading down the trail. They returned a bit later with dozens of brown prickly helianthus rigidus pods (that's prairie sunflower in non-scientific terms).

"My daughter's science class came out to the prairie center last year and did this on a smaller scale, and when I heard about this on (W)BBM, I thought 'what else should we do on a cloudy day,'" Layman said. "It's good for him (Kenny) to walk around outside; he likes to pick stuff."

Campbell said all the seeds collected Saturday will be stored over the winter and put into seed mixes. Those mixes then will be planted elsewhere in Fermilab's 900-plus acres of prairie.

"Not all the prairies are the same quality, have the same diversity of plants," Campbell said. "We've done surveys and we've targeted these 14 seeds that we need to increase the biodiversity in other prairies."

Campbell said another harvest is scheduled for Nov. 2. At that time, he said, volunteers will collect seeds from a dozen or so different plant species.

Paul Conterato, 61, of Geneva, plans to be there then as well.

"I've been doing this for 20-plus years," said Conterato as he clipped tall coreopsis seed pods and pointed out seed pods of the less abundant blue wild indigo. "After a while you develop a hunter's eye for this stuff."

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